Unless you’ve been living in a cave, you probably know about travel sites that focus on airfare and hotels. Priceline, of course, has become a pop-culture icon (thanks to good ol’ Mr. Shatner), and Kayak, which I’ve used since before its official launch, has been advertising heavily too. Then there’s Expedia, Hotels.com, and a host of others.
Most of the innovation in this space has focused on air travel. This makes sense, given that it’s probably the biggest travel expense most of us are likely to run into. The now-familiar matrix map is just one example; for another, check out Hipmunk‘s unique method of showing flights based on the degree of agony they cause.
However, I haven’t been pleased with the state of car rental bookings until now. Each rental company has their own site, and they all tend to be brittle, ugly, and hard to navigate. Enter AutoSlash, a car rental search engine that has a simple, clean layout for booking cars. “Big deal,” you say. “I don’t mind clumsy web sites if they save me a few bucks.” That’s the real value of AutoSlash: once you book a reservation, their engine continues to search for a better deal. For example, I just reserved a car for an upcoming trip. I got a better rate from AutoSlash than using the super-discount code I normally use with Avis. About 15 minutes later, I got an e-mail from AutoSlash that said:
We found a better rate on your upcoming Hertz rental in Seattle on 9/17/2011 (AutoSlash Trip ID: XXXXXXXXX).
You were originally booked at $132.61, and the price has now dropped to $110.19. We’ve automatically re-booked your rental at the lower rate. You’ve saved $22.42 without even lifting a finger!
So, let’s recap: with zero effort on my part, these guys saved me enough money to buy myself dinner and a movie! There are other sites, like Yapta, that purport to do the same thing for airfares, but there the complication is that airlines typically charge a stiff change fee. In fairness, Yapta, FareCompare, and their ilk are great for tracking fares to see how much they cost before you buy, or checking historical price records, but they don’t often save you any actual money. Orbitz does something similar for hotel bookings, but (at least with Marriott and Hilton) you often get better deals booking directly with the hotel property instead of using a search site, so I’ve never actually gotten any money back from them.
AutoSlash is how I’ll be doing my rental car bookings from now on. Because it’s free, I encourage you to try it too. (I’m just a happy customer; they’re not paying me or anything.)