This post was originally published on November 25, 2015.
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When booking cars online, some car rental companies and price comparison sites do what economists call ‘price discrimination’ based on your location. Price discrimination basically means offering different prices to users from different countries in order to maximize revenue.
Since most customers usually only search for prices in their country of residence, they can be easily exploited. For example, people from countries where car ownership is a luxury might be willing to pay a higher price for their rental than someone who sees a car as a basic necessity.
Luckily, we make it easy for you to quickly switch between different locations and outsmart the rental companies by finding the best prices online.
How to find the lowest possible rates
Bypassing expensive rates and finding the cheapest possible rental price is easy if you know how to do it.
Your mileage may vary when using this particular trick, but for the sake of experimentation, let’s assume we’re looking for rentals cars in Los Angeles, Vienna, and Melbourne. Let’s also assume the dates we’re looking to rent are seven days before and after December 1, 2015.
Here’s what we did:
- We connected to ExpressVPN servers in seven different locations.
- We browsed a few car rental sites like Rentalcars, Sixt, and Hertz with Google Chrome in incognito mode.
- We closed and reopened Chrome after each visit, deleting all cookies in the process.
Below are the prices we found. (Note all prices are displayed in USD.)
Conclusion: Americans clearly get the cheapest deals for car rentals in Los Angeles. Connect to any of our US servers and see for yourself!
Conclusion: Comparing prices with different IPs is worth it. While locals are again offered a lower price, connecting to a U.S. server can save you money if you want to rent from Sixt.
Conclusion: What on earth is up with Hertz? They charge almost seven times as much for their customers in Egypt. This is a great example of automated price discrimination gone wrong.
As you can see, it’s worth using a VPN to check around for different rental prices. Be careful with taxes and insurance, as some sites quote them differently for each country as well!
Travel tips for the thrifty globetrotter
Here are a few parting tips to keep in mind:
- There may be an extra fee if you’re returning your rental car to a different location than where you picked it up.
- Taxes may not be included in your initial quote.
- You may be quoted a cheaper base rate with one company, but with all the extra fees you may end up paying more than another company.
- Certain extras like a GPS device or an infant seat are usually pretty expensive, so you may want to bring your own.
- Pickup location matters when it comes to lowering your cost. See if public transportation is available, or if the rental company offers a shuttle service to where you need to go.
- If you’re under 30, check if there are extra insurance costs not quoted in your price.
- Depending on whether you already have insurance and which credit card you use, you might not need to purchase additional cover when you rent. Best to check with your insurance company before your trip.
- Make sure you make a written log of every minute detail, including the condition of the spare tire, any scratches, faults and/or scuff marks, before you drive off.
- It’s usually not worth prepaying for fuel, but make sure the tank is full when you return.
- Always read through the Terms of Agreement, especially when renting in another country.
We hope you found this guide helpful. Safe (and cheap) travels from ExpressVPN!