There are so many different places online now that beg you to book your flights, hotels, cars and even some activities before you travel. While some do the actual booking for you, others offer price comparisons and let you make the final plans directly through the company at a discounted price. One of the world’s first car rental comparison sites is http://www.carrentals.co.uk. The company, originally created in 2003, approached me about renting a car through their site to evaluate the process, so I decided to take them up on the offer.
First, I discovered that it doesn’t matter that the company is based in the United Kingdom. As a car rental comparison company, they work with more than 50 companies – including Hertz, Avis, Budget, Enterprise, Thrifty, Alamo, Europcar and Auto Europe – at more than 15,000 locations worldwide. They also offer their services through Hotwire and 121 here in the U.S. I found the overall experience to be fast, easy and convenient. Here’s a look at the process:
- I navigated to http://www.carrentals.co.uk and my first step was to set the currency (I used US Dollars because I was going to be renting a car in St. Louis, Missouri) and my country of residence (USA). There’s an easy pull-down list, so you can set the choices that best fit your situation.
- I started out by selecting my desired pick-up location (you can enter a city, address or airport code). I was picking up and dropping off at St. Louis Airport in Missouri.
- Indicate your desired pickup date and time as well as the drop-off date and time.
- Once you enter your age (some rental agencies charge extra for drivers under 30 or don’t rent at all to those under 25), hit Search and the carrentals.co.uk search engine goes to work.
- You can see a list of car types and an estimate of the number of people and amount of luggage each one holds so you pick the car that best meets your needs. I was after an intermediate car. At the time that I booked my car, Hotwire offered the best price, so I clicked on that link and was taken to Hotwire’s website to complete the transaction. Note: if you’re looking for something that holds between 5 and 15 people, such as a minibus or a minivan, you can go to the company’s website that handles those: http://www.carrentals.co.uk/peoplecarrierhire/.
- Once I was on the Hotwire site, all of my transactions went through that company. The price that was quoted to me was available if I prepaid the car. I knew I was taking the trip, so I had no problem prepaying to save money. I confirmed my dates and the amount and proceeded with the rental sale.
- I also opted to include the extra car insurance, available for $9 per day. The sale concluded quickly and I received a confirmation via email almost immediately. My rental would go through Hertz.
- On the day I arrived in St. Louis, I caught the free Hertz shuttle at the airport and headed to the car rental lot. Upon my arrival, I gave them my name and they had all the details on their system. I gave a credit card for security purposes, but everything was pre-paid and we were in and out in less than 15 minutes.
- After my week of renting, I returned the car to the airport drop-off location, they gave me a receipt and I was on the free shuttle back to the airport in under 10 minutes.
While the entire process went quite smooth, I decided to do a bit of work and see if it would have been cheaper going directly to Hertz. I discovered that I definitely saved money going through the car rental comparison site. At the time I booked the car, which was over a holiday weekend so prices were actually quite high, the intermediate car I rented (it was a brand new Chevrolet with all the bells and whistles) was $40.95 per day plus $9 per day for the extra insurance. If I had gone direct through Hertz, the price would have been $46.95 per day plus $28.99 per day for the same type of insurance. Over a week, that was a considerable savings. My week ended up costing me around $350, including the holiday weekend.
Of course, there are changes in the rental market not just by the day but by the hour, so it always pays to shop around when you’re booking a car (or hotel room or flight), but I did find this service to be very efficient and easy. I see one of the biggest advantages of working with carrentals.co.uk would be when renting cars overseas. It’s sometimes difficult when going to a new place if you aren’t familiar with all the car rental agencies in that country. This way, you can comparison shop from home and have the car waiting for you when you land in London – or Sydney, Auckland, Hong Kong, etc.
One other great tool that carrentals.co.uk makes available is an iPhone and Android app so you can manage your entire booking from your smartphone. I will definitely use this service again for car rental comparison pricing. I also want to give accolades to the company for its support of international non-profit agencies. The company has done fundraisers and partnerships with such groups as Bike4Cancer, Fairplay, North West Children’s Charity and StreetSmart.