Cheap Car Rentals: Finding The Most You Should Pay With Hotwire & Costco Travel

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Cheap Car Rentals: Finding The Most You Should Pay With Hotwire & Costco Travel

Million Mile SecretsCheap Car Rentals: Finding The Most You Should Pay With Hotwire & Costco TravelMillion Mile Secrets Team

We devote thousands of hours of research to help you get Big Travel with Small Money. You support us by signing-up for credit cards through partner links which earn us a commission. Here’s our full Advertising Policy.

Having Big Travel with Small Money and getting almost free flights and hotel stays is great, but sometimes you’d like an almost free car rental.  Or learn where to find the lowest priced car rental.

So I’ll share my tips & tricks on saving money with car rentals over the next few weeks!

Hotwire & Costco Travel

There are lots of sites to check for rental cars, but I find that Hotwire and Costco Travel are useful to see the most which a savvy rental car shopper should pay.  So I start off by checking those two sites for car rental rates and then see if I can find cheaper rates elsewhere.  However, Hotwire bookings can’t be cancelled or refunded, so I almost never make a booking via Hotwire since I can usually get a refundable rate elsewhere.

Thanks to Rapid Travel Chai for steering me to Costco Travel!

The table below compares the price of three separate rental car reservations made on the same day.

  • ~6 days in Tampa, Florida
  • ~1 day during the week in New York (LaGuardia)
  • ~7 days in Mauii, Hawaii
 ~6 Days Rental in Tampa~1 Day Rental in New York (La Guardia)~7 Days Rental in MauiCancellation Policy
Hotwire$286$131-$362 Economy Sedan
-$487 SUV
VERY Restrictive. No refunds, cancellations or modifications after booking.
Costco Travel$330$117- $401 Sedan
- $386 SUV
Can cancel, change, or no-show with no penalty
WinnerHotwireCostco TravelTie

1.   Hotwire

I’ve rented a car from Hotwire only once because I’ve always been able to get it for less.  But Hotwire is a great way to get a quick sense of the MOST amount of money you should pay for a car rental.

However, Hotwire does NOT tell you the name of the car rental agency and the exact car model until you pay for the rental.  And the amount you pay cannot be refunded and you cannot cancel or modify your reservation.  All these are pretty significant restrictions, so don’t book a Hotwire car rental unless you are absolutely sure that you will use the reservation.

A)   1 Week in Tampa – Hotwire’s lowest price for a rental in Tampa is $286 compared to $330 from Costco Travel.  Hotwire is cheaper.

Hotwire Rental Cars 1
Hotwire Rental Cars 1

B)   1 Week Day in New York – Hotwire’s lowest price for a rental from New York (La Guardia) is $131 in an economy car and $111 in a mid-size SUV compared to $117 & $98 from Costco Travel.  Costco Travel is cheaper.

Hotwire Rental Cars 1
Hotwire Rental Cars 1

C)   ~1 Week in Maui – Hotwire’s lowest price for a sedan rental in Maui is $362 in an economy car or $487 in a SUV compared to $401 for a sedan or $386 for a standard SUV from Costco Travel.   Hotwire and Costco Travel Tie depending on whether you want a SUV or regular car.

Hotwire Rental Cars 1
Hotwire Rental Cars 1

2.   COSTCO TRAVEL

Costco Travel usually gets me a lower rate than Hotwire, but I sometimes book the higher rate just for the extra flexibility of Costco Travel.  The big advantage of using Costco Travel is that the reservations CAN be cancelled for NO charge, there is NO penalty for not picking up your rental car, and that you can see the rental car company when booking the rental.

In my observation, Costco Travel is usually cheaper than Hotwire for larger vehicles such as SUVs and mini-vans.

Costco Travel has discounted prices for Alamo, Avis, Budget, and Enterprise.  You can add your car rental loyalty number to the reservation for all car rentals except those with Alamo.  This means that if you take part in a car rental loyalty program, you can go directly to the car and not wait in line at the airport, since they already have your information.

Anyone can search for car rentals on Costco Travel, but you need a Costco membership to actually book car rentals.  The cheapest personal Costco membership is for $55.  I’ve saved more than $55 using my Costco membership for car rentals!  Costco Travel car rentals may also include an additional driver for free (usually spouse), but check the terms of your car rental.

However, I’ve never been asked for my Costco membership card when I’ve rented cars, so you may be able to rent a car at the discounted rate by including the Costco discount code in your bookings.  However, I wouldn’t do this personally because if I got into an accident with the rental car, I would want to be able to prove that I was legitimately entitled to the discount for the car which I’m driving. But, as always, do what you’re comfortable with.

A)   1 Week in Tampa – Costco Travel wants $330 for a ~6 day rental in Tampa compared to $286 from Hotwire.  Hotwire is cheaper.

Hotwire Rental Cars 6
Hotwire Rental Cars 6

B)   1 Week Day in New York (LaGuardia) – Costco Travel wants $117 for an economy car and $98 for a mid-size SUV for a ~1 day rental in New York compared to $131 & $111 from Hotwire.  Costco Travel is cheaper.

Hotwire Rental Cars 1
Hotwire Rental Cars 1

C)   ~1 Week in Maui – Costco Travel wants $401 for a ~7 day (sedan) rental in Maui & $386 for a SUV compared to $362 for a sedan or $487 for a SUV from Hotwire.  Hotwire and Costco Travel Tie depending on whether you want an SUV or sedan.

Hotwire Rental Cars 1

Hotwire Rental Cars 1Costco Travel Quirks:

1.  Best Rate.   The biggest quirk about using Costco Travel is that it doesn’t always highlight the lowest priced car rental!  For example, the cheapest (sedan) rate for a ~7 day rental in Maui is $401 for an economy car from Budget, but Costco Travel highlights the intermediate car for $421.

Hotwire Rental Cars 7

The Cheapest Rate is Not Always Highlighted!But a standard SUV is even cheaper at $386 (see picture below) and is not highlighted as the cheapest option!

2.   Higher Car Category for Just a Little More.   An economy car in Maui for ~7 days costs $401, but for $16 more you can get a luxury car for the entire week!  So it pays to scroll down the list.

 Rental Cars 8
$16 More For a Luxury Car!

Bottom Line:

I start my car rental searches at Hotwire and Costco Travel to find out the most which I should pay for a car rental.  However, Hotwire has NO flexibility after you make a booking, so it could be worth paying a little more just for the added flexibility of a reservation which you can cancel.

And often times, Costco Travel will have a lower priced rental than Hotwire.

Stay tuned for ways to get a car rental for much less than either Hotwire or Costco Travel!

 

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Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

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Hotwire “secretly” offers cars off-site the airport. But cheap.

Costco Travel charges twice the price of Rentalcars.

phhhh …

Subscribe to all your things for free

Mexico requires personal liability, which is usually more than the car rental.

I used HotWire one time in Mexico City and wasn’t charged the liability insurance, which was included.

Usually, I get a great rate and then slammed on the personal liability.

Any suggestions to get the included or reduced in Mexico?

J R

Thanks for steering me to Costco travel! Told boyfriend we could take a week long vacation in South Florida only if we could do it on the cheap. After booking plane tix using miles, gift cards and southwest credits, we were initially looking at only getting a economy car for 4 days at a cost of $160 (our searches for a weekly rate were closer to $250), but after a search using your suggested sites and diligently following up on a daily basis, we were able to nab an Altima from Budget for under $145 for the week! Compact was $10 less.

Author
Million Mile Secrets

@KCatty – That’s a heck of a deal! Safe travels.

Does anyone know if Costco Travel qualifies for the travel “purchase eraser” for Capital One Venture?

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