Is Capital One the new king of car rentals? (part 2)

Capital One No Hassle Rewards’ car rental booking engine, as seen in part 1, has some impressive values for paid reservations, beating Travelocity, which powers the engine, by multiples in some cases.

How does it stack up against Costco Travel, Hotwire and AutoSlash?

Both Costco Travel and AutoSlash reservations can be cancelled with no penalty, while Capital One are prepaid and can only be changed once, and Hotwire is prepaid and locked in.

There is no feasible way on this blog to systematically test myriad rentals so as a limited proxy, two actual rentals for The Rapid Traveler’s upcoming trips are tested.

Trip 1: Ft Lauderdale, FL (FLL) 11 pm May 18 – 7 pm May 20, cheapest economy car:

  1. AutoSlash – Payless, $43.51 (only priced Payless, Sixt and E-Z, no major US rental agencies)
  2. Capital One – Budget, $43.51
  3. Costco Travel – Alamo, $46.44
  4. Hotwire – hidden agency, $53.70
FLL Car Rental AutoSlash

AutoSlash

FLL Car Rental Capital One

Capital One

FLL Car Rental Costco

Costco

FLL Car Rental Hotwire

Hotwire

Trip 2: Orlando, FL (MCO) 10 pm June 7 – 6 pm June 10:

  1. AutoSlash – Payless, $45.07 (only priced Payless, Sixt and E-Z, no major US rental agencies)
  2. Capital One – Budget, $63.39
  3. Costco – Alamo $72.41 full-size (full-size and up are cheaper than the smaller models, perhaps a pricing error on the smaller models, this sometimes happens for Alamo, less so for Enterprise and rare for other agencies )
  4. Hotwire – $107.62

For both trips, AutoSlash was cheapest but did not price any major rental agencies, which the others do not bother to price. Perhaps it is unfair bias without evidence, but The Rapid Traveler sticks with the major agencies. AutoSlash’s model is to work further on the rates post-booking, but it is hardly promising that none of the big guys are in the initial results.

Capital One bests Costco Travel in both searches, the tradeoff is fully flexible Costco bookings versus prepaid, one change only (refunds in equivalent miles, not cash) Capital One bookings.

Hotwire is higher than all, which is typical. In nearly two years of weekly rentals, The Rapid Traveler rarely found Hotwire to compete with Costco rates. Priceline Name Your Own Price rentals beat Costco about 50% of the time with daily perseverance starting 2-3 weeks out. Last minute deals on Priceline were rare for those rentals.

Capital One is indeed a great option to find low car rental prices. The rates are prepaid but can be changed/refunded once, though there is more room for problems than the non-prepaid Costco rentals. AutoSlash may turn out well in the end, but it takes a leap of faith to book and hope they find something better than Payless. Their goal is admirable but it is difficult to embrace something with low upfront transparency.

Readers, what have been your experiences?

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  • Mike

    Sixt is a big company in europe. Just not here.

  • @Mike – good point, I have considered Sixt for some of my non-US travels, though I do not recall renting from them, in those cases finding better deals elsewhere.

    Sixt has 5 locations in Florida and one in Atlanta, GA. The FLL and MCO locations are both off-airport, unlike the major agencies or in case of FLL, even E-Z and Payless are on-airport. Sixt does provide shuttle service.

  • Lynette Kruger

    I had two recent capital one car rentals, that i think were great deals, one was mid-march in Phoenix, which I booked late January. Most searches I was coming up either sold out or $300-$400 for our Thursday-Monday rental. So I tried capital one, just having gotten the venture card several months before, I was able to reserve a budget car, full size for $110 or 11,100 miles. In April I booked a car through capital one for a May trip 17-21 in Orange County, the total for the 4 days for a full size car was $71 or 710 miles. I paid cash for an April reservation that I needed to cancel at the last minute and it was no problem to cancel and refund the cash.

  • Anil Dalal

    I had a reservation with Alamo. I tried the Cap1 site and the amount was $ 30.00 less !
    I called Alamo to cancel and as a result I said I was getting lower rate somewhere else. They immediately
    not only matched it but beat it by couple of dollars !

  • LarryInNYC

    I don’t have access to a Capital One card. Does anyone know if they show similar savings for European rentals (specifically Italy)?

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