How Far in Advance Should You Book Car Rental – 2024 Guide 


According to many people, a rental car is a perfect way to get around for leisure, business, or other purposes. The low price per day and easy accessibility has always been the main reason to rent a vehicle, and prefer it over a bus, train, taxi, or other means of transportation.

Unfortunately, the pandemic, and especially the post-pandemic syndrome, has taken a toll on the rental car industry. Companies with their significantly shortened lineups could no longer keep up with ever-increasing demand. As a result, today you are getting sky-high prices and a lack of vehicles. Thus, the only chance to catch four wheels for your trip at an acceptable rate is to book in advance.

However, how far in advance should you reserve a rental car – half a year, several months, weeks, or days ahead? It’s impossible to say for sure due to the non-linear nature of price versus time. In addition, many secondary things affect the optimal booking time.

If you want to catch the best reservation moment, you need to add up all the factors first. Plus, the key to the cheapest deal lies in analyzing the reasons for the price increase. Go through all the related questions below to choose the most balanced car booking date for your next road journey!


Why do prices tend to rise in 2024?

The COVID-19 travel ban has brought the car rental industry to a standstill. However, the sharp increase in demand revealed problems that led to higher rates. We can accurately name three reasons for the higher cost of vehicles in 2024.

  • Lack of cars. Many rental companies have been forced to sell part of their fleet to survive the pandemic crisis. However, as soon as people began to travel, suppliers were faced with huge demand and a severe shortage of vehicles. So, the scarcity of available deals pushed prices up.
  • Computer chip shortage. An increase in the providers’ lineups will gradually lower prices. Companies are trying to buy a lot of new cars, but unfortunately, many supply chains have been lost during the pandemic. As a result, automakers are experiencing a shortage of semiconductor chips used in cars, and can’t produce the same number of units. All this delays the process of restoring the fleet and lowering the rental price.
  • High demand for travel. A huge desire to travel after almost two years of lockdown has caused a big surge in demand. Everyone wants to pick up a vehicle for a road trip, and according to the laws of economics, the higher the demand, the higher the cost.

What factors influence the choice of the optimal booking time?

Your timing strategy for booking a rental car has several variables. Check them out and use them to your advantage.

Source: International Driving Authority

Seasonal factor

The high tourist activity during the high season reduces the selection of deals available during that period. Therefore, book 6-12 months before your trip during peak season. The situation is not so critical for the off-season, so you can find the right deal closer to the required date.

However, each location has a unique seasonal demand. For example, cheap van rentals in the USA from appear in April-May and September-October, especially if you book a vehicle at least half a year beforehand.

Demand for certain dates

Holidays and weekends are high-demand periods when many travelers want to pick up a car. Therefore, book early if the starting date of the trip falls on such days.

Pick-up location

Major airports and big cities with popular destinations feature a large flow of travelers. Therefore, book as early as possible in such locations. Lesser-known tourist spots offer a bit more space for choosing when to book. However, we don’t recommend postponing too long if you want to pick up the desired car at a reasonable price.


The vehicle category you book

As a rule, car rental companies have fewer models of special vehicles in their lineups. Thus, book luxury and premium cars, minivans, SUVs, or passenger vans 4-6 months before the desired date. Compact, economy, and standard deals will still be available closer to the start of the trip.

What if the price went down after the reservation?

Often, the price at which you originally booked a deal goes down, and you are tempted to rebook the vehicle at a better rate. The good news is that most companies allow you to do this. They offer free cancellation from the day of booking, up to 48 hours before the estimated collection time.

So, check the conditions of the company you choose. If free cancellation is available, book your car at a new, lower price.


Do you have a chance to catch the last-minute deal?

You can try not to bother with booking much in advance. However, you must meet a number of conditions to find a good deal. Firstly, reservations closer to the starting date are only possible in the low season and in low-demand locations. Secondly, you must be ready to pick up any vehicle available. Also, check for promotions and special discount offers that will help lower the rate. Please note that the cost may increase significantly in the last 48 hours prior to the trip. Therefore, try to book before this period comes.

3 steps to book your car rental at the best time

Can’t figure out the best time to find and book a vehicle? We offer you an excellent strategy! The best deal is within 3 easy steps:

  1. Book early. Start looking for vehicles 4-6 months before your trip. This is the greatest way out, whether you want to find a low-price deal, save on car rental, or just guarantee the right vehicle on the desired date.
  2. Check terms and conditions. Prefer a provider with free cancellation. This will allow you to be flexible when planning your trip further.
  3. Keep monitoring prices. Even if you have booked at an attractive price, don’t miss the opportunity to improve the profit percentage. Check the price for the same trip closer to the starting date, and rebook if it drops. However, this option only works with free cancellation.

We hope our short review will help you with choosing the right time to book a rental car. So, plan your next trip and hit the road!