Did you know that unlike airlines and most hotel chains, car rental agencies do not penalize you for canceling and rebooking? A website called AutoSlash takes advantage of that phenomenon by checking your booking information multiple times per day, looking for a better rate from virtually all rental agencies and if it finds one, automatically rebooks for you.
AutoSlash also looks for coupons and discounts to bring the price down even more. Best of all, the service is completely free. Co-founder Jonathan Weinberg spoke with RewardExpert about how AutoSlash works and why people who use it once keep coming back for all their car rental bookings.
How AutoSlash Works
AutoSlash gets consumers the lowest possible price on a car rental two ways. First, it searches for coupons and discounts–including membership discounts through Costco, AAA, AARP, USAA and other organizations. The trick, Weinberg says, is knowing which ones to apply and in which situation.
Secondly, rates are volatile and change daily. By checking constantly there are almost always opportunities to rebook at a lower rate. “In most cases you don’t even have to put a credit card down,” Weinberg says. “You don’t have any skin in the game, so to speak.”
“We found car rental agencies drop rates up to 15 times a month,” he said. “Some people were saving something like 70% off their rental.” Savings of 30%-40% is normal according to Weinberg.
The Nitty Gritty
The process is fairly simple. Go to the AutoSlash home page. Use “Search for a car rental” to enter initial information or if you have already booked a rental, use the “Track a rental” option. Weinberg advises that the best way to search is to request a rate quote. That’s because real time results are limited and not discounted. When the “Get a Quote” option pops up, add the requested information, submit and in about 15 minutes you will get an email with a link to book the quoted rate. That’s all there is to it.
The reason you need to obtain an email quote is because car rental agencies won’t provide discounted rates on the AutoSlash home page. “The rental car industry is not a big fan of AutoSlash,” Weinberg says. “To get discounted rates you have to go through the email quote process. It takes like two minutes, but once you do it the rates are like half of what you’re going to get anywhere else.”
Booking Through AutoSlash
When your email quote arrives, click the link and book through AutoSlash which will continuously check prices and discounts up until the date you need the vehicle. “Once you are booked with us,” Weinberg says, “it’s pretty much set it and forget it.”
A couple of days after you book you might get an email saying your rate just dropped $20. After a few more days it may drop again. Each time AutoSlash finds a better rate, your rental is rebooked and your savings are automatic. This continues right up to your pickup date.
Only Game In Town
AutoSlash is disruptive because it has no competition. As Weinberg puts it, “We compete with everyone and with no one.” The company competes with Hertz.com, Costco.com, Kayak, Priceline, Hotwire – pretty much all the sites where you could book a car rental.
On the flip side, none of those companies are going to do what AutoSlash does – check rates and rebook for a better deal. “Once people find out about AutoSlash they tend not to book anywhere else,” said Weinberg.
A Mother’s Inspiration
The idea for AutoSlash came from Weinberg’s mother. “I was in New York and preparing to move to Florida. I was visiting my parents and bragging about what an amazing deal I got on a rental car. My mother said, ‘You know, there might be a business there.
For some reason the idea stuck and the more I thought about it the more I thought there might actually be an opportunity there. I found a partner in technology. We built a prototype, launched in 2010 and were completely floored when we saw how well it worked.”
This is not to say there were no problems. “We were under fire from the car rental companies for a while,” Weinberg says. “We persisted, refined the model, got better and better about being able to predict which coupons and discount codes would perform better. And we got better at being able to offer people alternatives. If, for example you book an intermediate car, we try to find better deals in a higher class of vehicle.”
A Bright Future Ahead
Asked what’s next for AutoSlash, Weinberg ticks off an impressive list. The most obvious ‘next step’ is to add hotel bookings. That area is more complicated and there are no solid plans as of now but lodging is on the radar.
Within the car rental space there are also more improvements in the works. Weinberg expects to soon add the ability for users to store all their membership numbers, booking preferences, type of vehicle and other information for a more seamless experience. Customers currently have to enter that information each time they initiate a search.
Finally, although AutoSlash will remain free there has been talk about adding a paid premium level including additional discounts, more frequent rate checking and enhanced services.