Angling for Last Minute Rental Cars on Priceline

In January, I found myself stranded in the Salt Lake City (SLC) airport.  My flight was massively delayed, and I had free time on a snowy day.    I wanted to get up to the mountains, so a four wheel drive rental car was in order.

I have often snagged great last-minute hotel deals bidding on Priceline, but had never tried for a car at the last minute.  With “name your own price” hotel rooms, you can bid up until 11:59 pm on the night you want to stay.  I have literally placed late night bids from the parking lot of a hotel and even from the business center in the lobby.

But I didn’t know what the policy was last-minute for rental cars.  I had nothing to lose by giving it a try.  One thing in my favor was that there are three different categories of SUVs available on Priceline — Mid-size SUV, Standard SUV, and Full-size SUV.  Since I had no strong preference, this would allow two immediate rebids in the event my first bid was not accepted.

It was a little after 10:20 am so I tried to reserve a car for 10:30 am.  Priceline could not process the bid.  I tried again for 11 am.  Same result.  By this time it was nearly 10:30 am.  I tried for 11:30 am.  Bingo, Priceline could process my bid.

I don’t know if there is a one hour prior to rental requirement for last minute bids, or if something else was going on, but I took note of the situation.  My first bid was for $35, about half of the going rate on the non-opaque Priceline website.  This bid, for a one day rental of a mid-size SUV with unlimited mileage was accepted. With rental cars there are a lot of airport taxes and fees in addition to the Priceline fee so you need to look at the total cost.  In my case, it came to $60, exactly half of the lowest published price including taxes and fees.

The good thing about renting cars “name your own price” cars on Priceline is that they only deal with the major rental car companies that are usually onsite at the airport.

What has your experience been with last minute car rentals on Priceline?  Has anyone had success bidding for a reservation less than an hour in advance?

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