Car Rental Migration: Drive a Car Home from Florida for $7 Per Day

Mar 27, 2019

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It’s time (again) for the great annual rental car migration: that magical time every spring when rental car companies practically give away car rentals if you take them in the “right” direction. In the fall, car rental companies want the cars to head south for the winter. In the spring, companies want to get cars from Florida back to points north. Just like the “snow birds” head home up north for the spring and summer, so does the demand for car rentals. Because of this, you can create an amazing road trip with half the number of airline miles and a quarter of the regular car rental price.

(Photo by @Gouldjosh via Twenty20)
(Photo by @Gouldjosh via Twenty20)

How to Find One-Way Car Rental Deals

When the rental car migration happens (once in the spring and again in the fall), I look for one-way car rental steals. Most months of the year, you pay a mint to pick up a car in one place and drop it off in another with hefty one-way drop fees. But in spring, car rental deals from Florida to the northern states fall to rates as low as $7 per day.

The best part — during the car rental migration, companies price all sizes of vehicles from economy to full-size at the same rate, which is awesome news when you need to rent a car for family travel. Even with taxes, you can get a full-size car for less than $100 per week.

This year, the car rental companies have been a bit slower than normal with details. The first offers announced were for a hardly exciting at $25/day. However, prices have now dropped to the expected and historically normal range. Each car rental company has a different set of Floridian cities, a different set of northern cities and a different start and end date for the promotion to align with their inventory needs. As a guideline, most one-way car rental specials start on April 1 or April 15 and end between May 31 and June 30.

The easiest way to find a deal that works for you is to use a site like Priceline or Hotwire that displays many companies at once. Then you can go to your preferred car company or shopping portal to book the deal directly if you prefer.

Here’s a sample deal from Fort Lauderdale to DC for a week in May:

one way car rental screenshot
Screen shot via Priceline

Remember when you see the car rates, take into account airport fees and taxes. If I have a choice where to pick up the car, I’ll check more than one location. Fees vary widely, especially with airport rentals. Some airports charge a flat daily fee for rentals while others charge a percentage of the rental. In this case, the latter will save you a few bucks.

These inexpensive one-way car rentals can range from one to 14 days. I’ve been known to keep the car around after we don’t “need” it at home because at the rock-bottom rental price, it can be cheaper to commute in a rental for a little while than to add normal daily driving miles to our own car.

I especially like this deal because you can combine it with your existing car rental status and any hotel or airline promotions. On my one-way rental back from Florida this spring, we are going to earn 2,000 United miles on top of my credit card points for the rental because of promotions. For car rentals, I use the Chase Sapphire Reserve to pay because of the generous primary car rental coverage. Other credit cards also offer similar benefits.

Using One-Way Car Rental Deals to Save

Coming from the DC area, I don’t want to do the round-trip drive down south if I have less than 10 days; we simply lose too much time en route. However, I’m happy to pick up my super cheap car rental in Florida (getting down there using airline miles) and drive home.

This year, it is my husband who is taking advantage of the deal. Just as we think solo trips are good for moms, they can be good for dads, too. I used 6,500 JetBlue True Blue points (of which I’ll get 10% back thanks to my Jet Blue credit card) to fly him from DC to Fort Lauderdale. His lodging will be at the Hyatt Regency Coral Gables, which we visited before and enjoyed greatly. At 12,000 World of Hyatt Points a night, it’s a real bargain.

Hyatt Coral Gables
Image via Hyatt

He’ll then get to drive back to DC one-way for around $7+ per day thanks to the extremely low car rental prices.

Bottom Line

Jumping on the inexpensive one-way car rental deals along the East Coast in the fall and spring can save you big bucks and allow you to add in another family trip without spending too many precious miles or dollars. If you can’t take advantage of these one-way rental deals, you can still save on rental cars with these tips. Or, learn how to save money on car rentals with AutoSlash.

Not sure what to do in Florida? We can help.

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