Is the Dollar Car Rental Prepay Discount a Good Deal?

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Last updated on July 22nd, 2023
Originally published on August 28, 2021

Dollar Rent-A-Car’s “Pay Now” option promises savings of up to 15% on regular rental rates – but does prepaying for car rental reservations actually save money? We’ll answer this question and more, incuding:

  • What happens if prices go down after I prepay for a Dollar Rent-A-Car reservation?
  • Is there a fee to cancel a prepaid car reservation from Dollar?
  • How do I know when the “Pay Now” discount is a good deal for me?

Read on to learn how the Dollar pepay discount works, and how to tell if it’s a good deal for your rental.

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

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How the Dollar Car Rental Prepay Discount Works

  • When you prepay for a car rental from Dollar, you pay only the daily rental portion of the total charge. The separate subtotal shown for taxes, fees, and surcharges is an estimate only; you’ll pay the actual amount for these when you pick up the vehicle.
  • The prepay discount applies only to the base rental rate, not taxes and fees.
  • Dollar’s prepay discount is available for rentals at most locations in the US and Canada.
  • The prepay discount is valid for most, but not all, car classes. It’s not available on Dollar’s “Manager’s Special”.

Is there a fee to cancel prepaid Dollar car rentals?

You can only cancel prepaid car rentals from Dollar for a full refund the same day that you book. After that, if you cancel with more than 24 hours notice, Dollar charges a $50 fee. The fee increases to $100 for prepaid rentals cancelled with less than 24 hours notice. The remainder of your pre-payment (if any) will be credited to your original form of payment. If you don’t cancel a prepaid reservation and don’t pick up the car, Dollar charges the full amount.

How to get the Dollar prepaid discount

  1. Reserve at least twenty-four hours in advance.
  2. To see discounted rental rates, enter rental search information as you normally would.
  3. In the search results, you’ll see two rental rates: “Pay Now” and “Pay Later”. Select the “Pay Now” option for the vehicle you wish to rent.
  4. Select options as desired.
  5. Enter booking and payment information and click “Reserve Now”.

Can I get the prepay discount with a debit card?

You can use most debit cards to reserve and pay for a prepaid rental from Dollar Rent-A-Car. However, if the debit card doesn’t have a Visa, MasterCard, or Discover logo, Dollar requires a credit card in the renter’s name to process the rental.

If your debit card does have a Visa, MasterCard, or Discover logo, you can use it to rent cars from Dollar in place of a credit card, subject to these terms and conditions.

Dollar’s Prepay Discount includes which car classes?

The terms of Dollar’s prepaid car rental discount state that the offer is available for select car classes only. During our various searches, we found that the discount was reliably available on most, if not all, car classes.

Pros and Cons of Prepaying for Dollar Car Rentals

Other than discounted rates, the main advantage of prepaying for car rentals from Dollar is that your reservation is locked in and your vehicle guaranteed. Car rental companies don’t require payment information for reservations that aren’t prepaid, so there’s no penalty if you don’t show up to pick up the vehicle – but it also means the vehicles aren’t guaranteed. When demand is high, you may not get the car you reserved and you’ll have to choose from what’s left – if anything.

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The primary disadvantage of prepaying for Dollar car rentals – and it’s a big one – is that if you need to cancel after the day you book, you’re out at least $50. Another concern with prepaid car rentals in general is that prices could go down after you’ve paid. If this happens, you’re on the hook for the difference. However, the price decrease would have to be larger than the original discount for it to actually be a loss. And when rental cars are in short supply, as they are currently, prices tend to go up as the rental date draws closer.

So, is the Dollar car rental prepay discount a good deal or not?

Whether or not Dollar’s prepaid discount is a good deal depends on the current car rental market, and on what you want from the rental experience.

  • When rates are unlikely to go down after booking, as is the case when demand for rental cars is high, then prepaid rentals are almost always a good idea. Prepaying for a car rental from Dollar is also wise if getting the car class you reserved is important to you. Finally, prepaid rentals from Dollar become even better deals when paired with coupons and other special offers.
  • On the other hand, the $50 – $100 cancellation fee on pepaid Dollar car rentals is a big consideration. For this reason, we recommend the Dollar “Pay Now” car rental discount as a good deal ONLY IF:
    • The total discount is $51 or more AND
    • Rental car demand is high (usually peak travel seasons like summer and holidays), so prices are unlikely to go down before the rental date AND
    • You’re reasonably sure you won’t need to cancel the reservation (unless you cancel the same day you make it).


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