In this report:

  1. Weekends are more expensive than weekdays - by a large margin
  2. The heaviest discounts tend to come at the end of the month and at the end of the year
  3. Summer rental prices are higher than winter months
  4. Thursday is the cheapest day - Friday is the most expensive

When to rent

Ask anyone about how to get the best deal on travel prices, and you'll likely hear a complex strategy that goes something like "book airplane tickets on Tuesdays, hotels on Wednesdays, and rental cars on Sundays". And don't eat sushi on Tuesdays.

The fact is that the travel and hospitality industries do, indeed, follow patterns when it comes to their pricing strategies. But uncovering those patterns requires tracking that data over time, looking at the big picture, validating assumptions, and then revealing those patterns before they all change again.

We track rental car prices at Avis Budget Group ($NASDAQ:CAR), which includes Avis Car Rental, Budget Car Rental, Budget Truck Rental, Payless Car Rental, Apex Car Rentals, Maggiore Group, and Zipcar. By averaging out prices and then looking at how rentals are discounted, a clear pattern emerges.

Weekend highs and Thursday lows

The first thing you'll notice is a series of ups and downs. Those highs are weekends while the lows begin on Mondays, hitting their lowest on Thursdays. A closeup of this month — December, 2018 — gives a better look at what's happening.

The most expensive day of the month so far, December 21, was a Friday. The cheapest, December 6, was a Thursday. This pattern remains true throughout the year.

Summer highs and end-of-month lows

Another notable trend found in the first, full-year graph anove is that summer months tend to be more expensive than winter months. In short — and let's not pretend this is surprising — the days on which you'd most want a rental car tend to be the most expensive.

By looking at discount percentage trends throughout the year, another pattern emerges: the highest discounts come not only on weekdays, but they come towards the final week of each month. This trend is a little bit less reliable, but it's a clear one.

In fact, it appears that the end of the year — right now — sees some of its heaviest discounting.

So what to do? Rent a car in the dead of winter on a Thursday, of course. Perhaps even this Thursday, given the time of year.