Often overlooked as a revenue opportunity, car rental programs (or car hire programs as they are called in the UK/Europe) have always been a good source of commissions for travel affiliate.  Most of the major car rental companies distribute through the travel affiliate channel (with Hertz and National Car Rental prominent dissenters).  TravelDividends profiled our top 12 picks in this sector in our Car Rental Program category page.  However, travel affiliates often overlook the high commission generating opportunities in the car rental space that can be gleaned by working with car rental aggregator/broker and comparison shopping sites.

Although most travel affiliates and travel consumers generally associate airline or hotel inventory when thinking about travel comparison shopping sites (or meta-search travel sites as they are also called), car rental is another travel product that lends itself well to being ‘showcased’ in these comparative pricing engines.  For example, Kayak and its sister company SideStep, offer car rental search as one of their featured travel products, as does international air fare meta-search specialist Mobissimo.  These sites provide great product with wide geographic reach, but their affiliate programs are based on the CPC compensation model.

In Kayak’s affiliate program, which is managed by LinkShare, travel affiliates incorporate a Kayak search widget onto their website. The Kayak links come in a variety of sizes, formats and creative executions, thus enabling the travel affiliate to choose the links that best fit their business model.  Once the travel affiliate has steered his / her customer to Kayak and after that customer conducts their search and clicks through to the travel merchant for further action, Kayak is credited for the consumer hand-off, and depending on the merchant agreement, is summarily paid between 50 cents and $1.00 for that click. The travel affiliate is subsequently credited with 50% of the commission amount, which is eventually paid out through LinkShare.

However, there are several car rental / hire broker and meta-search sites offer a CPA program.  One of the top U.S. players operating the aggregator/broker model is AutoEurope, which pays travel affiliates an average of 10% commission on each booking.  In addition, AutoEurope also offers commissionable air and hotels product to travel affiliates, making this travel merchant somewhat unique in the car rental niche and a favorite for many travel affiliates as well as travel agents in the U.S. and Canada.

If you are a UK based travel affiliate and prefer working with a car hire meta-search vendor that has a sizeable international network AND a CPA program, then we suggest you look at a well regarded rental broker UK based Carrentals.co.uk.

Offering search capabilities for up to 40 car hire vendors (the actual number depends on the travel destination country), Carrentals.co.uk’s program pays a rather handsome 5% commission on UK rentals, and claims it achieves a market leading conversion rate of 4%.   The company has won numerous awards, including being selected as the winner of the 2008 Best Car Hire Website Award by travel industry beacon Travolution, and ranked in the 19th spot out of the top 50 travel websites by the prestigious British broadside, The Independent.

Carrentals.co.uk’s UK travel affiliate program, as well as their affiliate program for 13 other European countries, Australia and Canada is available from Webgains or TradeDoubler. The company also offers a US-based website, www.comparecarrentals.com, which unfortunately, unlike its parent, the U.S. site does not offer a travel affiliate program.

Though sharing the same brand name, it should be clearly noted that the UK based Carrentals.co.uk does not share anything else with New Jersey based CarRentals.com.  Like its British competitor, CarRentals.com is an online car rental marketing and retail firm which offers discounted car rental rates on virtually all major car rental company brands direct, but to US consumers.  As an aside, CarRentals.com was acquired in March 2008 by Expedia.com, and organizationally placed as a SBU under Hotwire.com, Expedia’s opaque travel site.  Although CarRentals.com doesn’t offer its own travel affiliate program, their product is available to travel affiliates on both Expedia’s and Hotwire’s affiliate programs.

What has been your experience with car rental / car hire affiliate programs?  Have you found them easy to integrate into your product portfolio, as well as easy programs to track and manage? Are some better suited for your international travel programs than others? TravelDividends would like to hear from you.  Please share your experiences with us, and we’ll pass those along to our readers.  Many thanks!