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If you need a rental this spring and can stand a little suspense, Hotwire (tel. 866/HOTWIRE; www.hotwire.com) has a deal that puts you in a full-size car starting from $9.95.

Given the current economic situation (looks like the Toyota recall isn't helping much either), fleet sizes are leaner in some places but actually larger in other locations. For example, typically in the spring, an excess of rentals are left in southern U.S. locations by vacationers who had booked a one-way rental. The upshot? More choices, lower prices, more competition.

Hotwire recently announced that Honolulu, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Orlando, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, Phoenix, and Tampa were among the 10 cities with the lowest car rental prices for the month of January. Miami/Fort Lauderdale also made the list, and it's no surprise, as Fort Lauderdale currently has the lowest daily rate: $9.95.

You won't know the name of the company until after you book, but Hotwire guarantees that the rental will come from within its pool, which includes Alamo, Budget, Enterprise, Hertz, National, or Europcar (international only). Before you book, a calendar shows which dates are cheaper, while details such as the pick-up location, seating capacity, and cargo space are clearly spelled out. For example, the $9.95 rental we're focusing on here holds two large and two small suitcases and seats five adults.

What the Quoted Price Gets You: A full-size car (Chevy Impala, Hyundai Sonata or something similar) at Fort Lauderdale airport.

What Else You'll Have to Pay: Miles are unlimited for most of the rentals we looked at online, but read closely. For example, the base price for a seven-day rental is $39.80 while the taxes will run you another $43.78 -- that's more than the base price. Your actual total for seven days? $83.58, which includes all applicable taxes and fees. If you want to add another driver, you have to do that at the rental counter once you pick up the car; prices and policies will vary.

The individual agencies will typically offer you a loss-damage waiver (LDW) or collision-damage waiver (CDW), you can either purchase insurance through Hotwire for $9 per day (and it covers both), or through the individual rental company; expect to pay approximately an additional $10-$20 per day. But in some cases, your own car insurance policy covers rentals or your credit card's benefits may include rental insurance (certain American Express cards, for example).

When: A range of dates in early April; the lowest advertised rate reflects a Thursday, April 8 pick-up and a Monday, April 12 drop-off.

Book By: As soon as possible to ensure availability.

Other Details: Hotwire's prices are dynamic and fluctuate with inventory and demand. Therefore, when you go to the site, you may find this location at a slightly higher (or lower!) price, or you may find a different location has taken its place. Bookings are final; no refunds. If your plans require you to be flexible, it might be worth booking directly with rental companies -- many don't require a credit card to secure the reservation and are a bit more forgiving when it comes to cancellations. You may end up paying more for that convenience, though.