After more than a year of social distancing, tourists are venturing out, but are experiencing shock as prices on a rental car — a standard item in the travel equation — have jumped as much as 9,900% in the past year.
The country’s rental car network has been plagued by inventory shortages since the pandemic’s onset when rental car companies sold off portions of their fleets to accommodate plummeting demand in 2020. Since then, demand has not only rebounded, but sky-rocketed and companies are trying to keep pace with their shrunken supply, which has resulted in eye-watering prices for drivers in various U.S. cities.
“People are hesitant to get on planes, they didn't want to be in airports going through security, and being stuck in close quarters on flights,” Jonathan Weinberg, AutoSlash’s founder and CEO, recently told Cashay. “But people still need to get around, they still want to go places, they need to visit family and have obligations.”
The issue was once isolated in popular Sun Belt leisure destinations like Arizona, Florida, Nevada, and especially Hawaii where Weinberg said rental cars are going for as much as $500 per day. But as the weather becomes warmer and sunnier for more of the country, his forecast is that more cities will see similar price increases.
Cashay connected with Weinberg who shared his knowledge on how to book a rental car for your upcoming trip without spending a small fortune.
Book your car rental as far ahead as possible instead of waiting until the last minute. Weinberg shared that “a month ahead is generally a safe bet,” but inventory sellouts are happening “farther and farther out,” meaning there’s no car for you to even rent.
“Booking weeks ahead is the single most important way to ensure that a) you have a rental at all, and b) that you don't end up paying more than you have to for it,” he said.
Check rental pricing before you book to make sure it's both available and affordable. Otherwise, you run the risk of eating up your travel budget on an expensive rental.
Don’t pay in advance, Weinberg stressed. Instead, “stick with a flexible pay-later rate,” even if it’s more expensive so travelers have the freedom to cancel, or change plans without penalty, or re-book if a better deal comes along.
Be flexible with your plans and cast a wider net to include rentals from airports, off-airport locations, and rental offices that are slightly outside your intended or initial range if prices are too high or vehicles are simply not available.
If flying and picking up at an airport, join the rental company's free loyalty program to skip the busy and time-consuming rental counter and go straight to your car.
Read more information and tips in our Travel section