CLEVELAND — If you’re looking to get away from it all this summer, it’s likely going to cost you. In addition to high gasoline prices and skyrocketing airfares, rental car prices are also skyrocketing.
“Prices have definitely gone up. I used to get a flat rate, but now I noticed the rate was at least $70 more. And with gas prices, it’s starting to hurt you a bit,” said Maureen Mays, who rents cars weekly for business trips.
Allison Barkus added: “It was very, very expensive actually.”
Rustie Anderson also noticed fewer options when she helped Barkus rent the vehicle.
“When we went back to get a car, there wasn’t a lot of choice,” Anderson said. “I have rented a car before and it seems there have been more in the past.”
After several years of the pandemic derailing travel plans, Americans are ready to hit the road again. Pent-up demand exceeds supply or rental cars.
“Rental cars are a car rental company’s biggest expense and without anyone renting, they had to sell as many vehicles as they could as quickly as they could,” Jonathan Weinberg explained. , founder and CEO of AutoSlash.
AutoSlash compares rental car prices and selection. Weinberg said that after selling assets during the pandemic, many companies are struggling to replenish inventory due to supply chain issues, chip shortages and other delays. Some even buy used cars instead of new ones.
“It was hoped that by this summer there would be some easing in the inventory situation, but so far we haven’t seen that,” he said. “And we don’t expect the situation to improve until the end of this year.”
Weinberg finds prices over $100 a day at popular spring break destinations. Outside of the Lower 48, costs are over $200 per day in Alaska and Hawaii. Some of the more expensive options are near national parks. AutoSlash has found cars for over $300 a day near Glacier National Park.
“Granted, high gas prices are weighing on consumers’ minds, but from what we’ve seen so far, it’s not dampening car rental demand at all,” Weinberg said.
He recommends starting early when looking for a rental car. You might want to start planning eight to 10 weeks before a trip if you’re looking to rent larger vehicles, like minivans and full-size SUVs, which are particularly hard to find. You should look four to six weeks in advance for budget options.
In addition to planning ahead, Weinberg said discounts through AAA, AARP, Costco or other clubs can sometimes offer 40 to 50 percent off rental car prices.
If your travel plans involve shorter journeys, you might consider opting for a taxi or using a ride-sharing app to save on fares. Car-sharing companies, like Turo and Get Around, which operate like Airbnb with owners offering cars for rent, may also offer cheaper options. But many also come with delivery charges and require a more thorough insurance background check before renting.
In 2021, travel bloggers have also started suggesting alternatives like box trucks, service vans, or rental vehicles from home improvement stores. They may offer cheaper day rates and mileage, but Weinberg warns they may not be a practical solution for getting around.
He said the challenges facing the car rental industry are expected to persist throughout the year and prices may rise before falling.