As more and more people have begun to venture out from Covid restrictions, summer travel is starting to pick up along with the demand for rental cars. Unfortunately, as many vacationers have already discovered, things are not the same as they were before the pandemic. Car rental prices have hit the roof, if you can even manage to get ahold of one. Keeping this in mind, it isn’t impossible to find a car rental in the summer of 2021, but you might have to be a bit more flexible with your mode of transportation than anytime in the past.
What Caused the Rental Car Shortage?
When travel came to halt due to the spread of Covid, many rental car companies decided to sell off large portions of their inventory. According to the Washington Post, the largest rental car companies sold off 770,000 cars in 2020, which was approximately one-third of their entire fleets.
While selling the cars has made those companies much more profitable, it has also created a situation this summer in which demand far outstrips supply.
To make matters worse, a semiconductor shortage has slowed down car production, thereby ensuring that this situation will continue into the foreseeable future.
Interestingly, one of the factors cited for hurting the rental car sector more than other industries was their lack of clout in Washington. Without much lobbying power, rental car companies didn’t get much relief from the government’s rescue and bailout packages. As a result, most companies felt they had no choice but to engage in a massive selloff of their fleets, which are not expected to return to pre-pandemic levels until 2022.
Consequently, rental car operators have struggled to rebuild their inventory to accommodate the resurgent demand from spring and summer travelers. According to AAA, travel is now up 60% compared to last year when most people were staying put due to pandemic-induced shutdowns.
Car Rental Companies Can Name Their Price
These new circumstances mean that the major car rental companies can essentially name whatever price they want. Indeed, many cities have seen double their usual prices.
The travel website Kayak, for instance, has witnessed rental car price increases of 83% compared to this time in 2019. In addition, web searches for rental cars have exploded in certain areas like Lihue, Hawaii.
Industry experts observed the low-inventory and higher-price trend earlier this year in vacation destination areas like Florida and Las Vegas, and it gradually spread to Hawaii, Alaska and national parks. Some car companies report typical pricing between $100 to $150 per day for economy cars.
People Are Renting Whatever They Can Find
With things not expected to get back to normal anytime soon, consumers have been forced to get creative with their choice of rental vehicles. One person reported renting a U-Haul truck when she couldn’t find any cars for her vacation. Amazingly, she still saved money, even after including the gas.
How to Deal with the Shortage
If you aren’t prepared to cope with a moving van during your next vacation, there are a few tips that should help you find a rental car that will allow you to drive in comfort over your summer holiday.
- Rent your car at a local neighborhood location – car companies have plenty of locations away from the beaten path of airports. Taking a trip into a nearby city or town should get you away from the people swarming the airport car rental counter.
- Set your sights on independent car rental companies instead of Hertz, Avis, and Enterprise – you will always find the big names at the airport, but they usually have smaller independent car rental operators that can be just as efficient and convenient if you’re willing to look.
- Try a Car Sharing Platform like Turo or Driveshare – renting someone else’s car is another option these days. These platforms allow individuals to rent out their car to other people. Moreover, they have the added bonus of a much wider selection to choose from than the standard rental fleet.
Without a doubt, Covid has created a situation unlike anything the car rental industry has ever experienced. Furthermore, many industry insiders expect the rental car crunch to continue until computer chips are readily available again and auto manufacturing ramps back up. Consequently, travelers getting ready to hit the road for the rest of the summer and into the fall must continue to be creative with their choice of rental car, rental location and the company or platform from which they rent.