Shortly before this time last year, the rental car industry was grappling with how to use technology to push the industry forward as it tried to fend off heavy competition from ride-sharing behemoths like Uber and Lyft. Then the COVID-19 pandemic arrived, and everything changed overnight. Government imposed lockdowns brought the travel industry, and with it the car rental business, to a virtual standstill as tourism collapsed.

Nevertheless, all is not lost for the rental car industry as companies began adopting new technologies to streamline their operations. By adapting to shifting consumer tastes and embracing COVID-19-safe practices, the rental car industry hopes to take advantage of the following industry trends in 2021.

Longer Rental Periods

Before the pandemic, most corporate rentals occurred during the week. Nowadays, however, many travelers are keeping their vehicles for leisure travel over the weekend and then using them for business again the following week. As a result, many rental companies are seeing longer rental periods for customers that want to combine their business rental with a road trip. In addition, many short-haul flight routes have been nixed by the airlines, so many business travelers must drive longer distances to their destinations.

One-way Business Rentals

Corporate travel managers have also seen a larger demand for one-way car rentals. Instead of flying, many people now prefer to drive to a meeting location and drop the car off when they arrive. As soon as they finish their work, they simply pick up another vehicle and drive it back home. Due to the hassle and safety issues associated with air travel, many travelers are opting for rental cars whether they will need them at their destination or not.

More Convenient than Uber and Lyft

Another trend observed by many travel advisors is customers adding rental cars to their flight and hotel reservations. One of the main reasons for doing this, travel experts believe, is because it’s a way to avoid using Uber or Lyft at their destination.  With their own rental car, people eliminate the possibility of COVID-19 exposure from a driver. For good reason, people are embracing any safety measure that can reduce the chances of COVID-19 transmission.

Greater Reliance on Contactless Transactions

Due to social distancing measures, rental car companies have seen a marked increase in demand for remote booking options. As a result, more rental companies have instituted direct billing, so employees don’t need to use their own credit cards to make reservations or pay.

Furthermore, companies have also experienced a rise in enrollments in express memberships which offer business travelers a way to bypass interacting with others at a car rental counter. Today, having an express car rental membership is not just a matter of convenience but of safety.

Although 2020 started with the car rental industry facing continued pressure from popular ride-hailing companies such as Uber and Lyft, the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic forced the industry to rethink how it does business going forward. As a result, car rental businesses have started adapting to a growing number of trends that enable business travelers to reach their destinations while reducing their chances of exposure to the coronavirus.

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