Rental Car Prices Are About To Rise, Here’s How To Beat The Trend

I recently did an interview on rental cars – airport taxes, prepaid rates, strategies for finding the best deal – and I lamented with the reporter that nobody cares about rental cars and they should, it’s part of the trip like air and hotels are.

Is part of the reason that the rental experience is so awful? And rental loyalty programs are so awful? The end of Silvercar at airports takes relief from Ford Tauruses and outrageous add-on charges off the table much of the time.

  • Hertz used to be the business traveler’s go-to, but they don’t always honor reservations and sometimes have their renters arrested for stealing cars due to data errors.

  • National is better with its Emerald Aisle, but when I had top status with them I never got anything better than a selection from the Executive Aisle – and mere ‘Executive’ status is freely available, and comes with Amex Platinum as well.

  • Sixt will give everyone status, and supposedly has nice cars, but I’ve always had to wait in a line and they often don’t have the cars reserved (yet they don’t seem to want to upgrade when that happens).

But would you believe car rentals are about to get much more expensive?

  • Car rental companies offloaded rental cars during the pandemic. Their inventory is low.

  • As demand ramps up, prices are going to rise as more people want cars than companies have cars to rent.

  • They won’t just add cars to their fleet for several reasons. Their balance sheets are hurting, they’ll be conservative about making capital investments, and because cars themselves are getting more expensive because of supply chain shortages, low interest rates, and stimmie checks.

There are several things you can do to offset the pain of the rental experience, and high prices.

  1. Join your rental company’s loyalty program. It usually means skipping the rental counter lines.

  2. Rent off-airport, even if you return your car to the airport, because you can save significantly on taxes and fees charged for airport rentals and targeted at out-of-towners.

  3. Plug your reservation into which will track prices and find you a better deal.

  4. Rent a nicer car. Generally the car type you want isn’t even guaranteed. What is a luxury car? Who knows. It varies by rental outfit and the words “or similar” when you rent actually means “or something you don’t consider to be similar at all.” Still, if you’re going to spend much time in the car it may actually be worth the money – at least price it out.

  5. Hertz still gives a 4 hour grace period returning with the Amex Platinum CDP code. I always find I need a car for 27 hours not 24 hours or 50 hours not 48. This can save the cost of an extra rental day.

Here are 10 ways to save money on rental cars.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Really? I thought Hertz 4 hour grace period return is tied to amex as a payment card (vs. using amex cdp). Did I remember it wrong?

  2. Had good experiences with National a few years ago. Would avoid/steer clear of Hertz; with all of their current financial and customer service problems, can’t see why anyone would reserve with them.

  3. @ Lynn – Yes. In fact, with the AMEX CDP code, you can make the rental for 28 hours and they will only charge you for one day.

  4. I’ve been using Turo more frequently with my USA getaways. Even with Hertz/National status, I find the cars available to be boring.

  5. “Rent off-airport, even if you return your car to the airport, because you can save significantly on taxes and fees charged for airport rentals and targeted at out-of-towners.” In general this is true but in some cities with limited space to park cars I have seen it that even with the airport fees that the rentals are much cheaper at the airport plus I find airports tend to have a bigger car selection.

  6. I’ve consistently gotten the best rental car deals through They book through Avis, Budget and Alamo, and present to their members their best rates at all of their partners. Second driver is always no charge.

  7. In the last year flights and hotels have been the cheapest I’ve ever seen, but there’ve been no such deals on rental cars, if anything they’ve been more expensive. It’s scary to imagine car rental rates going up farther.

  8. I just want rental companies to offer electric cars.

    Even a Chevy Bolt would be practical and fit my needs.

    Having an electric at home, even the ‘fancy,” cars like a Volvo S60 or Benz C class from Sixth feels like the Flintstonemibile.

    Often pay a ton more though Tiro to get an electric.

  9. Anyone had experience with

    They seem to offer i great prices but am concerned about booking past Amex 100 day dispute cutoff.

    Warnings on AutoSlash – for off airport rentals their “beat your current reservation” may be very distant from where you want to pick up and return. Do not assume they are matching anywhere close to the location in the reservation you submitted. Look at their offer carefully.

    Also look hard at second driver fee. I have gotten a screen message when booking through their link in to Priceline (this is different than booking directly on Priceline) that second driver is included but at rental counter told it was not.

  10. Ok! So, I didn’t know the Amex Plat came with a CDP code for Hertz. I rent frequently with Hertz. How do I find that code?

  11. Bought one of the 200k cars that Hertz was forced to offload. So far so good but can’t recommend Hertz car sales experience.
    Generally rent from Avis as my corporate code provides the best rates. Otherwise Costco usually has the best price.

  12. One of the other issues with rental cars is that they are getting older. I rented one last month, and it had over 50,000 miles on it. The battery in the remote was marginal, so I replaced it. I left it idle for perhaps 20 minutes while eating, and it overheated and stalled. After throwing snow at the engine in an attempt to cool it, and waiting about 30 minutes, it still wouldn’t start. So, I called the emergency roadside assistance, and had a 1/2 hour of your call is important to us. By the end of that time, the engine started, so I hung up and turned the heater to max for the rest of the trip. I think the radiator fan wasn’t working. They did refund one of my days when I told my tale of woe on the survey. I was frankly surprised they hadn’t let the survey readers go. Oh, and they didn’t have my car on hand when I showed up, but did have a free upgrade for me. I’m at the second tier of their status program, but mostly because of my airline membership.

  13. If Hertz offers the Platinum status tier for sale again, it is truly worthwhile and gives a genuine premium customer service experience. At many airports, you get to bypass the rental-car shuttle through private-car service to & from the Hertz lot (or in some cases, they will deliver your car to you at the terminal), reasonably priced upgrade offers to the really sweet cars that Hertz features in its Prestige category. Plus your spouse gets the same benefits and you get the 4 hour grace period Gary describes.

  14. You’re right about cheaper off airport. A few years ago watched the zombies march off the plane and to the rental sites at Phoenix Sky Harbor. I took a cab across town and got a vehicle for almost half the price. No PHX fees made a huge difference.

  15. Not often mentioned is Enterprise. I’m Platinum with them. I’ve always had a reasonable experience. Upgrades if booked class unavailable, good offers for voluntary upgrades. I was with Hertz for years and finally gave up. Way too much hassle.
    Sometimes it’s tough to rent off the airport. Especially at my main pickup which is ORD. If it’s for a week or more, perhaps, less than that it’s not worth the trouble.

  16. I feel this one. I need a car for two days at MCI, which is usually about $80 on a weekend TOTAL with taxes (I do this trip often) with Alamo. Now it’s $100-125 for ONE day. I am about to change my entire flight and to add a trip to another major US city where mass transit is king just to spend a day for fun because it’s more economical to rent a car for one day, pay a bit more to add a flight leg, and use that extra car rental money for an extra night, not at MCI hotels where I was staying for convenience for my appointment, but for a getaway night in a nice Hyatt, where I will get some real point, plus the extra EQMs/EQDs with AA. The rental car companies can stick it. Unfortunately KC is too spread out and the public transportation isn’t good enough for where I need to be, and the rideshares too costly, as well, for one appointment 50 minutes away from the airport. I am feeling this one big time, but will probably minimize my trips this way so I can reduce my rentals, too.

  17. I love everything about the National experience. Especially in the times of one-two-free, I can rarely even use all the free days I accumulate.

    Inventory of nicer cars has been down, but I can pretty commonly drive off in a Maxima, Audi, Infinity, or Mercedes. If you like convertibles, they’re nearly always available on the Emerald Aisle.

  18. Screw Hertz. Made a reservation at LAX and even paid for it in full up front. Arrived on time and was told no cars available. Left me and my family scrambling to get a car and ended having to pay 4x as much. What’s the point of a reservation then?

  19. Really, add a day for a better rate? NOPE
    It should be but NoOne is offering deals, it’s all a money grab.
    A lot of scams, “from 9.95 a day”. (Gotcha) where? Perspiration City Mississippi? Fees are off the chart. They want you to pay for the cars’ registration now!

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