Rental car prices have in many cases become the biggest expense of a trip. Rental companies offloaded vehicle inventories during the pandemic, and didn’t place orders. The market for cars is tight. And travel has picked back up. So there’s more people looking for cars than there are cars. Prices are sky high.
If that were the only problem at least we could plan for it. But since many rentals don’t require prepayment, no shows are high, and car companies massively overbook. Plus people don’t always return their cars exactly on time. There are labor shortages, too, so it can be slow cleaning cars between customers and getting them back up to the lot for the next rental.
The ‘rental car apocalypse’ really peaked in Hawaii, with rates as high as $600 a day and local leaders urging people not to rent U-Hauls to get around. But it’s really going on everywhere. Here’s what it looked like on my most recent rental.
I showed up at Hertz. They had a wait list of over 60 people. They had one car. It wasn’t assigned to me, but I was lucky enough to drive off in it. I’d never been so happy to have an over 40,000 mile Mitsbushi.
In situations like this I recommend tipping. You can debate in the comments whether the current circumstance justifies making more than one rental reservation, from different car companies. That fails Kantian ethics (how would this look if everyone did it?) but it’s a guerrilla tactic in a Mad Max-style world where everyone is out for themselves.
Some things to consider for your next trip,
- Use AutoSlash to book your car (they will apply any/all available coupons and discounts) and track the price to help you rebook if cost falls.
- Rent from a car dealership
- Silvercar is no longer at airports, but with 48 hours’ notice they do deliver cars
- Use Turo to rent someone’s car instead of renting from a regular agency, but this is less convenient for airport arrivals especially with family. You can get a nicer car for less but the easy airport pickup can’t be replicated.
- Skip the rental car and Uber if you’re going to stay mostly on property at a resort.