If you're thinking about renting a car for a summer vacation, you need to start planning now. Demand is up, but there aren't many cars available. That's driving up prices if you can even find a car.
This all started because of what happened last year when people weren't traveling because of the pandemic.
The CEO of AutoSlash, a company that helps you find cheap rentals, tells us car rental companies sold off hundreds of thousands of vehicles to stay in business with the big drop in demand. Now, the demand is back, but they don't have the cars.
“We did some pricing checks and you know the news was sort of mixed, there were places like Orlando, where I saw rates of $399 a day for this weekend and into next week. But yet, if you book a week or two farther out, you can get rates of like $60 or $70 a day. Now, it's still not great, I mean the normal range of this time of year would be $30 or $40 a day,” said Jonathan Weinberg, CEO and founder of AutoSlash.
Other places AutoSlash found high car rentals prices or cars sold out right now include cities all across Florida, and then Charlotte, Las Vegas, New Orleans, Savannah and Tucson.
They say they're already seeing increased demand and higher rates starting in the northeast and Midwest too. It could be the fall before things return to normal across the country.
“Where we're seeing the biggest problems is for the larger vehicles so minivans, full size SUVs, anything that basically seats more than six people, we're seeing prices spiking right now, because those are in short supply. Those are the types of vehicles that folks want to use for a road trip,” said Weinberg.
He advises booking your rental car at least a month out.
Consider checking rental car prices before you even book your plane ticket. You can choose an option that lets you make a reservation without having to give your credit card in advance, so you can back out without a fee if needed.
Also, check both the airport and off-airport rental locations. The rules that typically apply with prices at these may not apply now.
Another trick is if you search and there's nothing available, add days to your rental and you may start seeing availability for booking longer.
Weinberg says you can return the car early and you may get money back for the additional days.
AutoSlash’s service is free. You don't pay up front and it tracks the price of your rental for price drops you can take advantage of. They also automatically apply coupon discount codes to your rental.