The rental car shortage is leaving travelers in a bind

There’s a rental car shortage and it’s only getting worse as the summer approaches. With easing travel restrictions, people are ready to hit the road again and it’s showing in a big way. Renting a car used to be an afterthought, but travelers this summer are facing steep prices, if they’re lucky to find a car at all. What caused this perfect storm and what can travelers do about it? This week we outline the situation and give you our top advice.

Overview. Why such a shortage? Like many industries, rental car companies were hit hard with the pandemic, so they sold off portions of their under-used fleet. With the vaccine roll-out and lifting of restrictions, the increase in demand now is outpacing their ability to restock. As a short-term fix, companies are shifting vehicles away from smaller markets to larger and more popular areas, but this creates a “balancing act” situation that will take time to work through. There also is a global computer chip shortage, making it difficult and more expensive for rental car companies to purchase replacement vehicles.

What does this mean for me? If you must rent a car, expect it to be a major part of your vacation expense. Last minute bookings at popular locations can be 5 to 10 times the normal rate, and even advanced bookings can be double or triple what you would normally pay. Also don’t be surprised to experience longer wait times, as cars are turned back out as soon as they are returned by the previous renter.

Workarounds. Having a vehicle on vacation can offer freedom and flexibility that other modes of transportation can’t match. If you run into sky-high prices or no availability at all, look at off-airport rental locations. Also consider smaller or independent rental companies (though do your homework on these companies first) or call around to car dealerships. You may also want to ask yourself is a car really necessary. Sure, it provides flexibility, but it also means parking fees, gas, tolls, and insurance liability. If offered by the resort, strongly consider including transportation as part of your booking. Or, compare the cost of a taxi or rideshare to the full cost of a car rental. The savings could be substantial.

How we can assist. The good news is that if you need a rental car, as a travel advisor I can still find pretty fairly reasonable rates with travel partners when packaging a trip with air and hotel. I also can arrange transportation for you either through a resort or a third-party vendor if you’d prefer not to worry about running into issues at the rental counter.

Demand for rental cars often decreases in September which should give the rental companies some breathing room to bring supply and demand more in line. In the meantime, expect prices to remain elevated and supplies to be short. If you need a car during your next vacation, make sure to book early! Contact us today to get started.

About Denise

My goal is to simplify travel-planning through an equal exchange process where I acquire your ideas and expectations for your trip relieving you of the worry, hassle, stress and time that accompanies Do-It-Yourself planning.

Recent Posts

Airlines want your data: How new booking rules impact travelers

Starting May 1, American Airlines announced that travelers who book tickets through third parties will no longer be eligible to receive AAdvantage miles and loyalty points. This change comes as part of an effort to persuade people to book directly with American...

The latest on tipping: Where and how much to tip in 2024

One expense that is commonly overlooked when traveling is tipping. We all know to tip at a restaurant in the U.S., but there are other situations that aren’t always so clear, both in the U.S. and especially abroad. Tipping customs and guidance change all the time it...

Sunset Groups to Peru September 14-25, 2024

Grandeur of Peru by Alexander + Roberts, September 14-24, 2025 Contact or 817.442.5398 to place deposit and secure your spot among 16 guests. A+R's distinctive style: Our beloved Andean Trip Leader Carlos brings history and culture to...

Sunset Groups to Italy April 11-23, 2025

Come join us in the historic country of Italy! From the west coast around the boot to the Adriatic Sea, you’ll witness iconic landscapes, magnificent churches, imposing palaces, ancient temples, elegant squares, incredible art galleries and museums. Arrive at the...