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Car rental rates expected to remain high throughout summer travel season

Short supply of rental cars driving high rates
Rental cars
Posted at 10:00 AM, Mar 22, 2022

BALTIMORE, Md. — A short supply of rental cars is driving high rates this summer. The high cost of rental cars and gas, combined with accommodations and other expenses have many people already rethinking their summer vacation travel plans.

Even if a road trip is out the question for some travelers to save money on rising gas prices, people who fly to their destination will find the price of rental cars has gone up this year as well.

As with most economic issues, it's a matter of supply and demand.

Many rental car companies sold off large portions of their fleets when people stopped traveling during the height of the pandemic. Since more people are traveling again, many companies don't have a large enough supply of cars to meet the demand.

Travel experts cite supply chain issues, a chip shortage, and other pandemic delays have made it tough for rental car companies to replenish their inventories.

Some are even buying used cars for the first time to keep up with demand.

Founder and CEO of the rental car price and deal-tracking website Auto Slash, Jonathan Weinberg said “rental cars are the largest expense that a rental car company has. and without anyone renting, they really have to go and sell off as many vehicles as they could.”

“It was hoped that by this summer, there would be a little bit of an easing up for the inventory situation, but so far we haven't see it. And, we don't expect the situation to improve till later this year,” Weinberg said.

Auto Slash finds cars are costing more than $100 dollars a day in many popular spring break destinations.

Renting an economy car in places like Hawaii or Alaska could cost twice that at $200.

Renting a car near some national parks could cost three times more at more than $300 per day.

Travelers will want to look for coupons and discount codes to save or try using memberships like Costco or AAA to find other travel perks.

Experts recommend travelers starting to plan where they want to go on vacation should start planning their rental car search early as well.

Bargain hunters should give themselves at least 4-6 weeks ahead of time for economy cars, and 8-10 weeks time if they need to rent a minivan or full size SUV.

Rental car customer Maureen Mays said "prices have most definitely increased. I used to get a flat rate but now I’ve noticed that rate is at least $70 dollars more. And, with gas prices, it's going to hurt you a little bit."

Some rental car companies require drivers to pre-pay the rental price to lock in a rate.

However, many companies offer the option to pay at pick-up rather than which could allow some extra time to keep shopping around for a better deal.