Rental car shortage causing prices to skyrocket

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- As you make your summer vacation plans, beware there is a shortage of rental cars and rates are skyrocketing.

Some are calling it "Carpocalypse" or "Carmageddon". The good news is with a little creativity, you can not only find a car but also get the best possible deal.

"The issue is that going back to March of last year, when COVID first started, the car rental companies saw demand drop 90%," said Jonathan Weinberg of AutoSlash.

The rental car companies then sold about three quarters of a million vehicles to stay solvent. Now fast forward to 2021.

"The demand came roaring back and the car rental companies just were not prepared for it," said Weinberg.

For example: "We saw 18 out of the 20 airports in Florida completely sold out for Presidents Day weekend," he said.

And now: "The entire state of Alaska and the entire state of Wyoming are almost completely sold out of rental cars," said Weinberg.

And that is impacting prices.

"Rates are skyrocketing right now," said Weinberg. "Peak summer can be $50 a day. But we're easily doubling that. And in some cases tripling or quadrupling those rates."

The key is to book early.

"It's generally free to cancel, you can make a reservation without having to pay any money upfront," said Scott Keyes of Scott's Cheap Flights.

Check rates at off-airport locations, which usually offer better deals.

"Usually within two to four miles of the airport there are a dozen more car rental locations," said Keyes.

And try AutoSlash. The website compares rates and keeps checking after you book, alerting you if a better deal comes along. It also lets you take advantage of coupons and discount codes through car rental loyalty programs like AAA and AARP.

"If you have a Costco membership, check out Costco travel. They often have some of the best rates on car rentals," said Keyes.

Also, get creative if you're having trouble finding a rental. Call local car dealerships at your destination.

"They have fleets of cars that many folks don't realize you can actually rent those cars at a pretty affordable rate," he said.

And check out Turo.

"This is like the Airbnb of the car rental world where folks who have cars and might not be using them will rent them to you as as a visitor," said Keyes.

Right now it's wise to plan your vacation in reverse. Check the car rental situation before booking airfare and making other reservations.
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