The COVID-19 pandemic has forced many rental companies to sell the majority of their unused inventory to offset the costs of little or no business. Now that the travel industry is rebounding rapidly, there is a strong demand for a limited supply of rental cars.
Currently, the average car rental price is up 50%, and these costs are expected to continue to rise as the summer progresses.
As a result, consumers are turning to third-party travel websites in the hopes of finding a decent price. The problem is, these sites don’t always have the most up-to-date inventory. Consumers have reported that rental car reservations are not honored once they arrive in person, although they have already paid in advance.
In addition, peer-to-peer carsharing services have seen a huge spike in activity due to the shortage of rental cars. However, there are a few major drawbacks that come with the service.
Consumers report surprise charges once they return the vehicle – often due to damage – which may or may not have been inflicted by the renter. Most companies require tenants to take photos before and after the transaction, however, consumers still experience issues even after providing documentation.
The bottom line is that anyone with travel plans will need to jump over a few hurdles. The main tip is to plan ahead and book as early as possible. Better Business Bureau has compiled some important steps to save you money on a rental car this summer.
Find and compare companies. Before booking a car rental, search for the company on BBB.org to get a feel for how it works. You can check if there are any major consumer alerts, low business ratings, or pattern complaints. Most importantly, you can get a feel for how the business is reacting to any of these complaints. Are they flexible? Or do they stick to a strict policy? What is their responsiveness?
Consider the location. Renting from an airport based rental center can be more expensive than a location outside the airport. Additionally, many rentals incur additional drop-off fees if you return the vehicle to a different location than where you picked it up.
Go straight to the source. Third-party travel apps analyze Internet offers for you. Once you’ve found an offer that’s right for you, check with the rental company directly and find out what the price difference will be. It might be better to pay a little more than to take the extra risk.
Get off the beaten track. There are few options that most people wouldn’t turn to when renting a car. Local dealerships offer rentals to customers who want to buy their next vehicle. Think of it as an extended test drive. You can also leverage your Costco membership or even check with home improvement stores as a last resort.
Rent a car by the hour. You may need to adjust your plans so that you are not heavily dependent on a car. Look for airport shuttles to transport you to the hotel, then hire a car by the hour if you absolutely need it. Hourly rental rates tend to be lower.