Rental cars: when to book for a vacation trip this year


We’ve all heard the horror stories that swirl amid the current rental car shortage: Tourists rent U-haul in Hawaii as a last resort, or travelers are charged hundreds of dollars a day for a car. subcompact. As the peak vacation travel season approaches, many travelers wonder if they should even attempt to book a rental car in November and December.

This is definitely a complicated question. At the start of the pandemic, demand for rental cars at airports fell by 80%, said Greg Scott, spokesperson for the American Car Rental Association. “As a result, rental car companies were left with hundreds of thousands of unused cars in their rental fleets,” says Scott. “They struggled to find where to park all the unused rental cars, let alone pay for them without rental income. So companies began to “unload their fleets” or sell their cars, according to Scott.

In recent months, however, demand for cars has returned, even surpassing pre-pandemic levels. Rental car bookings in August 2021 were 41% higher than in the same month in 2019, according to a new survey from AmEx Trendex.

As demand increases, car rental companies are trying to rebuild their fleets, but it has been difficult. Due to global supply chain issues, there are fewer new cars on the market to buy around the world. Even the repurchase of rental cars that were sold at the start of the pandemic costs more due to the lack of stock of cars.

What are the prospects for this holiday season?

Searches for rental car reservations for the 2021 vacation travel season are already up 230% from pre-pandemic searches, according to travel research site Kayak.

To help increase their inventory, some car rental companies take measures such as keeping cars in their fleet for a longer period, such as until the car’s mileage reaches 50,000 miles, rather than 20,000 or 30,000 as was the norm in 2019, according to Scott. While this can keep some of the cars on the road, rental cars will always be difficult to book on Thanksgiving and Christmas, and those that are available will likely be expensive.

“Due to increased demand, we encourage customers to book a rental car as early as possible and not miss out on the perks that can help you get the most out of your trip,” says Audrey Hendley, President from American Express Travel.

Indeed, now is the time to book if travelers want a chance to lock in a rental car for November and December and get a good deal as well. While daily rental rates are on average higher than they were last year (66% higher, according to Kayak), prices for the holidays are dropping slightly right now. “Mean [rental car] rates per day for holiday periods are currently on a downward trend, but as prices can fluctuate there is no guarantee of how long these rates will last, ”says a report on holiday travel trends. ‘Expedia.

Here are some other strategies on how to prepare your car rental game plan this holiday season.

Search for offers by location

If you have flexibility in your vacation travel plans, it may be worth traveling to an airport or smaller town within driving distance of your destination, or booking your trip to places where cars are. available and low prices.

Some of the cheapest US cities to rent a car, according to Kayak data, currently include Burbank, Calif. ($ 68 per day); San Diego ($ 72 per day); Milwaukee ($ 78 per day); Cleveland ($ 81 per day); and Seattle ($ 81 per day).

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