How to save on a car rental during a pandemic shortage
TUCSON (KVOA) – Rental cars are at high demand and shortage nowadays. Most of the major car rental companies have sold much of their fleets to stay afloat during COVID-19 shutdowns, and a shortage of chips and semiconductors has slowed down the auto production industry. With more people vaccinated and more trips, businesses have struggled to meet consumer demand.
This shortage means prices are skyrocketing and in some destinations the number of cars available for rental is limited. In a climate like this, how do you snag a decently priced rental car for your next trip? The Better Business Bureau offers the following suggestions.
How to get a rental car at a reasonable price
- Book early. It is the number one way to get a rental car at a good price, even when there is a shortage. Instead of waiting a few weeks to arrive at your destination, book your car rental at the same time you book your flight, or as soon as you have a rough idea of your travel plans. Unlike thefts, there are usually no penalties if you need to change or cancel your reservation, so take advantage and book your car as soon as possible.
- Shop around for the best deal. Before you book with a company, do some comparison. Use price comparison websites to check prices from business to business, keeping an eye out for any specials or coupons you might be using. Of course, if you find a good deal on a third-party website, make sure you are on a legitimate site before making a purchase. Be sure to check out smaller, lesser-known rental companies that might not appear in a consumer search as well, as they often have lower prices and better availability.
- Be flexible with your dates. Much like airline flights, providing flexible rental dates can help you get a better price on a rental car. If your travel dates are already set but your rental car is straining your budget, take a look at your itinerary and see if you really need a rental car every day of your trip. You might be able to stay at an airport hotel the first or last night to save a day or two over the length of your rental.
- If you are flying, consider rentals outside the airport. Car rentals at the airport are the most convenient, but United States today points out that airports have high taxes, which can drive up your rental bill. There are usually dozens of rental locations within a few miles of an airport and even taking into account the cost of transportation to the non-airport location, you can still save money in most cases. Be careful though, many non-airport locations operate during regular business hours, which may not work if the flight you just booked is a red eye.
- Take advantage of discounts and loyalty programs. Car rental companies partner with airlines, hotels, AAAs, credit card issuers and other companies to provide benefits to their loyalty program members. Ask who a rental company partners with to see if you might be eligible for discounts or bonuses.
- Find out if buying insurance is really necessary. Adding insurance to the cost of your rental can inflate the price significantly. The Washington Post recommends checking with your personal auto insurance company to see if your coverage includes rental car liability. In addition, some travel credit cards cover damage and collision insurance. If you are already covered, there is no need to spend more on a second policy with the rental company.
- Bring your own extras. AWAY remind travelers that car rental companies will try to sell you navigation systems, child car seats, etc. If you know you need specific extras, bring your own to save the money.
- Check the price drops. Take advantage of specialized apps or price drop alerts from third-party websites to find out if your price is still the best deal. Since car rental companies do not penalize you for canceling a reservation, if you receive a price drop alert, you can cancel your reservation and rebook at the lower rate. Of course, always make sure the deal is legitimate before you cancel your reservation.
- To show creativity. Traditional car rental companies aren’t the only ones offering car rentals. Travel and leisure says many car dealerships have rental programs. Call the dealers in your destination and inquire about their rates and mileage limits. For longer rentals, they may offer cheaper rates than a large car rental company. If you’re in a real rush, consider renting a vehicle from a moving equipment company like U-Haul. It might not be as low-key as a rental car, but moving equipment companies often rent trucks and vans for a reasonable flat rate per day with insurance included.
- Think about carpooling services. Carsharing services, where you rent cars directly from the people who own them in your destination, are growing in popularity and are another alternative to traditional car rental companies. The Washington Post says that while many consumers are not happy to choose insurance and deal with owners, some newer carsharing services handle these tasks for you, making it just as easy as any other car rental service.
- Change destination. If your travel plans are flexible and a rental car always gets you going Out of budget, consider changing your destination to a city where ground transportation is readily available. You may be able to enjoy your trip without ever stepping on the gas pedal.