When the COVID pandemic hit, it knocked the car rental companies through a loop. Whether via lockdown or just being cautious, people were not traveling and therefore not renting cars. In response, Hertz, Avis, et al. sold off a good portion of their vehicles since people weren’t renting them anyway, and so they could continue to have cash on hand.
As people became willing to travel again, they discovered that renting a car was significantly more difficult than before. Cars that had been sold off had not been replaced and with all the people wanting to travel, there just weren’t enough rental cars to go around. And, of course, prices for rental cars went insane, thanks to the laws of supply and demand.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like things will be getting much better if you plan to travel and rent a car during the upcoming holiday season. KAYAK used data from recent car rental searches (search dates of July 1, 2021 – August 31, 2021 for travel over the winter holiday season of November 12, 2021 through January 7, 2022), and has determined that holiday demand is up 230% when compared to pre-pandemic levels. On top of that, they say the average cost per day to rent a car is increased 75% from 2019.
Not surprisingly, some cities charge significantly more to rent cars than others. These are the top 10 cheapest and most expensive cities (average price for each city compared to the national average car rental rate):
|4||San Diego, CA||$72||32%|
|7||Santa Ana, CA||$81||24%|
|10||Los Angeles, CA||$82||23%|
|5||Kailua, Kona, HI||$153||44%|
|8||Colorado Springs, CO||$121||14%|
|9||Myrtle Beach, SC||$120||13%|
|10||Salt Lake City, UT||$119||12%|
What can you do?
If you plan on traveling this holiday season, the best advice is to reserve your car as early as possible. As demand continues and the stock of available cars dries up, prices will be more and more. It unfortunately still doesn’t guarantee that a car will be there, waiting for you, when you arrive, because things happen. But you have a better chance of getting a reservation 2 or 3 months out than you will 2 or 3 weeks (or days!) out.
So let’s say you’re lucky enough to snag a rental car reservation. Heads up: if you haven’t rented a car since the pandemic, obviously, expect to pay significantly more than you did in 2019. But you have your arsenal of ways to look for better prices (if you don’t, check out our How To Get A Cheap Rental Car post), and even a couple of super special ones that others might not have (that’s how Joe managed to find a rental car for $100 less than Autoslash’s price). So hopefully you’ll do as OK as you can on pricing.
Assuming you’re flying in and want to rent a car at the airport, you may want to look at local places in the same city, if the airport location doesn’t have any cars available. Heads up that secondary Enterprise, Avis, etc. outlets will be smaller (read: they’ll have fewer cars) and won’t have the same (generally more extended) hours as the on-site places at airports. But if the timing works for you, it may be worth looking into and taking a taxi/rideshare/public transportation to get to the rental location.
And if you just want to get away for the holidays and don’t care about location as much as cost, at least you know what cities have cheaper car rentals.
Feature Photo: Polegasa01 / Wikimedia
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary