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How to work around the pandemic rental car shortage

Low supply and high demand is driving for rental cars up. Here's how you can save some money.

TAMPA, Fla. — As the school year winds down and the summer inches closer, your family may be starting to plan some summer trips.

As part of your trip, you may be looking to rent a car in another city. But, you may have noticed the price is a bit more than you're used to. That's because the pandemic has caused auto manufacturing delays, meaning there are fewer cars for buyers of new cars. Rental car companies buy millions of new cars each year. 

"They're having a heck of a time finding vehicles right now and as a result, as the rental car fleet supply dwindles, rental car prices are going to spike like crazy," explained auto industry expert Grant Feek, the CEO of Tred.

Feek says with fewer cars to rent out, rental companies are trying to make up the same amount of profit by raising their prices. They're also responding to an industry demand as people start to plan their first trips since the COVID-19 pandemic began over a year ago.

Rental car prices are up about 30 percent across the board, but in popular tourist cities, prices are up almost 300 percent. Destinations like Hawaii, Florida and California have some of the highest rental car prices.

There are some ways to save money if you need transportation during your family vacation:

  • Cut the convenience cost: Many people pick up rental cars at the airport once they land, but you may be paying for the price of convenience. There are often car rental companies just a short distance away from the airport, so pay for a taxi or rideshare to pick up the car a few miles away to save money for the length of your stay.
  • Use rideshare options: If they're available, ridesharing options can reduce the hassle of finding parking and driving in an unfamiliar city. Some of the most popular ridesharing apps allow you to schedule your rides in advance so you're never left waiting.
  • Use public transit: If your destination has public transit options, you can often buy a fare for less than the cost of a cup of coffee. It's also a great way to explore a new city!
  • Use smaller wheels: If you're traveling in a city that's not as sprawling, you can rent bikes, scooters or even rollerblades to get you around a little bit faster than walking!
  • Drive your own car: If the cost of a flight and a rental car is out of your travel budget, consider picking a destination that may be a little closer to home and take a nice road trip.
  • Consider the alternatives: Instead of your big rental car companies, consider sites like DriveShare, Gig Car Share, Getaround, Zipcar and Turo for rental options that are a little different than you're used to.

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