During the spring and summer travel season, renting a car at your destination might not always have been a given. Inventory was low as travel demand increased in 2021, Willis Orlando explained with Scott’s Cheap Flights.
âPeople would buy these cheap flights, get to their destination and go and rent a car – which was a very easy and routine thing to do and ended up with no luck,â Orlando said.
Read on to hear from experts in the travel industry.
“They are about to come back”
Orlando said an early spot check of car rental prices over Thanksgiving weekend showed they were leveling off from highs seen earlier this year.
âIn the summer, when car rental companies had their backs to the wall and scrambled to meet demand, they bought new cars, they started to replenish their supply. Now they’re pretty much back to where they were before the pandemic, âOrlando said.
Greg Scott of the American Car Rental Association said it was too early to say things are back to “normal”.
âI hate to sound pessimistic, but it’s not science. We don’t know exactly where it’s going to go, âScott said.
The ACRA, which represents about 98% of the car rental industry, estimates rental companies had 1.7 million vehicles on hand at the start of the pandemic. When travel slowed in 2020, Scott said the industry had sold about half of its fleet. In 2021, car rental companies are buying back cars, but not as much as before the pandemic.
âWe still buy and sell cars, but the number of cars we buy is dropping as an industry. Quite frankly, the number of cars we would like to buy is more than what we are able to buy now, âexplained Scott – highlighting the ongoing challenges in the supply chain.
Scott said that at the same time, demand remains unpredictable. COVID-19 variants continue to impact travel and it is not clear whether business travel will return to pre-pandemic levels.
The end of the hurricane season and inclement weather in the fall can also increase the demand for rental cars in some markets, which could impact vacations.
“I think someone who two years ago would fix their hotel and airlines six months for their Christmas vacation, but wait until last week or so to think about renting a car is probably making a mistake,” said Scott said.
It recommends that consumers reserve their vehicles when booking flights or hotels.
âGo online, book one now, get a good rate for yourself. Very often you have free cancellations. If the plans change you are off the hook, so good, âOrlando said.
Shop around for discounts
Be flexible about which vehicle you want and where you pick it up. Consumers may have better luck at a neighborhood car rental agency than at an airport counter.
When you book, look for the discount codes that apply to you. The company you work for may qualify for an employee discount, even when traveling for pleasure. There may be a discount for alumni at your school.
Take advantage of the loyalty programs of the car rental company, your hotel or your airline. You can get discounts through your auto club memberships, even a warehouse or wholesale club. Your credit card may also offer benefits.
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