Cheapest Ways to Snag a Rental Car

Right now it is hard to find new cars on dealer lots and used car prices are through the roof. So if you’re a rental car company and you need more cars as travel ramps up, you’re in a bind. Due to a lack of rental cars, there is high demand and low inventory. That means you’ll pay dearly for a rental car. 

When the pandemic hit rental car companies sold off roughly 40% of their fleets. Now that there is a surge in demand they need more cars but can’t find any. To fill in they’re buying used cars but at premium prices. The costs always eventually get passed down to the consumer-or in this case renter. 

Many daily rental car rates are headed toward $200. That’s $200 a day, not a week. Summer could be worse. You’ll need to get creative if you want a rental car for your summer travels. 

Business Insider talked to experts to come up with the cheapest alternatives to rental car agencies. It looked at regional companies and also peer-to-peer setups. Dealerships were another alternative as well.

Peer-to-Peer Car Rental

Ford Explorer

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There are well-established peer-to-peer rental companies throughout the US one of the big ones is Toro. How p-to-p works are that there are no rental fleets. Instead, private car owners rent out their cars, or conversely, allows customers needing a rental to rent from private car owners. Insurance options and roadside assistance are all available as with a traditional car rental agency. There is also a handy app that gets you contactless pickups in selected cities.

Another p-to-p is Getaround, but it is only available in 20 large metro locations. With their app you don’t need to meet anyone, nor do you need an access card, or go to an office to pick up keys. Everything can be done remotely.

Membership-Based Car Sharing

The 2021 Honda Passport in a canyon
2021 Honda Passport | Honda

Membership car sharing requires you to become a member and pay a monthly or annual fee. Typical fees run around $7 per month or $70 per year. For that, you get secondary insurance, free gas, maintenance, 24/7 roadside assistance, and 180 free miles per day. One of the better-known companies is Zipcar which is owned by Avis. Cars can be rented by the minute, hour, or day. It is a completely self-service process and available 24/7. Similar programs are available with Hertz 24/7 and Enterprise’s CarShare. 

Hybrid and Electric Exclusive Car Rental

A rear view of a red 2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E electric SUV stopped on a street lined with palm trees as the sun hangs over the horizon
2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E | Ford Motor Company

A rapidly expanding hybrid and EV rental company is GIG Car Share. Right now it is only available for Seattle, Sacramento, and the Bay Area. We expect more companies to follow GIG as the electrification of the world continues. Drop-offs can be made at several drop-off zones, not just one lot per airport. All bookings are handled through an app. 

Classic and Specialty Cars

White steering wheel of a classic 1956 Ford Fairlane
1956 Ford Fairlane | Robert Alexander via Getty Images

Hagerty DriveShare is set up similar to how Toro works but is specifically for making specialty cars available. You’ll pay a bit more but it sure makes the drive more memorable. Prices can vary depending on the type of car. We’ve seen $200 per day for a 1969 Corvette and almost $1,000 a day for a 1962 Rolls Royce Silver Cloud. Be aware that some of the available cars have manual transmissions. 

Dealership-Based Car Rentals

The 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L driving on the road
2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L | Jeep

Silvercar is ramping up availability with 30 locations in larger markets so far. It is also app-based so there are no offices to report to or key pickups. Child car seats and ski racks are provided free of charge which is a perk. 

U-Haul Rental Trucks

U-Hauler driving
U-Haul box truck | RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post via Getty Images

Some are beating the high cost of rentals by going with U-Haul or Ryder truck rentals. Especially if you only need to get from the airport to your destination it could be cheaper if you don’t mind it being a box truck. Truck rentals are available in every town, have a good inventory, and rates are fairly inexpensive. In-town rentals can be purchased by the hour for $19.95, or $40 per day plus mileage and certain other fees.