Consumer Reports Says Rental Car Shortage out of Control

Have you tried to get a rental car recently and had no luck? Many drivers have had a similar issue. The rental car shortage is likely to worsen before it gets better, but Consumer Reports has some tips to get around the current situation.

Why is there a rental car shortage?

A rental car leaving a Hertz storefront
An Hertz store amid the rental car shortage l | Cindy Ord/Getty Images)

Consumer Reports says that due to limited availability in rental fleets and higher prices, getting a rental car is harder than ever. Last year, amid the panic of coronavirus (COVID-19) lockdowns, many rental companies sold off large portions of rental fleets. Since no one was traveling anywhere, it made sense to recoup some lost income by selling off cars. However, things have changed since then.

AAA says that travel will be around 60% higher for Memorial Day weekend over last year. That sounds like a solid number, but it is still about six million fewer travelers than in 2019. More than 37 million people are expected to travel, but not everyone is going to get hands on a rental car.

AAA notes that these numbers are likely the fluctuate as we get closer to the holiday as things are still fairly unstable in certain areas. If you plan to travel, it is good to try and get the rental car situated ahead of time to get one. And be prepared to pay a premium, especially in more exotic areas like Hawaii.

Consumer Reports tips on rental car travel

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Booking early is the best advice, but it might be too late for that. Since Memorial Day is upon us, it might be too late for this instance. However, if you have plans for later in the summer, be sure to rent a car as soon as possible. Many people have decided to travel by car instead of by air, which has only added to the rental car shortage.

Hertz says that it has many locations away from the usual airport locations. If your airport appears sold out, try to find a nearby location. You might have to take a cab or an uber to get there, but it would be worth it. There is also a likelihood of the airport selling out on busy weekends, even if you have a reservation.

Think outside the box! Avid, Dollar, Hertz, Enterprise, and any of the other major ones are likely to sell out first. If you have the time to do a little digging, there are various smaller local operations in bigger cities. Supporting a smaller local operation is always a plus.

There are also new platforms out there to try. Apps like Turo and DriveShare allow you to rent someone else’s car that isn’t in use. These platforms sometimes have cool options like a Tesla, a lifted Toyota Highlander, or even a Lamborghini. Not that everyone needs a Lamborghini for holiday travel, but some people might find it fun.

Don’t be afraid to drive yourself

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Sometimes it is understandable not to want to drive across the country (or places you can’t drive, like Hawaii). However, it isn’t a bad time for a road trip. If you are considering traveling and have a bit of extra time, you can avoid the rental car drama altogether and drive your own car. This also means more of an adventure along the way. Plot out the drive and visit some oddities along the route.

Depending on where you are going, there might be some solid public transportation options. This is very dependent on the area, but busses, subways, and cabs are still a viable option in many places. These options have suffered a lot due to the lack of need during the pandemic, which means empty busses and trains for use.

Additionally, many hotels and resorts have options for guests. Give the hotel a call to see if a shuttle or something similar is an option. Even your Airbnb host might be around to give you a ride. Uber is always an option, too. Lyft and Uber allow you to schedule rides ahead of time these days, so you can have one waiting.

One final tip is to be aware of where you are going. Orlando, Las Vegas, Nashville, and Denver are all seeing a huge spike in travelers. If you are going on a casual vacation, perhaps try somewhere off the beaten path. Disney has been sold out for weeks ahead of time, which means long lines, lots of people, and shortages of everything nearby. Planning ahead and trying somewhere new might prove to be your best vacation yet.