Rental Car Prices Soar Sky High for the Fourth of July Weekend

With Covid-19 restrictions alleviating throughout the country, many Americans are choosing to travel for the July 4th weekend. This comes as no surprise, considering many people spent the past year couped up in their houses, but what’s a little surprising is the massive uptick in rental car prices and interest for the holiday weekend.

Rental car prices cost more than plane tickets

An Avis rental car parking lot is full because there were no customers during the COVID-19 pandemic at JFK Airport
Avis rental car parking lot | Lev Radin/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images

According to USA Today, about 47.7 million Americans are expected to take road trips between July 1and 5, which is the second-largest travel volume on record. That’s a staggering amount of people, but what’s even more staggering is the number of car rentals, which is also at a record high. According to Motor.com, places like Kahalui, Anchorage, and Jackson are hotspots for the holiday weekend and their rental car prices have reflected that.

Rental car agencies in those places are charging an average of $306 to $436 per day, which is a huge increase over the usual $100 to $200 per day. Kayak reports that the rental car shortages have a lot to do with the increase in price as does the increase in consumer demand. Alaska and Hawaii aren’t the only popular vacation spots, though. Here is a list of other popular destinations for the upcoming holiday weekend:

  1. Denver
  2. LA
  3. New York
  4. Orlando
  5. San Diego
  6. Las Vegas
  7. Miami
  8. Chicago
  9. San Francisco
  10. Boston

When is a good time to travel for the holiday weekend?

Vehicles with hazard lights on in bumper-to-bumper traffic on Interstate 95 northbound in Miami in September 2018
Finally, Florida motorists can legally use vehicle hazard lights | David Santiago/Miami Herald/TNS

If you’re among the millions of Americans that are planning to hit the road this weekend, then it’s important to travel at the right times. Unless you like being stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic, then here are the worst and the best times to travel, according to USA Today:

Thursday, July 1:

  • Worst time: 3-5 pm
  • Best time: After 7 pm

Friday, July 2:

  • Worst time: 4-5 pm
  • Best time: Before 12 pm

Saturday, July 3:

  • Worst time: 11 am – 1 pm
  • Best time: After 2 pm

Sunday, July 4:

  • Traffic should be lighter all day

Monday, July 5:

  • Worst time: 4-5 pm
  • Best time: Before 1 pm

While the aforementioned travel times might seem like a no-brainer considering they are the typical rush-hour times, you would be surprised as to how many people still travel at those times. Beat the rush and remember to plan your trip around the optimal driving times this weekend.

Consider taking alternate forms of travel

A Boeing 737 MAX airplane lands following an FAA recertification flight at Boeing Field in Seattle in June 2020
Boeing begins MAX 737 test flights after FAA approval | Stephen Brashear/Getty Images

If you happen to get stuck when renting a car or decide that renting one simply costs too much, then you may want to consider buying a plane or train ticket. If that doesn’t work, then you can rent a U-Haul, which is what some vacationers have been doing.

Rental car fleets are currently low thanks to the pandemic and the global chip shortage, but there are ways around it. If anything, the worst-case scenario would be to postpone your travel plans to another weekend, but what would be the fun in that?

After all, watching fireworks and spending time with your friend and family is the whole point of the holiday weekend, so we wouldn’t blame you for sticking to your plans. Just keep in mind that it could cost you a pretty penny to do so.

RELATED: Consumer Reports: Best Deals on New Cars for 4th of July