The Rental Car Problem This Summer Is Even Worse Than You Think

As many folks looking to rent vehicles this summer might know, the rental car market is busy right now. But other than high prices, automobile rentals have another issue, this time in manners of safety. Here’s a look at how the rental car problem is worse than you think.

How we got to this point

The good news is that this issue is likely temporary. That’s because the problem has stemmed from the COVID-19 pandemic. In March 2020, governments began sounding the alarm. Many people hunkered down in their homes, and as a result, the economy took a massive tumble. This affected rental car companies, too, because few people were traveling.

So rental car agencies sold off portions of theirs fleets, partially because customers weren’t renting vehicles and partially because the companies needed the money to survive. As a result of that decision, when the economy began bouncing back, agencies didn’t have enough cars to go around. Due to the laws of supply and demand, that lack of supply, combined with high demand, meant prices for consumers skyrocketed.

But high prices aren’t the only problem for customers.

With high prices came rental car scammers

Rental car companies can resolve the high prices by expanding their fleets. That’s why this issue is expected to be temporary because eventually, they’ll have enough cars available to rent, and prices will go down. Until then, however, customers will see exorbitant prices.

Due to those high prices, scammers are trying to get a piece of the pie, the Federal Trade Commission reports. From would-be criminals’ perspective, things are ripe for the picking, as few people want to pay that much money to rent a car for a few days. As such, those scammers are offering cars for rent at below-market rates. For the average person, those rates are too good to be true. And in this case, they are. 

That’s because, according to the FTC, those scammers are advertising their supposed vehicles for below-market rates on sites that look legitimate. But the sites are fake, hoping to trick people into paying for rental cars that will never materialize. This is a pretty classic scam, and as a result, it’s easy to beat as long as customers are aware of it.

How to protect yourself from rental car scammers

The most obvious thing to do is to stick to reputable, well-known rental car companies. This is the easiest thing to do, but it’s also the most expensive option because those companies are charging high rates right now.

If you want to save money but don’t want to get scammed, the FTC has some advice. The best way is to pay with a credit card. Many scammers want you to pay with gift cards. They do this so they can run away with your money with little consequence, but credit cards can protect you.

Another good piece of advice is to do some in-depth research on the rental car company first. Googling the company’s name and a keyword like “scam” or “review” can be helpful, the FTC says.

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