Why are rental car prices so high?

Tips for avoiding sticker shock when you rent for a post-Covid getaway.

This article appeared in the April 19, 2021, edition of The Charlotte Ledger, an e-newsletter with smart and essential local news. We offer free and paid plans. Sign up today:

If you’re planning a post-vaccine getaway, you might want to move booking a rental car to the top of your to-do list.

Airline and hotel deals are in good supply nowadays, but rental car prices are soaring and availability is lagging nationally.

In Charlotte, for example, you’ll pay $806 for a one-week rental on a Ford Focus in June through Hertz, or $647 for a Toyota Corolla through Avis.

And last-minute trips = more sticker shock. A one-day economy sedan rental in Charlotte this week will set you back $75 with Budget, a lower-cost subsidiary of Avis. Need a full-size premium SUV? The bill rises to $380 a day.

There are a couple reasons for the high prices, the Washington Post reports.

  • Rental car inventory is low, because companies sold off large portions of their inventory during the pandemic when demand was so low and the industry was struggling. (Hertz filed for bankruptcy in May 2020.) And a global shortage in semiconductor chips has caused a delay in auto production — and is a roadblock to getting rental car fleets back up.

  • Travel is ticking back up, with more Americans getting vaccinated. And many people are traveling domestically and are still avoiding rideshare options like Lyft and Uber, but choosing to rent cars instead.  

What can you do to save some dough? Jonathan Weinberg, founder and CEO of car rental site AutoSlash gives some advice in the Post article:  

  • Book cancelable rental cars early and keep checking rates through different company websites.

  • If you’re headed to a popular attraction, consider renting a car farther from your destination, where more cars may be available.

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Executive editorTony MeciaManaging editorCristina BollingContributing editor: Tim Whitmire, CXN AdvisoryReporting intern: David Griffith