What to know about renting a car during the holiday season
Americans planning to rent cars for vacations this year should book soon, or risk facing scarce options and high prices.
Now these small fleets are a potential problem for anyone considering car rental. Vacation travel this season should be tough. About half of those polled in a PricewaterhouseCoopers vacation outlook survey said they expected to travel for vacation this year, up from about a third in previous years.
âPeople can be lulled into a false sense of complacency that the rental car shortage is over, and it certainly isn’t,â says Jonathan Weinberg, founder and CEO of AutoSlash, a website that finds car rental deals.
Here are some tips to help you navigate vacation car rentals.
Don’t wait to book
The advice from the beginning of the year to book a rental car as early as possible is now valid.
Many travelers usually book flights or hotels before booking a rental car. “Do it a lot sooner than you normally would,” says Mike Taylor, travel intelligence manager at research firm JD Power.
William Casella, owner of Explore Rentals, outside of Bozeman, Mt., says his business typically books for Christmas around this time of year, and 2021 is no exception. But this year it has more inventory than in previous years, in part because the company “bought everything we could buy” and because it placed orders for more vehicles last summer when ‘he saw how the demand for national parks and nearby ski areas grew.
He expects strong demand to continue. âWe already have reservations for next Christmas on the books,â he says.
Expect to pay more in New York and Hawaii (but less in California)
Rental car prices have fallen from their sky-high summer rates after the Labor Day holiday, as demand plummeted with fewer people traveling during shoulder season. But prices are still higher than they were before the pandemic. Rates are on average $ 75 to $ 100 per day for the Thanksgiving holiday right now, up from $ 40 to $ 60 during that time in 2019, Weinberg said, and prices are expected to rise, especially for those Christmas trips.
New York City is one of the most popular, and most expensive, car rental markets for the Thanksgiving vacation, with prices averaging $ 135 per day, according to Kayak travel agency data.
Travelers to some places will notice that some prices haven’t changed much from the previous summer’s highs. It costs $ 221 a day to rent a car over Memorial Day weekend in Bozeman, Mont., And now costs $ 229 a day to rent one over Christmas, according to data from Kayak. Bozeman is the most expensive car rental destination this Christmas, according to the company.
Rental cars are also expected to be in high demand in Hawaii. Lihue, on the island of Kauai, is the second most expensive car rental destination this Christmas, at $ 186 a day, according to Kayak. Mr Weinberg says there is a significant shortage of vehicles on the island of Kauai, with many dates already sold out until the end of the year.
Travelers will find cheaper fares in other parts of the country. Many places in California rank among the cheapest for Christmas vacations, including Sacramento, at $ 67 per day, Oakland at $ 80 per day, and San Diego at $ 82 per day, according to Kayak.
Consider a peer-to-peer or alternative rental service
People-to-people carsharing services have seen an increase in business, as travelers struggling to find rental cars from large companies have turned to their services. Turo and Getaround allow car owners to list their vehicles for rent on the platforms.
On Turo, hosts price their cars daily, so users can find rentals at different price points, with rental options that include vehicles as diverse as minivans and classic 1966 Mustangs, explains. Andrew Mok, Director of Marketing.
Travelers who rent cars from traditional businesses may decline additional rental car insurance because they have coverage through their personal auto insurance policy or credit card. But not all major auto or travel card insurers extend coverage to vehicles leased from peer-to-peer services. Turo encourages customers to check with their individual plans to see if they are covered or to choose from its protection plans, which range from 18% to 25% of the cost of travel for minimum protection plans, to 40% for plans. standard.
Another service, Kyte, allows users to book rental cars which are then delivered to them by a driver.
With higher prices, don’t give up discounts
AAA, AARP, and USAA are a few entities with programs that can offer members discounts when booking rental cars. Some travel credit cards also offer discounts on rental cars.
Travelers can compare and contrast the deals on their own, or try using a service like AutoSlash, which allows users to enter any club or association membership along with their travel cards, then find deals. It will also notify travelers if there is a price drop to allow them to change reservations.
If you’re flexible about which vehicle you want, the available dates, and where to pick up, you’ll be more successful in securing a reservation, says Greg Scott, spokesperson for the American Car Rental Association.
Kayak data shows that in New York City, Thanksgiving travelers can save an average of 9% by picking up their rental car at a location far from airports.
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Some auto companies offer discounts on prepaid rates, although these rentals are often subject to cancellation and change fees. Mr. Weinberg recommends booking a later payment rate, which doesn’t require you to deposit a credit card. âA lot of our customers end up changing reservations two, three, four, five times every time they drop their rate,â he says.
Customers should also expect to encounter challenges when picking up rental cars in some cases, says Neil Abrams, president of Abrams Consulting Group, a rental car consulting company. âThere will be customers waiting for the cars to show up in the ready spaces, even with a reservation,â he says.
Write to Allison Pohle at [email protected]
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