By on April 16, 2021

rental car companies

Rental car companies are their own worst enemies, having sold off much of their fleets during the pandemic’s height. With travel restrictions easing in many places they find themselves with no inventory.


rental car companies

Consolidation is another aspect that hasn’t helped whatsoever. There’s Enterprise Holdings, which is Enterprise, National, and Alamo. Hertz and Advantage are one. Avis and Budget are another group, as is Dollar and Thrifty. In some places, you’ll find Sixt, a German mobility service provider. Other than that, there’s maybe a few regional players. The point here is that in many locations, they’ll rent you the same vehicle under one brand or another. This reduces the total number of cars they need, if demand is up at Budget, but not so at Avis because they’re generally more expensive. The same goes for Hertz, which is usually the highest-priced.

Last October, I went to Phoenix for a business meeting. While there were few passengers on board the plane, it was a different story on the ground in Phoenix. With fewer restrictions in that state, it appeared to be pretty much business as usual. The big change was instead of thousands of rental cars in this mammoth holding area that all the rental companies use, there were hundreds. Empty parking spots in the multi-tiered lot outnumbered those with vehicles waiting. All of them were rented, and anyone waiting at the airport for a vehicle was going to be there a long time.

What happened in Phoenix then has spread to other areas of the country. Friends vacationing in Florida said that they are using Uber because there were no cars to be had in Orlando, and they hadn’t planned ahead. A story today by only confirmed what I knew already. Prices in some areas are $700 a day, higher than they are for airfare and hotels.

Planning ahead is the only way to avoid these horrendous rental charges. Heading to a tourist hot spot? If you don’t have a reservation, try finding a local agency within a short distance away from the airport. Some local agencies will pick you up and drop you off at the airport, saving you a taxi ride. No, they may not have the same selection of vehicles, but wheels are wheels, right?

[Images: © 2021 J. Sakurai/TTAC]

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15 Comments on “Rental Car Companies Reeling From Uptick in Travelers...”

  • avatar

    Live in the Florida panhandle and drive past our regional airport daily. Rental car lot is usually almost entry, as it has been since last fall when the state lifted most restrictions and business and vacation travel returned. I rent frequently for business travel around the southeast from this airport, last summer I was lucky to score an Altima from Avis for $70 bucks a day on a 5 day rental returning it to the same location as rented. I’m headed out again next week for a week and scored a Premium car from National (my usual go-to company) for $230, plus taxes and fees. If you wait until the last minute however you’re likely to be hoofing it or dialing Uber.

    • 0 avatar
      Funky D

      Don’t I know it! Just yesterday I needed a van on short notice (death in the family) and I need to transport my parents (who live 500 miles away are both in their 80s) to the funeral 300 miles further. There were not only any vans to be found at VPS, there were NO cars to be had at Hertz at all! Granted, they were affected by the pandemic more than most, but I have never encountered no inventory at all! Then a check-in to Enterprise revealed practically the same result, nothing larger than a “mid-size” Corolla was available.

      Long story short, I found a van in my parents’ town, so we will pick it up on the way there. Car rental is brutal right now in the Sunshine State.

  • avatar

    My family in SW Florida has basically said “Good Luck.” As in have someone pick you up at the airport or ride-share. What cars they have left are grossly overpriced and inventory is not there. There was nothing in the Fort Myers/Naples area during Spring Break (they probably moved most of the fleet to the other side of Florida), and the cars are probably still there.

    • 0 avatar

      Didn’t they have a massive fire that destroyed most of the cars, somewhere around the beginning of the pandemic? They sure wouldn’t have bothered replacing those at that time.

    • 0 avatar

      “grossly overpriced”

      How can they be overpriced? If people are willing to pay it that’s the price. If something is selling then it is by definition not overpriced.

  • avatar

    My wife is flying to Denver this evening. Her “Economy Car” from Budget will cost $183.56 for pickup tonight and drop off Wednesday morning. That doesn’t include the $71.04 taxes and fees.

    She said this was the best price she could find, and it was via Costco travel.

    And with the weather forecast it doesn’t look like she’ll be traveling anywhere to sightsee so the Blue Bus or equivalent from the airport and Uber everywhere else may have been a better option.

  • avatar

    My wife and I are spending a month visiting with our son and his family in the Tampa area. Trying to rent a car from one of the major agencies for the month was either impossible or ridiculously expensive (i.e., $2000-plus for the month). I found a great rent-a-relic style place, and got an incredibly clean and fully functional 2009 Grand Caravan for only $749 including tax. I’ll be damned if I’m going to fork over a small fortune to a rental car company to reward them for their shortsightedness.

    • 0 avatar

      You could almost ship your car round trip for $2000+. Or hire a driver and buy round trip airfare for them.

      I suppose you could use CarMax’s 30-day return guarantee and just “buy” what you need temporarily.

    • 0 avatar

      Or just drive, since you’re already planning on spending a month there it sounds like you have the luxury of time.

      Unless of course you don’t live in the lower-48 or another country.

  • avatar

    My family, located in CA, WA, and two different parts of TX, usually reunites somewhere in the Rockies for the summer. This year, it’s in Utah. The CA and WA groups will drive, but we’re already having to worry about this for the two Texas contingents (one of which is big enough that it needs a van or large SUV). Current rates are around $2000 for the week; that won’t fly, so we’ll have to do something else.

  • avatar

    “If you don’t have a reservation”

    Just an FYI a car rental reservation doesn’t mean all that much. You can and will get to the counter and they will say, “Sorry, we don’t have any cars.” “But I have a reservation!” “I don’t know what to tell you, sir. We don’t have any cars.” And unlike airlines or hotels that bump/walk you and offer a financial incentive. Car rental companies don’t.

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