Rental Car Companies Reeling From Uptick in Travelers

Jason R. Sakurai
by Jason R. Sakurai

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.

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 businessinsider.com 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]

Jason R. Sakurai
Jason R. Sakurai

With a father who owned a dealership, I literally grew up in the business. After college, I worked for GM, Nissan and Mazda, writing articles for automotive enthusiast magazines as a side gig. I discovered you could make a living selling ad space at Four Wheeler magazine, before I moved on to selling TV for the National Hot Rod Association. After that, I started Roadhouse, a marketing, advertising and PR firm dedicated to the automotive, outdoor/apparel, and entertainment industries. Through the years, I continued writing, shooting, and editing. It keep things interesting.

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  • Dal20402 Dal20402 on Apr 18, 2021

    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.

  • Jmo Jmo on Apr 19, 2021

    "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.

  • AZFelix 2015 Sonata Limited72k when purchased, 176k miles currentlyI perform all maintenance and repairs except for alignment, tire mounting, tire patching, and glass work (tint and passenger left due to rock hit). Most parts purchased through rockauto.com.Maintenance and repairs during three years of ownership:Front rotors and all brake pads upgraded shortly after purchase.Preparing for 17th oil change (full synthetic plus filter c.$50), one PCV valve.Timing & accessory belts, belt tensioner.Coolant full flush and change.Fibrous plastic material engine under tray replaced by aftermarket solid plastic piece $110.One set of tires (c.$500 +installation) plus two replacements and a number of patches due to nails, etc. Second set coming soon.Hood struts $30.Front struts, rear shocks, plus sway bar links, front ball joints, tie rod ends, right CV axle (large rock on freeway damaged it and I took the opportunity to redo the rest of items on this list).Battery c.$260.Two sets of spark plugs @ $50/set.Three sets of cabin and engine filters.Valve cover gasket (next week).Averages out to c.$1400 per year for the past three years. Minor driver seat bolster wear, front rock chips, and assorted dents & dings but otherwise looks and drives very well.
  • 3-On-The-Tree 2014 Ford F150 Ecoboost 3.5L. By 80,000mi I had to have the rear main oil seal replaced twice. Driver side turbo leaking had to have all hoses replaced. Passenger side turbo had to be completely replaced. Engine timing chain front cover leak had to be replaced. Transmission front pump leak had to be removed and replaced. Ford renewed my faith in Extended warranty’s because luckily I had one and used it to the fullest. Sold that truck on caravan and got me a 2021 Tundra Crewmax 4x4. Not a fan of turbos and I will never own a Ford again much less cars with turbos to include newer Toyotas. And I’m a Toyota guy.
  • Duke Woolworth Weight 4800# as I recall.
  • Kwik_Shift_Pro4X '19 Nissan Frontier @78000 miles has been oil changes ( eng/ diffs/ tranny/ transfer). Still on original brakes and second set of tires.
  • ChristianWimmer I have a 2018 Mercedes A250 with almost 80,000 km on the clock and a vintage ‘89 Mercedes 500SL R129 with almost 300,000 km.The A250 has had zero issues but the yearly servicing costs are typically expensive from this brand - as expected. Basic yearly service costs around 400 Euros whereas a more comprehensive servicing with new brake pads, spark plugs plus TÜV etc. is in the 1000+ Euro region.The 500SL servicing costs were expensive when it was serviced at a Benz dealer, but they won’t touch this classic anymore. I have it serviced by a mechanic from another Benz dealership who also owns an R129 300SL-24 and he’ll do basic maintenance on it for a mere 150 Euros. I only drive the 500SL about 2000 km a year so running costs are low although the fuel costs are insane here. The 500SL has had two previous owners with full service history. It’s been a reliable car according to the records. The roof folding mechanism needs so adjusting and oiling from time to time but that’s normal.
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