Car Rental Shortage: Here’s What You Need To Know

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Taking to the road rather than the skies has become so popular in recent months that rental cars are becoming scarce.

Why There Is a Shortage of Rental Cars Right Now

About a year ago rental car companies reduced their fleets due to low demand. Hertz offloaded about 200,000 rental vehicles as part of its bankruptcy filing. Also in 2020, Advantage Rent A Car filed for bankruptcy and reduced the number of its U.S. outlets from nearly 30 to just eight. And Avis sold off more than 22,000 vehicles to consumers last year.

A global shortage of semiconductors also gets part of the blame. They're a critical component in car manufacturing, so production of new cars has slowed. The result: Rental companies that do want to buy more cars are having to compete with consumers to get them.

In the last few weeks, most large and medium cities in Florida ran out of rentals for the thousands of spring breakers headed south for fun and sun. The few available vehicles were renting for up to $500 a day!

This trend is expected to continue throughout the summer in the Sunshine State and in popular vacation destinations on the East Coast as well as Denver, Phoenix and Austin.

How To Get a Rental Car

So what’s a road tripper to do?

Make a reservation early! This will also lock in your rental rate.

But don't pre-pay for the rental. That way you can avoid the hassle of working to get your money back if there's no car available because of overbooking.

I recommend that you start the booking process at AutoSlash.com, a website that will find you the best price on a rental car at airports and neighborhood locations. The site will also track your existing reservation for price drops, so if a better deal comes along you can cancel and rebook to save money. The best part is Autoslash is completely free to use.

Begin with a rate request. AutoSlash will send you a quote. Even if you decide not to book anything, its system will keep searching for lower rates and will periodically alert you.

AutoSlash doesn’t book your reservation but links you directly to the rental car company. After you’ve reserved your car, submit your confirmation number to AutoSlash for continued rate monitoring.

Learn more about the process in Team Clark's AutoSlash review.

Tips For Handling an Overbooking

But what if you have a reservation and the rental car company has overbooked? There are no laws requiring rental companies to accommodate you, but industry standards dictate they must try to help in some way.

Here are some tips to deal with an overbooking situation:

  • If the rental car agent makes the suggestion to you to pay anything — even a couple of dollars more per day — for a larger vehicle, say "No." You are entitled to a complimentary upgrade if your reserved car class is not available.
  • If a larger vehicle is not available, the rental company should try to find an alternate vehicle for you at another company and pay the difference along with a voucher towards a future rental for your inconvenience.
  • The rental company may also offer to pay for a taxi to and from your hotel and get a car to you later in the day or the next morning (along with an extra voucher for your inconvenience).
  • If you don't think you're getting the assistance you need, you should reach out to the company via Twitter.

If you are ever in a bind for wheels, you can broaden your search to include car-sharing apps such as Getaround, Turo or Zipcar.

More Travel Resources From Clark.com:

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