How Hawaii’s rental car crisis became so dire tourists are renting U-Hauls instead

Hana Highway, Hawaii.
The Hana Highway in Hawaii.

  • Hawaii is currently stuck in a glaring rental-car nightmare as Americans start to travel again.
  • Rental vehicle prices are skyrocketing, and some tourists have turned to booking U-Hauls instead.
  • Take a look at how the Aloha State found itself in such a dire situation, and how you can avoid it.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Take a look at Hawaii’s rental car industry right now and you might see something quite peculiar.

Booked out rental cars. Vehicles renting for $700 a day. Tourists driving fleets of U-Haul vans instead. The state asking tourists to book rental cars before making any other vacation plans.

Hawaii’s islands are in the middle of a glaring rental-car nightmare. And now, renting a vehicle – in the Aloha State and other parts of the US – could consume the bulk of tourists’ vacation costs.

“People are quickly realizing that they need to take the cost of the rental car into account because it’s no longer just an add-on,” Jonathan Weinberg, the founder and CEO of AutoSlash, told Insider in April. “It literally could be the majority cost of your trip, so folks who are planning things last minute are unpleasantly surprised by it.”

So how did the Aloha State get here? The answer lies within computer chips, COVID-19, auctions, and “revenge vacations.”

How it started

hertz
A Hertz office in New Jersey in May 2020.

To understand how the national rental car shortage has impacted Hawaii, let’s go back in time to mid-2020.

As we all now know, the COVID-19 pandemic devastated the majority of the travel industry, including the rental car companies.

In the midst of the pandemic, companies like Hertz – which later filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection – and Avis sold off chunks of their rental-car fleets. At the time, this decision may have helped save cash, but it’s now, unsurprisingly, at the root of this massive rental vehicle shortage.

On top of this, companies are now struggling to regrow fleet sizes as a result of shockingly high used car prices and a lack of new cars due to the global computer chip shortage. Companies like Hertz have evn to turned to “supplementing fleets by purchasing low-mileage, pre-owned vehicles from a variety of channels including auctions, online auctions, dealerships, and cars coming off lease programs,” a spokesperson told Insider in May.

But while rental car companies are scrambling to rebuild fleets, travel is beginning to skyrocket again.

“When we look at our travel numbers, travel bookings in May were 95% of where they were in May of 2019,” Steve Squeri, American Express CEO, told CNBC’s Jim Cramer on “Mad Money” on Monday.

Hawaii specifically has seen a massive rebound in travel, and more people are now traveling to the state than before COVID-19, KITV, an ABC affiliate in Hawaii, reported on June 14. In the week preceding the report, 36,000 people on average traveled in and around the islands every day, according to KITV. To compare, in June 2019, the average was 34,000 people.

And as you can probably tell, this skyrocketing number of travelers is now compounding the rental-car shortage.

A look at Hawaii’s dire shortage, and how you can avoid it

hawaii coronavirus caution tape
Caution tape at Hawaii’s Waikiki Beach.

Hawaii’s fleet of rental cars dropped by over 40% during COVID-19, the Hawaii Tourism Authority wrote under the “rental car shortage” section of its website.

The average car rental in Hawaii sat at about $50 daily before COVID-19. Now, some vehicles are renting at highs of $700 a day, or over two-times 2019’s prices, Chris Woronka, a senior hotel-and-leisure analyst at Deutsche Bank, told Insider in April.

As a result, some tourists have turned to renting U-Haul moving pickup trucks and cargo vans instead.

“We have seen a considerable uptick in U-Haul rentals from customers who are visiting the islands now,” Kaleo Alau, U-Haul Company in Hawaii’s president, told Insider in an email statement in April. “We realize this demand is occurring when tourists are unable to secure a rental car, or they learn that our rental fleet options are more affordable.”

Renting moving vehicles may be a quick fix for tourists, but this unusual and outside demand for U-Hauls has left some offices with less equipment for locals who may need the vehicles for actual moving purposes.

“We are working every day with our primary customer base – the islands’ residential movers – to ensure we can still meet their transportation needs,” Alau said.

Relying on U-Hauls instead of car-rental companies has become so popular, the state’s tourism agency has now had to address the issue on its website.

“The Hawaii Tourism Authority does not condone visitors renting moving trucks and vans for leisure purposes,” the agency wrote.

If you want a rental car for your upcoming “revenge vacation” in the tropical state, but don’t want to pay a few hundred dollars per day, follow the state and experts’ advice: plan in advance.

“Rental cars are in high demand, so please plan ahead to secure a reservation first before making the rest of your travel arrangements,” the agency wrote.

Read the original article on Business Insider

With the current rental car shortage driving prices way up, Turo offers a cheaper way to rent vehicles directly from their owners. Here’s what it’s like to use.

If you buy through our links, we may earn money from affiliate partners. Learn more.

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • Turo is the sharing economy’s answer to big car rental companies.
  • You can rent everything from a standard Honda to the latest Tesla to a retro camper van.
  • I’ve tried the service twice and found it to be an excellent and more affordable car rental option.

turo car rental review

Though vaccine rollouts are well underway and travel is picking back up, travelers continue to seek safe vacation options. With social distancing remaining a top priority and many countries still not open to US travelers, domestic trips and road trips continue to reign supreme. For those without their own wheels, that means renting a car.

In fact, many of the best car rental companies are seeing such high demand that there’s a nationwide shortage. In addition to it being just plain hard to find a rental right now, prices have skyrocketed – in some cases to as high as $700 per day. As an alternative, some travelers are looking for cheaper car rentals or last-minute options via peer-to-peer rental services. That’s where Turo comes in.

Whether you’re looking to get out of town in style, tear out into the wilds, or just avoid the line at Hertz, Turo, the sharing economy’s answer to car rentals, may be the solution to your woes. What’s more? You can also now earn a little (quasi-)passive income renting your own wheels out, too.

What is Turo?

turoexplainer

Turo is a peer-to-peer service along the lines of Airbnb or Vrbo, but for vehicles. The website (also an app) allows you to connect with individual owners who set their own prices, and to some degree, their own terms and conditions.

I’ve tried Turo in two widely different capacities. My first trip was a weeklong escapade in a 1986 Volkswagen camper van through the Pacific Northwest of the US, camping along the coast. My second was simply a means of getting from Miami International Airport down to a beach house rental in the Florida Keys in an Audi A6 convertible.

Both experiences were delightful departures from absolutely every vehicle rental experience I’ve ever had and proved why Turo is an excellent alternative to standard rental car options.

How does renting a car from Turo work?

turo car rental review how it works

Signing up for Turo is a breeze. Plug in your email address or sign up through your Facebook or Google account, put in a few personal details, and you’ll receive a confirmation email to prove your identity and eligibility as a driver (license required).

Searching for a car is exactly like hunting for a vacation rental on Airbnb. Enter the name of the place you’re going, your scheduled dates, and either select the type of car you’re after or sift through the 850-plus unique makes and models within Turo’s database of hundreds of thousands of vehicles across more than 5,500 cities across the United States and the United Kingdom.

Of course, you’ll have better luck finding your dream car in more metropolitan areas, at least for now.

Car pickups vary from owner to owner, but if you’re lucky, the vehicle will be brought right to you. You can also filter for this option, which I highly recommend.

As with any rental, upon receiving the car, make sure to do the whole once around to ensure it’s in good shape. After simply showing your license, the car is yours.

When you’re finished with your trip, top up the gas to match where the needle was on the gauge when you picked it up before returning the car. If you don’t manage to refill the gas tank, you’ll pay a prorated fee per gallon (usually steeper than the prices you’d find at the pump). You can also opt for insurance and varying degrees of coverage just as you can with a traditional agency.

Give the car another pass with the owner or the representative present, hand over the keys, and you’re all set. The owner might offer to meet you at the airport before your flight, or drop you off somewhere, but this is case by case, and you’ll usually have to arrange that ahead of time. Reviews, as with anything in the sharing economy, are encouraged (and the owner ought to do the same for you).

How much does Turo cost?

turo car rental review tesla

The price of cars on Turo varies greatly and is entirely dependent on the make, model, and owner setting the price. However, Turo is frequently a more affordable experience compared with many of the rental agencies.

Looking two weeks out at rentals in San Francisco, for example, Turo’s rental prices start at a $25-a-day 2010 Mazda 6  (plus insurance, but more on insurance below), while, due to the surge in demand currently, an entry-level rental at Hertz in San Francisco will run you $149 (and you’re not guaranteed the vehicle you select at checkout) before getting to insurance. 

Though using Turo as a more affordable car rental option is certainly a good use right now, the real fun starts in the $150 to $200 range. While that price would likely land you a Buick Regal “or similar” at a standard rental company during non-shortage times, you can land a Tesla Model 3 for a similar price on Turo. I’m no snob, but given the choice, and the level of service (pickup at your door), the choice seems like a no-brainer. 

Of course, those who have a little money to burn could also pick up a Ferrari in California ($539/day), but insurance through Turo on such premium cars will run you upwards of $100 per day.

Do I need to buy insurance for Turo?

turo car rental review insurance

If you already have car insurance, consult your company first, as they may cover you (as they would with traditional agencies) depending on your level of insurance. If you’re purchasing insurance through Turo, there are five different levels of insurance to consider, but you’ll be covered through your rental with basic liability insurance through Liberty Mutual for up to $750,000, and it starts just shy of $20 per day.

My review of Turo

truro

Having lived in a camper van in a past life, I’m all too eager to jump at the chance to relive it whenever I can. So when Turo’s team wrote and asked if I’d like to try out a vintage VW camper van, I didn’t hesitate to take them up on it. Off I went to Seattle.

The owner arranged to pick me up with Gretel (the stunningly pristine specimen of an automobile you see above) so I could prove my capabilities with a manual transmission. Fair enough: I certainly wouldn’t entrust a classic vehicle to someone without vetting their driving skills first, either.

Granted, this is a special occurrence, and so long as you’re not renting a classic vehicle with a manual transmission, you probably won’t be put to the test. It should go without saying that no one ought to rent (or drive) a vehicle outside of their comfort capabilities.

After passing my short road test, I was free roam wherever I pleased (within reason) at the helm of Gretel for a week. I did, however, have a 1,500-mile limit, and would incur further charges if I surpassed it (0.75/mile). I ended up driving a couple of hundred miles over, which was a fee of about $150 more. Over the course of a week, getting to drive the Lost Coast of Northern California and sleep in the Redwood Forest though? Worth it.

The van also came stocked with everything I needed, from a sleeping bag, pillows, blankets, and sheets, down to a coffee pot, oatmeal, coffee, and kitchen cloths. 

I dare you to try to find a hotel room on a cliff above the Pacific for less than $200 a night. You might luck out, but add the cost of a car rental to that. (Keep in mind that a Honda Accord will not exactly get you here.)

When you return someone’s pride-and-joy-on-wheels (keep in mind that old VW Vanagons are collectors’ items), they’re probably going to go over the thing with a fine-toothed comb. The owner of this particular vehicle did just that, and while I was embarrassed by the moderate disarray of things, he in turn told me I was the cleanest renter yet. Owners can potentially put up a fuss (just like with Airbnb), but the best course of action is to be considerate, courteous, and clean up after yourself. They expect to have to clean a little, but as with any rental or hospitality experience, there’s no need to go all Motley Crew on the poor set of wheels. If you do, there’s a good chance you’ll end up paying for it.

turoaudi

After such a positive experience, I decided to try out Turo again during a road trip to the Florida Keys. This time, I was seeking a standard set of wheels to take me from the airport to my final destination. If you’ve ever picked up a car rental from the airport, you’re surely acquainted with issues that often pop up like long lines, faulty reservation systems, or just a super long walk from the terminal.

Save yourself the stress, and maybe the loss of your cool, and try Turo out at the airport. Arrange your car (at least 24 hours ahead of time to be safe), input your flight time, your ETA at arrivals, and your rental will be parked out front with either the vehicle’s owner or a representative on their behalf (there are a few small agencies using Turo, too). Show them your driver’s license, and off you go.

I went through this entire process without even the hint of a hitch and didn’t have to go searching for some far-flung rental agency outpost on the outskirts of the airport.

The Audi A6 was in immaculate shape, clean and detailed. The transition was smooth, and while I might not have mistaken it for a brand-spanking-new car fresh off the lot, it was in every bit as fine a shape as anything I’ve ever rented from Avis or Hertz. 

Granted, just as with Airbnb, you’ll see some variation on a case-by-case basis. The difference between renting a 1980s-vintage VW Vanagon and a late-model sports car is about as immense as you could imagine. Think fully detailed interior versus a throw blanket over stained or torn upholstery. You’ll also be able to get a feel for the condition of the vehicle based on its profile online and reviews.

And again like Airbnb, your experience is going to largely depend on your host (they also receive ratings). Some hosts make renting vehicles on Turo their primary occupation; they’ll have a crew of drivers and a slew of vehicles. This was the case with the Audi I rented, and I felt like I received executive service as a result.

Are car rentals safe?

turo car rental review audi

The CDC has stated that fully vaccinated people may safely travel in the US. If you’re wondering if renting a car is safe, we spoke to experts who say yes, as long as proper precautions are taken.

Turo has also updated its policies and guidelines to help ensure safety. Hosts are urged to disinfect cars after every trip, but guests booking cars should also bring their own wipes and sanitize all surfaces as an extra safety measure. It is also highly encouraged not to meet in person and instead, hosts should set up remote key handoffs via lockbox or via digitally upgrading to Turo Go if you’re located in the San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles, or San Diego. 

You can find Turo’s full policies and tips for staying safe here.

The bottom line: Is renting from Turo worth it?

turo car rental is turo worth it

Even if you’re not the adventurous type, Turo offers a convenience you don’t get with any of the big rental companies, and that makes all the difference.

This isn’t to say there isn’t still a time and place to use more traditional rental agencies; in remoter places, there’s a good chance you won’t find any Turo listings, and in the case of one-way trips, Avis, Hertz, Enterprise, and the like are all likely your only option, unless you can manage a special (albeit highly unlikely) arrangement with a Turo vehicle’s owner to meet you at your end destination.

Whether you’re heading out to the beach, up into the mountains, straight to a hotel room, or just looking for something a little spiffier or more functional (and fun) than a Chevy Malibu, it’s plainly and simply the easiest way to rent a car.

Pros: More affordable and convenient than most (if not all) vehicle rental agencies

Cons: Like Airbnb, quality control is tough (but improving), one-way rentals usually aren’t possible

See all Turo car, van, and camper rentals

Read the original article on Business Insider

The 5 best car rental companies of 2021, based on key factors like pricing, locations, and cancellation policies

If you buy through our links, we may earn money from affiliate partners. Learn more.

best car rental companies
  • As travel picks up but social distancing remains a priority, travelers are turning to road trips.
  • For those who don’t own a car, car rentals are trusted options with competitive pricing.
  • Here are the best rental car companies based on pricing, locations, cancellation policies, and more.

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

As travel in the US picks back up thanks to COVID vaccine rollouts, people continue to prioritize safety and social distancing. Travelers are turning to road trips and renting cars in droves, which has created a national car rental shortage and seen prices in the most popular locations skyrocket. In some places, rental prices have surged to as high as $700 per day, so you may need to rethink your road trip if you were hoping it would be a wallet-friendly vacation.

In addition to it being tough and pricey to rent a car right now, in some worst-case scenarios, travelers are showing up for their rental reservations only to find out there’s no car available for them. In addition to needing to book cars well in advance right now, be prepared for the possibility that you could end up not getting a car for a day or two or potentially for your entire trip, even if you’ve reserved a car well ahead of time and paid in advance.

With that in mind, it’s a good idea to have a backup plan in place just in case. Additionally, if all the cars in your area are booked up or you’re seeking a last-minute car rental, you may want to consider non-traditional options and peer-to-peer car rentals, such as Turo, Getaround, or Avail.

That said, we’ve compared the current prices, procedures, and policies of top companies to find the best car rental companies for 2021. For more information on how we chose top rental car companies, as well as helpful info to consider when booking a car rental jump to the bottom of this guide.

Here are the best car rental companies in 2021

The best overall car rental company

Enterprise

Enterprise Rent-A-Car

Enterprise Rent-A-Car is a trusted name that performs impressively well across all categories, including customer satisfaction, online booking, and price. According to the 2019 survey by trusted market research company JD Power, Enterprise scored highly for their website and app (placing second and third respectively), as well as placing second for overall customer satisfaction, with 855 points out of a possible 1,000 possible points and just one point behind leaders Hertz.

Typical quote: One-week rental comes in at $705 including taxes and fees.

Current COVID-19 cleaning policy: Enterprise Rent-A-Car has a new Complete Clean pledge, which includes, “washing, vacuuming, general wipe down, and sanitizing with a disinfectant that meets leading health authority requirements, with particular attention to more than 20-plus high-touch points.” They are also offering curbside pickup options.

Current cancellation policy: If you have not already paid, there is a no-fee cancellation policy. If you have a pre-paid rental, you may cancel up to 24 hours before your pick-up for a fee of $50. Cancellations made less than 24 hours before your reservation will incur a fee of $100. 

Look out for: Enterprise’s daily rate can be slightly higher than the average car rental rate, but the company reports that it has reduced other additional charges, such as those for drivers under the age of 25.

The best car rental company for customer satisfaction

Hertz car rental

Hertz

Hertz has one of the top-regarded, best long-term reputations, with a decades-long presence. The company has more than 1,600 locations at airports in the United States alone, with a varied fleet and an impressive rewards program. Hertz’s pick-up and drop-off processes at airports are particularly efficient, which was one of the main factors behind their high score of 856 out of 1,000 by respondents to JD Power’s 2019 survey. 

Typical quote: One-week rental comes in at $862 including taxes and fees.

Current COVID-19 cleaning policy: The company’s new cleaning policy is quoted as, “A 15-point cleaning checklist, and all cars that have been sanitized are being marked with a “Hertz Gold Standard Clean” sticker, which will only be broken when the car’s driver accesses the rental for the first time, meaning that the driver’s area is disinfected as a last step when the car is moved to its final location.

Current cancellation and fees policies: Young renter (under 25) fees are being waived and the minimum renter age lowered from 20 to 18 years old to help college students and young drivers return home. The company has also lowered rates for one-way trips. Customers with pre-paid Hertz rentals booked prior to March 13 can cancel their reservation for no fee and transfer their balance for use toward a future booking within 24 months. Otherwise, regular cancellation fees apply: full price for a no-show, $100 if canceled more than 24 hours before pick-up, $200 if canceled less than 24 hours before pick-up. 

Look out for: The quotes for short term rentals with Hertz are slightly higher than some of the company’s competitors, especially when renting for just a day or two. Longer-term rentals are more competitive. 

Best car rental company website and app

National Car Rental

National Car Rental

National Car Rental is particularly proud of its services and loyalty program for business travelers, and this focus on customer service bleeds over into its leisure customer service as well. This is most apparent in its website and app, both of which are highly regarded, with the company placing first and second place respectively in those categories in the 2019 JD Power survey of travel industry online portals.  

Typical quote: A one-week rental comes in at $796 including taxes and fees.

Current COVID-19 cleaning policy: National shares sister company Enterprise’s Complete Clean Pledge, which includes, “washing, vacuuming, general wipe down, and sanitizing with a disinfectant that meets leading health authority requirements, with particular attention to more than 20-plus high-touch points.” 

Current cancellation policy: The company is extending its existing no-fee cancellation policy to include customers with pre-paid rentals booked directly through them. Previously, pre-paid rentals that were canceled would incur a fee. Cancellations must be made 24 hours or more before the pick-up, otherwise, a no-show fee of $100 will be assessed.

Look out for: National is somewhat focused on business travelers and does not currently offer drop-off or pick-up services.

The best cheap car rental company

Alamo Rent A Car

Alamo Rent-A-Car

Alamo Rent-A-Car is a well-established, well-trusted name in the car rental market. Alamo’s prices were regularly among the cheapest prices we found when gathering quotes both through the various companies’ own websites and third-party comparison sites. Though the company has relatively fewer locations, Alamo’s prices are always very competitive.

Typical quote: A one-week rental comes in at $695 including taxes and fees.

Current COVID-19 cleaning policy: Alamo shares the Complete Clean Pledge offered by National and Enterprise, which includes, “washing, vacuuming, general wipe down, and sanitizing with a disinfectant that meets leading health authority requirements, with particular attention to more than 20-plus high-touch points.” 

Current cancellation policy: The company is extending its existing no-fee cancellation policy to include customers with pre-paid rentals booked directly through them. Previously, pre-paid rentals that were canceled would incur a fee. Cancellations must be made 24 hours or more before the pick-up, otherwise, a no-show fee of $100 will be assessed.

Look out for: Alamo Rent-A-Car has slightly fewer locations than many of its competitors, and the locations it does have are very concentrated on airports. 

Best peer-to-peer car rental

Turo car rental

Turo

Peer-to-peer car rentals are still making inroads into the market, but Turo is a consistently favorite, allowing people to both rent out their private cars and rent from private car owners. Set-up is relatively straightforward and the renting process is nearly identical to that of any traditional rental vehicle. The company also offers well-defined insurance options. Pick-up and drop-off locations depend on individual owners and will change for each booking. Turo also offers their own roadside 24/7 assistance policy and prices are very attractive. 

Typical quote: A one-week rental comes in at about $200 including taxes and fees. However, just like when comparing Airbnb to standard hotel rooms, Turo varies more than typical car rentals and has a wide range of price points available.

Current COVID-19 cleaning policy: The company asks hosts to “clean and disinfect the car after each trip with disinfectant wipes or spray. Wipe down the steering wheel, door handles, trunk latch, keys, and any other surfaces that are touched frequently.”  

Current cancellation policy: Guests may cancel free of charge up to 24 hours before their trip starts. Guests who book within 24 hours of their trip have one hour after booking to cancel for free. For canceled trips longer than two days, a guest is charged one day’s trip cost. For canceled trips two days or shorter, a guest is charged 50% of one day’s trip cost. The trip cost includes the trip price and trip fee.

Look out for: Obviously the variety of cars on offer varies considerably and customer service levels and actual cleanliness practices depend on individual hosts, though they do receive a public rating, which can help inform your experience.

Read our full review of Turo

Other reputable car rental companies

Hertz

These additional car rental services are reputable options that we strongly considered, but didn’t quite make the cut.

Dollar: The company has average pricing for the industry but locations are not quite as widespread and offers fewer benefits, for example, there’s no at-home customer drop-off or pick-up. 

Sixt: A big name in Europe that is making strides in the American market, however, some car sizes might seem ungenerous to American companies.  

Thrifty: Attractive, competitive prices but fewer locations than many of its peers and a less expansive loyalty scheme. 

Budget: A good number of locations but it also has a less attractive loyalty program and their airport pick-ups can be subject to additional fees. 

Avis: Good, affordable quotes for weekly rates and a great app, but the loyalty program makes it challenging to earn points, and airport pick-ups can be subject to fees. 

How we made our decisions

How did we choose the best car rentals?

Insider Reviews combed through the online specifications and customer reviews of car rental offers on the market. The research included car rental quotes from many companies and considered factors such as what is included in the rental agreement, the number of locations, the satisfaction levels of their customer service and the value for money on offer.

We also researched dozens of car rental companies across categories and consulted reviews on third-party sites such as Priceline.com, Kayak.com, Expedia.com, and Rentalcars.com. We considered price points, the number of nationwide locations (airport and otherwise), and impressive customer service satisfaction levels based on the 2019 customer satisfaction report by survey company JD Power, which gathered responses from over 12,000 business and leisure travelers who rented a vehicle.

Price quotes were taken from the company’s own websites and are based on a one-week rental of a medium-sized vehicle (or ‘standard’ car, for example, a Volkswagen Jetta or similar) by a driver over 25, picking up midweek from a regional airport, with unlimited mileage. All quotes were for bookings made two months in advance without any extras.

What to consider when booking a rental car

How far in advance should I book a car rental for the best price? 

The received wisdom is that it’s better to book as early as possible to book a rental car, between three to six months is optimal. This has become even more important recently with last-minute reservations being nearly impossible to find and car shortages happening nationwide. 

Are some days cheaper than others for picking up a vehicle? 

Weekend pick-ups tend to be slightly cheaper, with Monday and Tuesday pick-ups usually slightly more expensive. Compare airport pick-ups versus locations in the city, even factoring a taxi to these locations. Some cities will always be cheaper at the airport, while others will see the complete opposite. 

Is it worth paying for insurance? 

First of all, you may already be covered, so check with your car insurance policy, or call your insurance company to find out if your existing coverage extends to a rental car. Car rental companies typically offer the following coverage options at the counter as you sign the lease agreement, and it’s really down to individual circumstances as to whether you take these out (though some kind of liability insurance is usually compulsory):

Loss-damage/collision damage waiver: This typically waives financial responsibility if the car is damaged or stolen, towed or incurs similar fees. Typical cost: $9–$19 a day. 

Liability coverage: This is usually required coverage, protects you from potential lawsuits and typically costs around $7–$14 a day.

Personal accident insurance covers medical costs that might be incurred after an accident. Typical cost: $1–$5 a day. 

Personal effects coverage insures against theft any possessions that you might keep in the rental car and typically costs $1–4 a day.

Is it worth joining loyalty programs?

Most loyalty programs are free to join, and sometimes there are immediate benefits or offers, so, there’s really no downside to signing up. As with airline frequent flyer programs, the more you can build up by using the same company, the more benefits you will accrue, so frequent renters should look at their travel plans and the companies that will offer the most attractive benefits to members. 

Joining a loyalty program is even more attractive right now since they often come with perks like getting to jump the line or getting priority. With longer-than-ever wait times and lines at many locations, those special lines might come in extra handy.

Where can I get a rental quote? 

Most car rental companies will happily supply quotes on their websites without too much information being required. Third-party comparison sites are also very popular and can list dozens of options after entering personal information just once. 

What if I arrive for my reservation and no car is available?

Unfortunately, this is turning into a real possibility amidst ongoing rental car shortages. Always try to call ahead to confirm you’re reservation and check to see if there are currently cars on-site at your rental location. However, if you show up and your car isn’t available you have a few options.

First, ask if there’s another car available in a different class than you originally booked. Ideally, you may be able to upgrade to a better car than you originally booked at no extra cost if the company is at fault for your car being unavailable. However, if they only have cars available in a downgraded class, this may still be a better option for you than no car at all. Just be sure to get a credit or, at the very least, a voucher for the difference in price.

You can also ask if the company has another nearby location where a car may be available. If you do have to go to an alternative location, ask if the company will cover your taxi or Uber. If it’s late in the day, you may also want to consider coming back earlier the next day to see if any cars have been returned.

If no car with your original company is available at all, unfortunately, your only option may be to hunt around yourself at other rental companies or on a peer-to-peer site. You should always ask for a refund if this becomes the case, but be prepared for the fact that if you had a pre-paid reservation, you may need to hound the company and wait several weeks to get your money back.  

Are car rentals safe?

The CDC has noted that travel in the US is safe for those who are fully vaccinated. 

Additionally, like hotels, rental car companies such as Enterprise, Alamo, National, Avis, and Budget have all announced new measures to combat the spread of COVID-19, and are stepping up their cleaning and sanitization procedures.

Our experts weighed in on the overall safety of such rental car policies and agreed that a well-sanitized vehicle is much less of a danger than being around infected humans. Strict checklists, new cleaning products, curbside and contactless pick-up, and the thorough cleaning and disinfecting of each vehicle when returned by a customer or transported by employees are all part of new levels of service designed to assuage concerns regarding COVID-19.

More road trip tips and ideas

road trip road sign
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Experts reveals the best way to avoid out-of-control rental car fees as America is hit with massive nationwide shortages

Hertz Rental Car Lot
Hertz rental cars near Detroit Metropolitan airport.

  • The US doesn’t have enough rental cars due to the computer chip shortage, smaller fleets, and an uptick in travel.
  • In extreme cases, rental vehicle prices have skyrocketed to $700 a day.
  • If you’re planning a spontaneous summer trip, your rental car could be more expensive than your flight.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

A rental car could consume the bulk of your vacation budget if you don’t plan ahead, experts warn.

Airline and hotel costs are still lower than pre-pandemic prices, Nerdwallet recently reported. But right now, the US is facing a massive rental-car shortage that’s causing vehicles to either sell out or sell for high prices.

As a result, if you’re planning a spontaneous vacation that will require a rental car, be prepared to pay more for your vehicle than your flight or accommodations, especially if you’re looking to visit popular destinations like Hawaii, Florida, Phoenix, Arizona, and Puerto Rico.

“People are quickly realizing that they need to take the cost of the rental car into account because it’s no longer just an add-on,” Jonathan Weinberg, the founder and CEO of AutoSlash, told Insider. “It literally could be the majority cost of your trip, so folks who are planning things last minute are unpleasantly surprised by it.”

Plan ahead

car rental
Hertz.

Rental car company Hertz is already expecting “strong demand” through the summer, which could cause decreased availability in certain markets, according to an email statement sent to Insider. Enterprise echoed this in its email statement sent to Insider, adding that it has been working to grow its fleet size to address this increasing demand.

If you’re wondering how to avoid these issues ahead of your summer vacation, consider planning ahead, although you could still see prices that are double or triple the typical costs. But if you’d rather book a last-minute trip to a hotspot like Florida, be prepared to see rental car prices about five to 10 times the average.

Rental vehicles in Hawaii averaged at about $50 a day two to three years ago. Now, some are going for $500 a day, according to Weinberg. And in extreme cases, prices have even hit $700 a day, Chris Woronka, a senior hotel-and-leisure analyst at Deutsche Bank, told Insider.

enterprise car rental
Enterprise.

There’s no one specific issue that’s been causing this problem: the rental-car shortage is a result of a “perfect storm” of reasons, according to Woronka. For starters, there’s currently a rising number of travelers planning post-COVID-19 “revenge vacations.” This is then being compounded with a decreased fleet size after several car rental companies sold off parts of their fleets during the COVID-19 in order to save money.

And at the moment, any chance of increasing fleet sizes again is being hindered by skyrocketing used car prices and a lack of new cars due to the computer-chip shortage.

“No matter how much shuffling the rental car companies do with the vehicles that they have on hand, I just don’t think it’s going to be enough,” Weinberg said.

Read the original article on Business Insider