Rental car shortage means high prices, canceled cars

Family almost had to cancel summer vacation
Rental cars
Posted at 1:33 PM, Jul 01, 2021

Are you planning to travel this summer? If that plan involves a rental car, you may want to double or even triple-check that rental.

That's because there is a worsening rental car shortage that nearly canceled one family's trip.

Angie McIntosh and her family arrived safely at their vacation condo on Florida's panhandle, but they almost didn't get there.

They had booked a 12-passenger Ford transit van to get their extended family to Destin, Florida.

But while they were packing, an agent from Budget Rent a Car called to say there were no vans left.

"I got a call from them to tell me, 'Sorry, we won't have your van,'" she said. "This was less than 24 hours before we were supposed to leave."

Nor could they get a minivan instead. The only option: Pay almost triple for two midsize SUVs.

"He said, 'Of course we can get you two SUVs, but it will be $2,000,'" she said.

Why there's a shortage and such high prices

Rental car agencies nationwide are running out of cars or doubling prices for the few they have left.

Many sold off their fleets to survive last year, and the computer chip shortage means they can't get new ones.

Consumer Reports says you can take a few steps to protect yourself:

  • Book a rental well in advance.
  • Consider Uber or Lyft if you don't plan much driving at your destination, especially if it is a resort.
  • Be especially careful in Hawaii, Orlando, and Las Vegas, where rentals may be sold out for weeks in advance.

Consumer Reports released suggested workarounds for the shortage.

Budget finally gave the McIntoshes two SUVs for the same price, but it was still costly.

"We now have two vehicles to fill up, not one," she said. "And you know gas prices are $3 right now."

We contacted Budget, where a rep apologized for the McIntoshes' troubles and told us that an order of new vans they were expecting had been canceled at the last minute (read the full statement from Avis-Budget below).

Some people are now making two rental reservations. But be careful doing that.

You run the risk of being charged if you don't show up for the backup rental.

As always, don't waste your money.

Don't Waste Your Money" is a registered trademark of Scripps Media, Inc. ("Scripps").

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“As we return to a state of normalcy in a post-COVID-19 world, we expect larger fluctuations in market demand and customer rental patterns, such as those associated with vacation destinations, and are constantly adjusting our fleet to meet that demand. We continue to receive new cars in every day and look forward to helping people experience their mobility needs in a safe and efficient way. We suggest renters book and prepay a reservation in advance on our websites, and, to reserve a car at the best prices available.
In this instance, the manufacturer canceled an order of vans with little notice. Our goal is to always ensure a customer has transportation and so we successfully worked out a resolution, which was to provide two vehicles for the same price and a fuel credit. We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused.”