Could Rental Car Rates Rise in the United States? 8 Tips on What Can You Do

T he most recent Business Outlook Survey conducted by Auto Rental News of franchised and independent car rental companies reveals that “40% of respondents believe their rates will increase in 2016. In the same survey conducted two years ago, 30% believed they’d increase. This is an opinion survey, but directionally positive on the tenor of operators.”

That outlook — reported in this article by Chris Brown of Auto Rental News — may be great news for rental car companies and their stakeholders should it come to fruition; but it will most likely be bad news for you.

Reduction of Fleet Inventory to Come?

Sales for General Motors fell by 1.5 percent in February of 2016 compared with the same time in 2015; but retail sales increased by seven percent — signaling that the strategy of General Motors is placing profits from retail sales at a higher priority than volume, of which sales of fleets to rental car companies are significant.

“The company said it sold 39% fewer vehicles to rental car companies, representing a drop of 16,500 units overall in an intentional move away from a type of sale that typically yields lower profits”, according to this article written by Nathan Bomey for USA TODAY. “The strategic shift means that 20% of GM vehicles in 2016 will be sold to fleet customers, including rental companies, down from a historical range of 22% to 24%.”

This translates to possible lower inventories for rental car companies, which — unless demand decreases significantly — could mean higher rates on rental vehicles for you.

8 Tips on What Can You Do

As for what can you do to mitigate the pain — whether or not the rates of rental cars actually do increase in 2016 — consider the following ways you can rent vehicles for less money:

1. Be Flexible

As with airlines, rental car rates can vary between days on which you intend to start or end the rental period. Consider renting from a location other than the airport at your destination if the cost is lower and it is not too inconvenient.

Keep in mind that rates could increase significantly if inventory is low at a particular facility on a certain day.

2. Rent From a Different Car Rental Company

As there are basically only three major car rental companies in the United States — Enterprise Holdings, Avis Budget Group and Hertz Global Holdings, as I noted in the 2014 version of this article — chances are that that no-name company of which you never heard offering rock-bottom prices is a division of a major chain.

Firefly Car Rental is actually a division of Hertz, as an example — but be aware that you usually will not be able to enjoy the benefits typically offered by the parent company.

3. Travel to a Different City

If you do not mind driving, renting a vehicle from a rental car facility at a different location can save you money — even with the additional transportation costs associated with it — and especially if the rental car company offers special one-way rates to clear inventory in a particular part of the country such as Florida, which usually occurs during the spring of every year.

Guess what? Spring is here; so keep a lookout for those one-way rental rates from Florida and select other southern states in the United States — typically starting at an inexpensive $9.95 per day for multiple classes of cars. I have taken advantage of them in recent years.

4. Check for Coupons and Discounts

There is almost always a variety of promotions and discounts available at the official Internet web sites of the major car rental companies offering percentages off of rentals for the week or for the weekend at any given moment — as well as last-minute specials and free upgrades.

5. Use a Valid Discount Code

If you belong to an automobile club, are a member of a frequent travel loyalty program, or work for a corporation, chances are that you have access to a special code which has the potential to save you a significant amount of money on renting vehicles…

…and sometimes these codes also include such perks as automatic upgrades, unlimited miles and insurance coverage included at no extra charge — but be sure that you are eligible to use the discount code.

6. Join a Frequent Renter Loyalty Program

Like other travel loyalty programs, frequent renter loyalty programs — such as Emerald Club by National Car Rental and Gold Plus Rewards by Hertz — usually cost nothing to join; and you can earn free rental car days, free upgrades and other valuable perks, benefits and discounts.

7. Use Travel Tools

Travel tools — such as AutoSlash and Kayak; and Internet travel agencies such as Orbitz, Travelocity and Expedia, to name only a few — can be used to search for car rental rates…

…and just like with airfares: the more flexible you are, the more creative you can get with schedules and saving money.

8. Follow Travel, Miles and Points Internet Web Sites

BoardingArea — as well as the rental car forums on InsideFlyer and on FlyerTalk — are good Internet web sites to keep track of the latest information pertaining to rental car companies.

Summary

All is not doom and gloom pertaining to the possibility of rental car rates increasing in the United States. By following the aforementioned advice, you can still save money on renting a vehicle. Just be sure that you know exactly what you need from a car rental to determine which advice is best for you — and keep yourself updated with the comparisons of the rates of rental cars between competing companies.

Photograph ©2007 by Brian Cohen.

2 thoughts on “Could Rental Car Rates Rise in the United States? 8 Tips on What Can You Do”

  1. Stephen says:

    Thank you for this article. I have already seen rental car rates rise quite significantly in 2016 (50%+) for my frequent destination of San Diego. I live and work in Washington, DC and visit friends in family in San Diego almost once per month (usually holiday weekends but not always) and I have altogether discontinued renting through preferred agencies like National, Hertz, and Avis and have resorted to Enterprise and Budget (much slower to get through, unfortunately). In the past, airline website car rental portals have been fruitful (with coupon codes), but now I have been finding the best prices through Costco Travel.

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      You are indeed welcome, Stephen

      …and thank you for reporting on the increase in rental rates which you have already experienced.

      For members of Costco, you have provided some good advice.

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