14 Tips on What Can You Do If Rental Car Rates Increase in the United States
Five years ago, a business outlook survey of franchised and independent car rental companies revealed that 40 percent of respondents believed their rates would increase during the year 2016 due to a potential reduction of the inventory of vehicles in their fleets.
14 Tips on What Can You Do If Rental Car Rates Increase in the United States
At that time, 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 was placing profits from retail sales at a higher priority than volume, of which sales of fleets to rental car companies are significant.
The inventory of vehicles in the fleets of rental car companies has significantly been reduced for the year 2021 — but for a simple reason: the basic economic principles of supply and demand as the result of the current 2019 Novel Coronavirus pandemic.
As demand for renting vehicles declined substantially, rental car companies either reduced the inventory of vehicles in their fleets accordingly; declared bankruptcy protection, as has happened with both Hertz Global Holdings and Advantage Opco LLC; a combination thereof; or have gone out of business…
…but now that demand is spiking, fewer vehicles are currently available to rent — and because rental car companies cannot simply just order thousands of new vehicles at a time and have them immediately delivered to meet that demand, rates to rent vehicles are expected to increase significantly.
As for what can you do to mitigate the pain — whether or not the rates of rental cars actually do increase in 2021 — consider the following 14 ways you can rent vehicles for less money, which can be combined:
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 basically only three major car rental companies operate 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.
Other rental car companies which conduct business in the United States — such as ACE Rent a Car, Advantage Rent a Car, Fox Rent a Car, Payless Car Rental, and SIXT — are not affiliated with the aforementioned major three rental car companies. However, keep in mind that some of the so-called “off brands” of rental car companies may be less expensive — but they may not offer some of the same conveniences that the major rental car companies can provide; and employees will look for the most minor of damages which may appear on a vehicle as a way to charge you extra money. Despite the likely lower cost of renting a vehicle from an off-brand, you may not want to rent from them due to the many restrictions which could be strictly enforced.
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 but are expected to be no lower than $19.99 per day in 2021, which is still a good deal. I have taken advantage of those particular deals in recent years.
4. Rent a Vehicle Outside of the Airport
Consider renting a vehicle from a facility which is located off of the official grounds of the airport. Rental car companies are usually charged a fee for having a facility located on the official grounds of the airport — and that cost is passed on to you, the customer.
Rental car companies which are located off of the official grounds of the airport are usually not subject to that fee — so customers may already save money — but because they are not as convenient to travelers, demand is usually less than at the airport…
…and that could mean saving money. Please read this article to see how you can possibly save hundreds of dollars of your money on renting a vehicle.
5. Check for Coupons, Discounts, and Promotion Codes
There is almost always a variety of coupons, promotion codes, 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, free upgrades, or a complimentary tank of gasoline or other fuel.
Virtually every airline — as well as many lodging companies — partner with rental car companies and therefore usually offer coupons, promotion codes, and discounts of some type at all times of the day.
You can also easily search the Internet for ways to save money from bargain sites — but do your homework, as coupons, promotion codes, and discounts often either have expired or do not work.
Be careful that the discount code is not a corporate rate which you are not entitled to use, as even though you might have no problem using it, you may be denied if caught — and although reservations which are not paid in advance usually have no penalties if you are indeed denied, remember that other rental car companies may not have inventory in their fleets in case you need to switch at the last minute…
…which means that you could be stuck without a vehicle to rent — which is not likely; but that scenario is not impossible, either.
6. 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.
7. Keep Checking Vehicle Rates Even After You Reserve a Vehicle
Rates for vehicles continuously change with rental car companies. Keep checking back to see if the rate has decreased on the vehicle which you rented. Chances are that if the rate has indeed been reduced, you can adjust your reservation to lock in the lower rate — or you can book a new reservation at the lower rate and cancel the original reservation.
8. 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.
9. Reserve Your Rental Vehicle For Longer Than You Need
If you need a vehicle for four days or five days, you may be better off simply renting the vehicle for the entire week, as the cost may likely be lower overall — and penalties are usually not imposed on customers who return a vehicle back to the rental facility earlier than expected.
If you rent a vehicle for two days with the possibility of needing it for a third day — or even up to four extra hours — you will be charged more unless the rental car company offers a grace period which permits you to keep the vehicle just a little longer without being charged extra money…
…and if the inventory of vehicles is reduced to the point that every vehicle counts, you may be forced to pay a more expensive rate for that third day — or worse: you may be denied the opportunity to extend the period of the rental of the vehicle altogether.
10. Negotiate Your Rental Car Rate
Believe it or not, you could negotiate the rental car rate to have it reduced — or, perhaps, to have an extra or two thrown in. Greet the employee, treat him or her with respect, smile, and be friendly. Although the likelihood of negotiating successfully may be as reduced as the inventory of available vehicles itself, it can still possibly happen.
11. Earning Miles From Vehicle Rentals
Although earning frequent travel loyalty program miles is technically not considered to be a discount, they can serve as a rebate of sorts by allowing you to apply them towards a flight or a room reservation — but remember that the “rebate” will likely be reduced by a modest fee which is applied to frequent fliers in order to offset a portion of the annual cost of participation in the frequent travel loyalty program. The fee could be 75 cents per day; a dollar per day; or a minute percentage of the cost of renting a vehicle.
You will likely be better off applying your vehicle rental to an aforementioned frequent renter loyalty program of a rental car company to maximize your earnings and save the most of your hard-earned money.
12. Book Your Vehicle Rental Via a Mileage Portal or Cash Back Portal
Plenty of Internet web sites — such as the shopping portals of airlines as one of countless examples — allow you to start at their Internet web sites and click onto the travel provider to book your reservation. The process is rather seamless; and the Universal Resource Locator — which is more popularly known as the URL — of the portal will have some code at the end which will indicate that you will earn either cash back or frequent travel loyalty program miles…
…but if you are in doubt, take screen shots of every step of the process along the way to booking your reservation in case of the unlikely event that your purchase will not be credited.
13. Use Travel Tools
…and just like with airfares: the more flexible you are, the more creative you can get with schedules and saving money.
14. Follow Travel, Miles and Points Internet Web Sites
Not included in the aforementioned list is to rent a vehicle from a company such as Turo, through which you can either rent the vehicles of other people — or even rent out your own vehicle at a profit. I have never tried this service.
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.
All photographs ©2020 by Brian Cohen.