Rising Rental Car Rates in the United States: What Can You Do?
A irfares are not the only part of the overall travel costs which are increasing in the United States.
“Once on the ground, travelers aren’t going to find much relief”, warned Scott Mayerowitz in an article to which I referenced back on August 4, 2014. “The average nightly price of a hotel room in the U.S. during the first half of this year was $113.80, according travel research company STR. That’s up $4.47, or 4 percent, from the same period in 2013.”
Lodging is not the only part of travel costs “on the ground” which will lighten your wallet or pocketbook of its load of cash. Justin Bachman of Bloomberg Businessweek reported that “despite a wave of auto recalls this year that have required some costly shuffling in their fleets, the three main U.S. auto rental companies— Enterprise, Avis Budget Group and Hertz Global Holdings — are enjoying robust pricing thanks to industry consolidation.”
Although I did report back on March 28 of this year that despite there being only three rental car companies in the United States, you do have choices; and when I asked whether or not lodging companies should form alliances similar to airlines back in August of 2013, I wrote the following…
“Even car rental companies are getting into the alliance act. Enterprise Rent-A-Car, National Car Rental and Alamo Rent A Car have recently formed something called the Drive Alliance, where it appears that reciprocal benefits between all three frequent renter loyalty programs will be enjoyed by members.
“Then again, it certainly does not hurt that all three rental car companies are owned by the same company known as Enterprise Holdings — so the only question I have about this ‘alliance’ is why it was not launched sooner.
“Did you know that there are actually only three major rental car companies serving the United States after Hertz Global Holdings acquired Dollar Thrifty Automotive Group in 2012? Perhaps Hertz Global Holdings and Avis Budget Group should follow the lead of Enterprise Holdings and form their own ‘alliances’ between the rental car companies in their respective portfolios — but I digress.”
…but why should rental car companies consider forming alliances within their brands if they have already been shrinking their fleets of vehicles, allowing them to increase rates for car rentals? The amount of vehicle inventory available on opaque pricing Internet web sites such as Hotwire and Priceline.com — which offer you deep discounts without revealing the exact company that is renting the car to you until you complete your transaction — has been reduced as well. New revenue management software application programs also help the three major rental car companies in the United States forecast supply and demand better and adjust prices more rapidly.
“Consolidation has improved the financial side of the business, at least for investors”, Bachman wrote. On Tuesday, August 5, 2014, Avis Budget reported that “its sales increased 10 percent in the second quarter, with prices in North America 5 percent higher than in the same period last year. The company also raised its full-year sales and income targets. All this is great news for shareholders. Avis Budget shares have gained 50 percent this year. Hertz has declined 3 percent in 2014 as it sorts out accounting problems that have marred three years of financial reports. Still, at its core business, Hertz is seeing the same trend: stronger pricing, especially at airports where legions of business travelers generally pay top dollar.”
As for what can you do to mitigate the pain, the advice below is similar to what I offered back on August 4, 2014 — including but not limited to the following:
- Be flexible As with airlines, rental car rates can vary between days on which you intend to start or end the rental period; and consider renting from a location other than the airport at your destination if the cost is lower and it is not too inconvenient — and rates could increase significantly if inventory is low at a particular facility on a certain day
- Rent from a different car rental company As there are basically only three car rental companies in the United States, chances are that that no-name company of which you never heard offering rock-bottom prices is a division of a major chain — such as Firefly Car Rental, which is a division of Hertz — but be aware that you usually will not be able to enjoy the benefits typically offered by the parent company
- 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 fuel 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
- Check for coupons and discounts There is almost always a variety of 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
- Use a valid discount code If you belong to an automobile club, are a member of a frequent flier 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 and insurance coverage included at no extra charge — but be sure that you are eligible to use the discount code
- Join a frequent renter loyalty program Like other travel loyalty programs, they usually cost nothing to join — and you can earn free rental car days, free upgrades and other valuable perks, benefits and discounts
- Use travel tools such as AutoSlash, Kayak and Internet travel agencies — Orbitz, Travelocity and Expedia, to name only a few — to search for car rental rates; and just like with airfares: the more flexible you are, the more creative you can get
- Follow travel, miles and points Internet web sites such as here at BoardingArea — as well as the rental car forums on Milepoint and on FlyerTalk
A few months ago, I was able to take advantage of a rate of $9.45 per day plus taxes and fees for renting a car out of Orlando and returning it at a location in the Atlanta area. I found this rate using the matrix grid of one of the aforementioned Internet travel agencies — so I have first-hand experience that all is not lost and that there are ways to still pay less money for your car rental…
…and as for rising airfares, be reassured by Richard Anderson — the chief executive officer of Delta Air Lines — when he stated in an interview with CNBC that “airlines are still a great bargain”, for what that is worth to you when you spend that extra money on airfare…
Photograph ©2007 by Brian Cohen.