With the spring and summer travel seasons just around the corner, experts warn Americans could see the same rental car challenges as last year— high prices and a short supply.
"The peak demand seasons for 2022 are expected to be similar to 2021," Paula Twidale, Senior Vice President, Travel for AAA, told FOX Television Stations.
"It was expected that there would be relief this year, however, acquiring new vehicles has proven challenging which has translated to rates that are far above average for a typical spring/summer season," Jonathan Weinberg, founder and CEO of AutoSlash.com also told FOX Television Stations.
Twidale and Weinberg cite a number of reasons why it may be tough for travelers to get a ride for an upcoming vacation. The COVID-19 pandemic continues to wreak havoc on the global supply chain with production lines being slowed because of a shortage in semiconductor chips.
"The average modern car has more than a thousand computer chips in it to run a wide array of critical functions," Weinberg explained. "Without these critical components, car companies can't supply enough vehicles to the market to satisfy consumer demand even at full retail pricing."
Also, rental car companies may not be prepared to handle an even bigger surge in travel compared to last year. The American Automobile Association said a new quarterly survey showed that traveler confidence is on the rise. Sixty-three percent of Floridians reported feeling comfortable traveling now – a significant increase from 40% in early 2021, according to the agency.
"The challenges this year are similar to last year," Weinberg continued. "The rental companies were caught off-guard last year that travel came back so quickly as folks started to get vaccinated. They simply didn't have enough vehicles to meet the rising demand."
Weinberg also cautioned rental car seekers could see higher than normal prices. He said rates between $100 and $200 are more are already common in top destinations such as Hawaii, Alaska and Montana.
He said some rental car companies may already be sold out of their summer inventory, particularly on larger vehicles.
For those thinking about a late spring or summer trip, there are a few tips to follow to secure a ride and save money.
"People need to plan in advance this year; it’s going to be very busy," Stuart Stillman, owner of Guardian Rent A Car in Pensacola, Fla., told the Wall Street Journal. His fleet was sold out over Presidents Day and the following week.
Weinberg said customers should try to look for any discount codes or coupons to lower the rental rate. He also said rental rates can change multiple times during the day. He said it would be wise to reserve a car but choose a "pay later" option as you shop around for cheaper prices.
Some people are turning to car-sharing apps, like Turo, where owners can lend their vehicles to users for a certain amount of time.
As for 2023, Americans may see the road to getting a rental car a bit smoother, but Weinberg said don’t expect pre-pandemic prices anytime soon. hoping the supply-chain issue will ease.
"New car pricing will likely be higher than average for the next year or two, so don't expect 2019-level rental pricing, but should see some relief in terms of greater availability and more modest rates next summer," he added.
The story was reported from Los Angeles.