Typically, it can be a last-minute thing—you book your flight, your hotel, and lastly, you book your car rental. These days, however, that isn’t the case. Especially in popular destinations like Hawaii and Florida, where some people have resorted to renting U-Hauls just to get around.
Why Is There a Car Rental Shortage?
A surge in travel as more people get vaccinated may be part of it, but that’s not all. Some rental car companies sold big chunks of their fleets last year to make up for the loss of revenue due to the pandemic. Although things have started to pick back up, it could be difficult to replace those cars due to a semiconductor chip shortage. Because of the shortage, car companies are cutting back on production, making it difficult to buy vehicles. Car rental companies aren’t the only ones affected by this—dealerships, state, and local governments are too (think police cars).
Before you start tooling around the island of Maui in a U-Haul truck, there are some ways to book a car and not have to pay an arm and a leg for it.
1. Book Early
While it may seem like a no-brainer, booking early is key to snagging a car before they get snatched up. Book your car as far in advance as possible, and you will have a better chance at finding one as well as getting a better deal.
2. Be Crafty With Your Booking
If you can be more flexible with dates, you’ll be more apt to get a deal. This might mean you have to book your car before you book your flight, but it could save you hundreds of dollars. Typically not booking on a weekend will always save you a lot of money when it comes to car rentals, so if you can book it for during the week, that could be a huge money saver. (Bonus: airfare is cheaper during the week, too!)
Related: 4 Essential Safety Tips for Airport Car Rentals
3. Utilize Discounts
There are loads of ways to get discounts on car rentals.
- AAA. AAA offers up to 20% off your car rental at Hertz.
- AARP. Members can save up to 30% at Avis and Budget Rent A Car, 5% on rentals from Payless Car Rental, and may receive discounts at other car rental companies.
- ABN. Allied Business Network offers discounts at Avis and Budget.
- BJs, Costco, Sam’s Club. Memberships to these wholesale clubs can also get you discounts on car rentals when you book directly through them.
Frequent Flyer Programs
Some frequent flyer airline programs will help you get a better car rental deal. JetBlue TrueBlue members can receive discounts at Budget whenever you provide your TrueBlue Budget Customer Discount (BCD) number R344900. American Airlines also often has deals with car rental companies, but often they have an expiration date, so be sure to check here for the details. Delta Skymiles members can receive discounts at Alamo, Enterprise, and National. United MileagePlus members receive a special discount at Hertz. AirCanada, Alaska Airlines, Frontier, and Southwest’s frequent flyer programs all offer car rental discounts.
Some credit card companies offer discounts for car rentals. American Express has its own travel booking service. Check with your credit card company to see what discounts they may offer.
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Often, car dealerships will offer a military discount. If you are currently serving, or a vet, check with the company before you book.
4. Try Different Websites
Not all car rental websites are created equal. Search around on different sites before you settle. Checking each individual car rental company’s site for prices can be time-consuming, so using a site that searches multiple companies at once is the way to go. Some of our favorites include:
- Autoslash. Autoslash does a lot of the work for you, even applying various discount codes to get you the best price, plus they will notify you when the price goes down even after you have booked it.
- Priceline. Although they got rid of their “Name your price” feature for car rentals a few years ago, they still offer low prices on car rentals.
- Momondo. If you don’t care what car rental company you book through, Momondo will often give you a “surprise deal,” where you get a low price, but don’t know what car rental company it is with until after you book.
5. Book in a Bundle with Your Flight or Hotel
Some airlines give you the option to add a car when you are booking, which can save cash. Sites like Priceline and Hotwire have bundles you can book like flight and car, or hotel and car, booking a bundle can also keep costs down.
No matter how you do it, you should be able to still find a deal on a car rental this summer, especially if you book early!