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Genius Hack If There Are No (Or Too Costly) Rental Cars

by SharonKurheg

One of the rarest commodities in tourist-heavy areas right now is rental cars. The lack of them came about from a perfect storm of several factors:

  • Rental car companies sold older cars earlier than they typically would, as a way to make more cash when no one was renting cars during the worst of COVID.
  • They also bought fewer new cars since (A) that would cost them money, (B) there were fewer cars to buy because car manufacturers had cut down because no one was buying cars and (C) so many fewer people were renting cars for a good portion of 2020 anyway.
  • People are getting their COVID vaccines and many are beginning to travel again.

Less rental cars + more tourists = big problem!

Of course, making a reservation to rent your car as early as possible is a good start to *hopefully* ensure there’s a car for you at your destination (even that’s not a guarantee. There’ve been photos on Twitter of lines of people waiting for rental cars to be returned so they can be turned over to the next person. Here’s Joe’s post on what to do if your rental car company is out of cars). Some people have also recommended using Turo or renting cars from car dealerships (if they’re available). And Uber or Lyft would normally be an option for some, but even those are relatively scarce in some cities – here’s why.

But besides the scarcity issue, there’s also the price issue. When there’s little supply and lots of demand, you know what that means.

Prices go up.

And right now they’re way up. As in “sky-high” up. Joe was able to find a rental car for us for $100 less than what Autoslash found for our weeklong trip to the Austin area in August, but not everyone may have the option we had.

Meanwhile, right now a small sedan in Orlando is renting for upwards of $100/day, $130/day in Phoenix, $160/day in NYC, and $195/day in Honolulu. CRAZY prices!

So what are some desperate-but-smart people doing? Renting U-Hauls.

Granted, it’s not the prettiest car out there. And if you have more than 2 people in your party, you’re probably out of luck. But a U-Haul pickup truck or cargo van only costs $19.95/day.

Before you get all excited, you do have to pay mileage; how much per mile varies where you are. In Orlando it’s 69 cents per mile, in Phoenix it’s 59 cents, in Honolulu it’s 89 cents, and it’s a whopping $1.99 per mile in NYC.

But depending on where/how far you’re driving, it could be a viable option.

Check out U-Haul’s website for more info.

Hopefully, this rental car shortage will be short-lived. But if not, I guess you can add this to your arsenal of Plans B, C, D, and E.

Feature Photo: Antonio Silveira / flickr

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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary


Ben April 23, 2021 - 4:46 pm

Don’t forget to calculate insurance if doing this – I don’t know of a single credit card that covers damages to a UHaul. I believe many personal car policies are similar, although some do.

Frank April 26, 2021 - 6:35 pm

There was a good article on Boarding Area about renting cars from auto dealers. Generally they are going to price low to get you on the lot especially if they think you are trying before you buy. Toyota and Nissan have programs at most of their dealerships.


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