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Holiday travelers shouldn’t wait to reserve a rental car

Consumers report that many rental counters quickly run out of cars

Renting a car for Christmas concept
Photo (c) arkady2013 - Getty Images
If your holiday travel plans involve renting a car, it may be wise to book now. The current car shortage that has emptied out dealer showrooms has also affected rental car companies.

"To accommodate increased demand, we typically increase our available fleet and staff during the second and third quarters of the year," Hertz wrote in a Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filing. "However, the continuing semiconductor microchip manufacturing shortage has impacted our ability to obtain a sufficient supply of new vehicles to align with rental demands and may continue to do so through the first quarter of 2022."

Consumers are already running into the supply problem. Even though they reserved a car well in advance, Brian, of St. Paul, Minn., found that being late getting to the rental counter can result in disappointment.

“Reserved and pre-paid for a car in Cozumel through Expedia,” Brian wrote in a Hertz review on ConsumerAffairs. “Airline changed our flight to come in later and when we arrived they said they didn't have our reservation. After some searching, they found our reservation but didn't have the size we reserved but said they would provide a smaller car at the same price but we had to pay for it again.”

And the shortage isn’t just affecting Hertz. Angela, of Rochester, Wash., tells us they had a similar experience with a Hertz competitor.

“Had reservations with Avis at the Burbank airport and got off my plane,” Angela wrote in a ConsumerAffairs review. “Walked a mile to get the car to be told they had none. There were 50+ people along with me and we were all told the same thing sorry about your luck.”

If Angela sounds a little upset, it might have something to do with the $160 they had to pay in cab fare to reach her destination.

Demand and prices are rising together

According to travel booking site Kayak.com, rental car searches and prices are sharply higher than in both 2019 and 2020. In an interview with Travel Weekly, Matt Clarke, Kayak's vice president of North America marketing, advised travelers to make reserving a car a priority.

"Traditionally, people would wait to book a rental car, but now you should be booking as soon as you possibly can," Clarke said. 

And while rental car deals are scarce these days, Clarke said picking up a car on Tuesday usually offers the best deals.

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