America’s rental car shortage: from the most expensive cities to tips on how to book

Maybe you’ve heard the rumors. Read the news. But thanks to the pandemic – the US is experiencing a shortage of rental cars.

This problem began when COVID-19 hit, as travelers decided they were more comfortable with driving than flying, at the same time that some rental car agencies sold off their inventory to help their business. So we’re not only seeing a shortage, we’re also seeing rental car rates go up. Way up. In fact, in April we saw the average daily rate for a rental car increase over 20% when compared to the month prior. But that’s nothing. If you compare 2021 prices to the same timeframe in 2019, rates have jumped 116%.

The destinations seeing the biggest impact – and price increase – may surprise you. They’re not the traditional big cities or major travel hubs, but instead cultural epicenters and gateways to our nation’s national parks. This follows the trend of travelers opting for destinations where they can safely socially distance and get out in nature. For many of these destinations, prices have jumped as much as 1.5-2x since 2019.

So, if your summer vacation plans involve a road trip – we can help. First, don’t wait until the last minute to book your car. Give yourself as much time as possible. You can always search using our “free cancellation” filter (found under “policies”) so you can book now and always change your plans later.

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10 of the most expensive cities to rent a car

  1. Bozeman, MT. Average price $259 (up 278% vs. 2019)
  2. Charleston, SC. Average price $146 (up 125% vs. 2019)
  3. Kahului, Maui, HI. Average price $142 (up 178% vs. 2019)
  4. Kalispell, MT. Average price $141 (up 74% vs. 2019)
  5. Myrtle Beach, SC. Average price $135 (up 132% vs 2019)
  6. Lihue, Kauai, HI. Average price is $135 (up 164% vs. 2019)
  7. Kailua-Kona, Hawaii Island, HI. Average price $130 (up 159% vs. 2019)
  8. Anchorage, AK. Average price $126 (up 94% vs. 2019)
  9. Pensacola, FL. Average price $125 (up 121% vs. 2019)
  10. Honolulu, O’ahu, HI. Average price $124 (up 127% vs. 2019)

Methodology
MoM daily rate: Searches on the KAYAK US site were considered for search dates 1/1/21 – 4/25/21 for travel dates 5/1/21 – 9/30/21.

Yo2Y rate increase: Searches on KAYAK US site were considered for search dates 1/1/21 – 4/25/21 vs. the same timeframe in 2019 for all future travel dates.
Expensive Rental Car Cities: Searches on the KAYAK US site were considered for search dates 4/20/21 – 4/26/21 for travel dates 5/27/21 – 9/7/21.

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