Car rental rates have increased while availability has decreased due to 2020 pandemic conditions. Now, the industry has been caught unaware that demand would come back sooner than expected. Rental companies divested themselves of inventory during the height of the travel bans in 2020 and are now having difficulty building inventory. Rental companies typically buy excess stock directly from car manufacturers. Due to a global shortage of computer chips, a slow down in manufacturing has occurred. Within the last 6 months, the prices of used cars has increased 40% plus there is a shortage of used cars in the market. This coupled with a higher than normal demand for rentals, the price of renting a car has increased. In Las Vegas, the cost to rent a car has gone up 70%.
Consumers are looking for alternatives to renting through traditional means (Hertz, Enterprise, etc.). In Hawaii, U-Hauls have become a popular alternative. Other alternatives, such as Uber and Lyft are available but are problematic for riders. Currently, both ride shares are experiencing a 40% shortage of drivers due to pandemic fears, an increase in gas prices, extended unemployment benefits and a lure towards better jobs. There has been a significant increase in wait times and cost.
What does this all mean? Better planning for the consumer. Allow enough time for travel if Uber and Lyft are the option. Planning a trip that doesn’t need a rental car is also an option. There are several vacation locations that do not need one, such as Disney, beach resorts (Cancun, the Caribbean, Jersey Shore, etc.), large cities (London, Paris, Chicago, New York), staycations, and road trips. If rental cars and ride share options are the only option, make sure that your budget reflects current prices and includes wait times. Do not hesitate to look into booking a rental car prior to purchasing airline tickets because of the decrease number of rental cars available. Also, keep in mind insurance options. Not all insurance companies cover rental cars and there may be a temptation to turn down insurance offered by car rental companies in order to keep cost down. This could be a costly mistake if an accident occurs, even if the renter is not at fault. Planning ahead is more important since there has been a huge spike in traveling
Elliott Advocacy has an excellent outline of information on the implications of renting a car. The information below is directly drawn from their website. According to Michelle Couch-Friedman of Elliott Advocacy, there are several things to keep in mind when renting a car:
- You are accepting full responsibility for everything that happens to the car.
Remember, you are 100% responsible for everything that happens to the vehicle after driving away. Of course, an accident is probably the last thing on your mind when you’re planning your vacation. But it’s essential to think about your insurance coverage before you step up to the car rental counter. It’s your responsibility to make sure you have proper insurance coverage.
- Will your personal insurance cover your rental?
If your rental is domestic, your own car insurance may cover you. But then again, depending on the type of coverage you have, it may not. It’s critical to consult with your insurance provider and confirm if it will provide the coverage you need. Find out if your policy protects you against damage to the car, damage to the property of others, and personal injuries. Lastly, it’s crucial to know if your insurance covers you if an uninsured or hit-and-run driver hits you.
- Consider purchasing the insurance offered by the car rental company.
Your car rental company will offer you a variety of insurance coverages. If your rental is international or you do not have a comprehensive personal insurance policy, this can be a good option. But the sheer number of insurance products offered at the rental counter can be mind-numbing. So it’s super important to acquaint yourself with the main types before a car rental employee thrusts a contract in front of your face awaiting your signature. Keep in mind that LDW covers all damage to the car rental. It can save the day — and your pocketbook — if unexplained damages appear on the car while it’s in your possession (for example, hail damage or someone scrapes the car in a parking lot.) Check out Christopher’s Ultimate guide to car rentals for all the information you need before your next trip.
- If someone hits your car rental, call the police.
If the worst happens and someone hits your car rental — you must call the police. In most cases, the insurance company will require an accident report to process a claim. So even if you believe the damage is minor or the other person promises to pay for everything, always involve the police. That’s true even if you don’t understand the language of the responding officers (See: His rental car crashed into the sea. Now he’s plunged into a $27,825 insurance nightmare.) Not having a police report will delay your claim and might even prevent it from being approved.
- Take photos and videos.
Hopefully, you already took photos and videos of the car before leaving the car rental location. But if you’re in an accident, you’ll want to take additional pictures and more videos detailing the damage. This evidence can help your insurance company and the car rental company to process your claim more quickly.
- If an accident disables your car, confirm where it’s going.
As mentioned previously, car renters are 100 percent responsible for everything that happens to the vehicle in their possession. Recently, a consumer contacted us who had crashed her rental car on a lonely mountain road. A tow truck driver came and took the vehicle away — to a location unknown. She assumed that the car rental company would follow up — which they did a month later by asking her where she had left the car. Yikes! So you don’t end up in a similar dilemma, find out from the tow driver where the vehicle is going, and then…
- Make sure to close out the car rental agreement.
In the Vandettas case, Budget should have closed out the rental agreement on the day of the accident. But that didn’t happen, and Budget continued to bill them daily for over a month with all the associated taxes and fees. If you are in a car rental accident, make certain that the company closes the rental as soon as you no longer possess the vehicle.
- Escalate your objection to any vague or unreasonable fees related to the accident
Although your car rental company may attempt to charge you for loss of use and/or diminished value after an accident, escalating your complaint with a short, polite request for reconsideration can often lead to a reversal of the fees. This is especially true if you’re a loyal customer and you didn’t cause the damage. The Elliott Advocacy research team has compiled a list of executives of most major car rental companies to help you reach the right person within the company to present your plea.
- Ask the Elliott Advocacy team for help.
Lastly, if you’ve tried everything else and you believe that a car rental company has sent you an unjustified bill, send us a request. We’ll be happy to investigate. The Elliott Advocacy team is always here to help.