Spring break travelers face rental car shortage

Spring break travelers are facing a rental car shortage. (FOX 9)

As more and more people start traveling again, many of them are encountering an unusual problem. If you're thinking about renting a car, you may want to reconsider.

"We’re seeing something that we’ve never seen before," said Jonathan Weinberg, the CEO of AutoSlash.com, a car rental website.

Weinberg has worked in the rental car business for more than a decade. He says he is used to an increase in demand during the holiday and summer vacation seasons, but this is the first time he’s seen airports completely wiped out.  

"Last weekend 18 out of 20 airports in Florida were completely sold out," said Weinberg. "There were basically no rental cars north of Miami."
He says the car shortage isn’t limited to vacation hotspots like Florida, but Arizona, Hawaii and Texas as well.  

"In the few instances where you might have been able to find a car, the rental car companies knew people were desperate and they were charging over $500 a day for a car," said Weinberg.

"During the COVID pandemic the demand has slipped very, very greatly because people were not traveling," said Alfred Marcus, a professor at the University of Minnesota.
Professor Marcus says the rental car business didn’t make a ton of money pre-pandemic. The only way many could survive during the economic downturn was to sell most of their fleets.  

With more people traveling and the supply down, experts say the rental car prices will likely remain expensive.  

"The prices of when you can rent a car for $50 to $60 dollars a day or $100 a week, I don’t think that will return rapidly," said Professor Marcus.

Experts say the most important thing is to book early, even telling people to check to see if cars are available because sometimes a rental car is more than the plane ticket.