Reader Question: What is the current state of the car rental market in terms of quality and pricing?

Today we have a reader question about Rental cars and what can you expect these days when you rent a vehicle at the airport or from a local agency in the city: is it still worth renting a car?

Car rental agencies have faced an uphill battle since Covid as first there was very little demand, then Hertz fell, followed by a sudden surge in demand after restrictions were lifted on trip

This situation led to crazy prices for rental cars in many markets and this is now being amplified as manufacturers have supply chain/production issues resulting in a shortage of vehicles for rental companies.

Our reader Fred asked if it’s really a good idea to rely on a rental car like you’ve always had or if it’s better to consider a combination of public transport/rideshare/taxi in order to save yourself the hassle and especially the costs .

It depends on the destination and what the traveler does locally. In many cities where a car used to be almost mandatory (like Los Angeles), you can now get around quite well with public transportation and carpooling providers, as long as you don’t have to travel long distances every day. In the end, it’s a cost-benefit comparison. How much are you willing to pay for a rental car, gas and parking per day that you can’t otherwise get on Uber or Metro?

And what do the car rental agencies offer at this time, if you decide to rent a car?

This again depends on where you rent from and then what brand. In the US I still like National and Sixt. I’ve rented from Hertz for two decades, but their car quality has gotten so bad that I haven’t had a rental with them in 2022.

Here are a few videos with a selection of car rentals from the leading companies, provided by a Youtube channel (Adventures on the road) which follows:

I like this channel because it gives you a very good overview of the current state of the rental companies and what awaits you on the lot.

Since the early 2000s I have rented mainly with Hertz and National, but in recent years more with Sixt. prices are often more competitive and car quality vastly superior, especially when upgrading to Sixt Diamond or Platinum membership.

How much do cars cost now? I have seen everything from $50 a day to $250 a day and especially since Covid the prices are higher. Sometimes you can get cheaper rates on weekends or through a corporate discount, but the problem with car rental companies these days is that they can no longer make as much money by getting their new vehicles back on the market quickly, simply because they can no longer get as many new cars as a result of the manufacturers’ supply chain problems.

Many of the cars on Hertz lots, for example, have more than 40,000 miles on the odometer. It is a very high figure compared to what they used to rent to their customers. The agencies have to keep the cars longer and therefore the mileage is higher and the quality of the cars went down as many renters do not treat the vehicles with care and respect.

And while we’re on the subject of Hertz, remember the cars they reported stolen that led to the arrest of over 40 innocent customers? ridiculous

conclusion

Renting a car has become expensive, tiring and also lost its charm due to frustrating processes in many cases. The selection often leaves a lot to be desired as well. You can easily take carpool or public transportation in many cities instead of spending hundreds on a rental car plus $5/gal gas and $50/night parking fees (if you’re lucky).

I like to drive and enjoy mobility, but some of these rental companies have gone a little too far. Cars in bad shape, often with a long list of damages, are just one piece of the frustrating puzzle. I always take a video of the cars before leaving the lot to have proof of the exact condition and damage later, as I often had an argument on the way back where agencies accuse me of damaging a car (more on Europe than in the US, but still ).

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