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How to save money on vacation as travelers, agents see rental car sticker shock

Rental cars
Posted at 4:54 PM, Jan 19, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-19 18:26:30-05

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (WXYZ) — Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics is showing a trend when it comes to rental car prices.

If you haven’t traveled since before the pandemic and are planning a trip for spring break, expect sticker shock.

“We’re going to Belize, we’re going to Honduras and then we’re going to the Royal Caribbeans… private island and there is a water park there. So, we are excited about that,” Pamela Day said.

Day and her family have booked a cruise, but they haven’t yet booked a rental car for the two days before the boat. So, she called her travel agent Tijuana Brown from Ascend Beyond Travels.

“The prices are going up, so it is best to book as early as possible,” Brown said.

Even experts say they are getting sticker shock.

"See, look at the prices,” Brown said while looking at car rentals with 7 Action News. “It is a lot."

A shortage of chips limiting the supply of new cars for rental agencies means prices remain elevated.

“It’s a headache. To rent a car for like two, three days is ridiculous. Five, six, seven hundred dollars is unreasonable,” Brown said.

This means that if you are trying to get out of Michigan’s cold weather and head somewhere warm for spring break, you might want to move the car rental to the top of the list when planning.

But even if you normally book a traditional vehicle rental, there is a backup plan.

“They are coming up short at the rental company. I have people all the time call me and say, I rented a van from a big company (and) I got there and they don’t have it for me,” Bradley Hammond said.

Hammond is a co-owner of Drive Michigan Rentals, which has offices in Auburn Hills and Grand Rapids. Drive Michigan Rentals has about 60 vehicles to lend out.

Drive Michigan Rentals uses Turo, a car sharing company.

Hammond says if you are traveling, the app he uses to find customers is a great tool. Many people renting their vehicles out will bring the ride right to you, and you can check their ratings and reviews just like when you rent from Airbnb.

Hammond says it’s a way to save money when using car services.

“Specifically with the SUVs, vans, some of the bigger vehicles — those are going to be a good amount of savings,” he said. "The economy cars are pretty much in the same range.”

Day is ready to enjoy vacation even with the challenge the car shortage is creating.

“It's something we will just factor into the budget,” she said.

Brown says if you want to skip a car, a travel agent will be able to hook you up with a place with access to transportation to dream-come-true experiences.

“For me, it’s that people that (say), oh you made my dream magical or my trip magical or my kids loved it. That’s what makes my day when I hear that,” Brown said.