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So, buying a last-minute flight from Los Angeles (LAX) to Orlando (MCO) in late April to check out the annual hang-gliding competition in Groveland, Florida — a trip the paraglider pilot planned to make with flying friends — was nothing unusual. However, the rental car rates Salamone found when she went to browse prices online for her three-night trip were unusual.

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She immediately phoned friends with a knack for solving travel snafus for advice, but they came up short. However, it came to her when she went for a walk.

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Salamone told TPG he found a cargo van from a U-Haul pickup site near the Orlando airport for $19.95 a day, plus an additional $10 in mileage fees during his trip.

The entire rental cost her less than $100 — and she saved more because she was able to ditch the hotel and sleep in a van during the event, thanks to a friend in Florida who saved her an air mattress and pillows. Salamone said he also purchased a magnetic screen from ACE Hardware to keep mosquitoes at bay.

The late flight meant Salamone landed at the Orlando airport late in the evening, so no one was working at the off-site U-Haul office when she arrived. Additionally, the U-Haul app to pick up the van is not working.

But even though she didn’t gain access to U-Haul until the next day, Salamone told TPG she still considers the experience a success.

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“It was clean and it was very comfortable,” he said of the van. “For less than $100, I have a hotel and a car for my trip.”

With travel rebounding to many domestic and some international destinations, pinched car rental inventory and spiking prices have made finding a rental car difficult and expensive right now. Travelers everywhere call the current situation Carmageddon (among other… more creative words).

A late April search on Orbitz for car rentals in the Florida cities of Tampa and Key West showed prices around $500 per week for May dates. In Honolulu, car rentals on the same dates were priced at more than $1,000 per week. CNN recently reported car rental rates on Maui totaling an obscene $722 per day.

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While not all parts of the country are facing this problem (car rentals in Aspen, Colorado, for example, were around $250 a week in Orbitz for the same week in early May), travelers should be aware that they should rent a car now. Can come with sticker shock – if you can afford the vehicle.

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The Travel Pro Show’s Andrew Locke says he defaulted to renting a U-Haul when he found Las Vegas car rentals were skyrocketing for a mid-April trip from London. Locke, who rents a car once a month on his travels and usually books directly through Hertz, told TPG he has a good handle on what prices are typically in Las Vegas for car rentals.

“It’s usually around $40 a day, but even on sites like AutoSlash and Costco I’m seeing rates around $150 a day,” he said, referring to aggregator sites known for good rates.

Faced with a high price tag, they turned to U-Haul in the hope that it would be cheaper. Locke figured out how many miles he would drive around Las Vegas during his five-day work trip (about 100 miles) and even handled U-Haul’s $40 insurance. He told TPG that renting a U-Haul instead of a traditional rental car was a no-brainer.

“For as much as a day’s rental would cost me, I’ve got a U-Haul for the whole time.”

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He chose one of the smaller rental options, a cargo van from U-Haul. According to Locke, driving a U-haul van is comparable to driving a large SUV – including parking. But Locke also cautions travelers to confirm what you’re getting with U-Haul when you book so you don’t risk being upgraded to a larger one if there’s no inventory.

Turo – a carsharing service dubbed the “Airbnb of rental cars” – is another alternative to traditional rental car companies that has become popular in light of recent car rental issues.

With inventory in every US market as well as Canada and the United Kingdom, the Turo app acts as an online marketplace where car owners can rent out their personal cars to people in need. Prices are often cheaper than what you’d find through a rental car company — a recent search showed $23 a day for a Fiat in Los Angeles and $30 a day for a Prius in Maui, Hawaii.

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Turo also runs out of inventory, however, which is what happened to Cindy Rich from Orem, Utah, during an April trip to Orlando.

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She and her husband changed their flights at the last minute to arrive a day early. He went to rebook a car reservation he had made weeks ago with thrift, but there was no availability. They turned to Turo as their backup plan, but Rich said no cars were available through the app.

“My husband had the brilliant idea to rent a Home Depot truck,” said Rich, who said he had done just that on a previous trip to Colorado. The couple rode to a nearby Home Depot and got the last rental truck in stock — a Ford 250 flatbed utility truck — for $130 a day.

“But I can’t imagine what we would have done if my toddler daughter was with us. Home Depot trucks are not car-seat friendly.

Passengers lined up for car hire at MCO. (Photo courtesy of Cindy Rich for Points Guy)

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If you’re planning an upcoming trip to rent a car and the prices are too high for your budget, here are some tips and tricks to help you find an alternative:

1. Home repair companies like Home Depot and Lowe’s often rent pickup trucks, which are a cheaper option than rental cars in some markets. However, keep in mind that these trucks may not be family-friendly if you’re traveling with small children who require car seats.

2. If you’re seeing higher rates for specific rental dates, try extending your booking window for longer trips, which will lower the daily price, Locke advises. Generally, car rental companies will allow you to return the car earlier than you booked it with no penalty – and in some cases, they may even refund days not rented.

3. Be sure to check car rental rates close to your travel date, as they may drop closer to actual travel dates.

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4. Florida and Washington, D.C. For trips between the region, check out Amtrak’s Auto Train to see if it’s a good deal to bring your own vehicle with you. Daily service travels approximately 900 miles (17.5 hours) on the East Coast between the Washington, D.C., and Orlando areas.

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5. Check out car dealers like Nissan and Toyota that offer “try before you buy” weekends or rental car deals. This is another option that is now cheaper than traditional rental companies.

6. Finally, check aggregators like Costco and AutoSlash for deals. Make sure to tap into your AAA and AARP memberships.

Terry Ward is a Florida-based freelance writer who travels the world with her two young children while contributing to The Point’s Guy Family, among many other outlets. He has lived in France and New Zealand and has a particular passion for Norway. terry-ward.com

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Editorial Note: The opinions expressed herein are solely those of the author and not of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of these entities. Getting from one place to another is tricky, but it doesn’t have to be with a U-Haul rental truck from the store at Wink. We make it easy to book the truck you need online without any hassle. Contact us today to find out how we can make your move easier.

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