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So a last-minute flight from Los Angeles (LAX) to Orlando (MKO) in late April to watch the annual hang-gliding competition in Groveland, Florida—a trip planned by an airline pilot with flying friends—wasn’t out of the ordinary. When Salamone went to check prices online for her three-night trip, she discovered the car rental price, which was unusual.
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He phoned a friend with a knack for travel solutions to get advice, but to no avail. However, when he went for a walk, a solution came to him.
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Salamone told TPG that he found a pickup truck at a U-Haul pickup near the Orlando airport for $19.95 a day, plus $10 in mileage for the duration of the trip.
The rent cost him less than $100, and thanks to friends in Florida who stocked up on air mattresses and pillows, he saved even more because he had to leave the hotel and sleep in the van during the event. Salamone said they bought him a magnetic screen at ACE Hardware to keep out the mosquitoes.
The flight delay landed Salamone at the Orlando airport late in the evening, so no one was working at U-Haul’s outside office when he arrived. Additionally, the U-Haul app wasn’t working for him to get a van.
But even though he didn’t have access to U-Haul until the next day, Salamone still considered the experience at TPG a success.
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“It was clean and very comfortable,” he said of the van. “For less than $100, I had a hotel and a car for travel.”
As domestic and even some international travel recovers, rental car availability decreases and prices rise, making finding a rental car difficult and expensive. Travelers everywhere have come to call the current situation karmageddon (among other…more creative terms).
A search on Orbitz in late April for car rentals in Tampa and Key West, Florida, showed rates around $500 per week in May. Renting a car in Honolulu can cost upwards of $1,000 per week. CNN recently reported that the cost of renting a car in Maui is $722 per day.
While not all areas of the country are experiencing this problem (for example, in Aspen, Colorado, renting a car on Orbitz in early May was about $250 a week), travelers should note that it is important to rent a car now. If you can afford a car, you might have sticker shock.
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Travel show host Andrew Lock said he stopped renting from U-Haul when he saw a spike in car rentals in Las Vegas during a mid-April trip from London. Locke, who rents a car once a month while traveling and usually books directly through Hertz, told TPG he knows exactly what Las Vegas car rental prices are like.
“It’s usually around $40 a day, but I’ve seen rates around $150 a day even on sites like AutoSlash and Costco,” he said, citing popular aggregator sites with good prices.
Faced with such a high price tag, he turned to U-Haul, hoping for a bargain. Lock calculated the number of miles he would need to drive around Las Vegas for a five-day work trip (100 miles) and purchased U-Haul insurance for $40. He told TPG that renting a U-Haul rather than a traditional rental car is a no-brainer.
“For what it cost me to rent for the day, I got a U-Haul the whole time.”
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He chose a cargo van from U-Haul, one of the smaller rental options. According to Lock, the U-Haul van was comparable to driving a large SUV, including parking. But Lock cautioned other travelers to confirm what they’re getting with U-Haul when ordering to avoid the risk of moving on to something bigger if they don’t have inventory.
Turo is an alternative to traditional car rental companies, a car rental service known as the “Airbnb of rental cars” that has been popularized by the recent car rental crisis.
With inventory in all markets including the US, Canada and the UK, the Turo app acts as an online marketplace where car owners can rent out their personal cars to those in need. Prices are often cheaper than what you’ll find at a rental car company—a recent study found a Fiat in Los Angeles costs $23 a day and a Prius in Maui, Hawaii costs $30 a day.
Touro is also prone to inventory shortages, but that’s what happened to Cindy Rich of Orem, Utah, during an April trip to Orlando.
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Changed flights at the last minute to arrive a day early with my husband. They went to Thrifty to re-order the car they had made a few weeks ago, but it was nowhere to be found. They turned to Turo as a backup plan, but Rich said they couldn’t use the car through the app.
“My husband had the great idea to rent a Home Depot truck,” Rich said, adding that he had done it on a previous trip to Colorado. The couple drove to the nearest Home Depot and picked up their latest rental truck, a Ford 250, for $130 a day.
“But I can’t imagine what we would have done if my little girl was with us. Home Depot trucks are not suitable for car seats.”
Travelers queued up to rent a car at the MSB. (Photo courtesy of Cindy Rich of The Points Guy)
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If you’re planning a trip in the near future that requires a rental car and find that the price is too high for your budget, here are some tips to help you find alternatives.
1. Home improvement companies like Home Depot and Lowes often rent pickup trucks, which can be a cheaper option than renting a car in some markets. However, keep in mind that these trucks may not be suitable for families if you’re traveling with young children who need car seats.
2. If you’re paying a higher price for a specific rental period, Lock recommends extending your booking window to see if the daily rate drops. Often, car rental companies will allow you to return the car before the reservation time without penalty, and in some cases, you may be refunded for the days not rented.
3. Car rental prices may drop closer to your actual travel date, so be sure to check closer to your trip.
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4. See if it makes more sense to bring your own vehicle on an Amtrak car train when traveling between Florida and Washington, DC. Daily service runs nearly 900 miles (17.5 hours) along the East Coast between Washington DC and Orlando.
5. Check out car dealerships like Nissan and Toyota that offer weekend “try before you buy” or car rentals. This is another option that can now be cheaper than traditional rental companies.
6. Finally, check out aggregators like Costco and AutoSlash. Also, be sure to click on your AAA and AARP memberships.
Terry Ward is a Florida-based freelance writer who travels the world with her two children and contributes to The Points Guy Family, among many other publications. He has lived in France and New Zealand and is very fond of Norway. terry-ward.com
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Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed here are solely the author’s and not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline, or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, endorsed, or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. A U-HAUL truck was parked on the pickup. location at the rental office. HALIFAX, NOVA SCOTIA, CANADA – JUNE 2022 – U-HAUL Truck
You drive the truck around the back corner in traffic. Grovetown, GA USA – 07 03 22: Transport truck in back corner in traffic
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A U-Haul truck is parked at a public storage facility. Denver, Colorado, USA –
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