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Cheaper Ways to Rent a Car During These Trying Times

With the demand rising for rental cars and modes of transportation that are deemed safer in today's time, it can be hard to secure affordable and reliable car rentals. Rental rates are skyrocketing and if there even are rental options left, we are seeing high insurance coverage rates, fees, and overall less satisfaction with traditional car rental companies. When the pandemic put a huge halt to all travel-related plans, frantic rental car companies sold the unused cars sitting on their lots. Now that travel has picked back up, car rental agencies cannot meet that growing demand quickly enough. But is there an alternative to renting a car in this day and age?

Rising Car Rental Car Rates Force Travelers to Get Creative

Renters are looking elsewhere to find trusty wheels for vacations and some even resort to U-Haul rentals when there are literally no cars for rent. In mid-May, Market Watch reported that within the markets with rental cars, daily rates were up nearly 278% to an average of $259 a day in Bozeman, Montana. A mid-size sedan in New York City was priced at a rental rate of $193 a day (before taxes and fees).

While some destinations like New York City or Chicago may not require a car, in places like Hawaii or San Francisco, a vehicle may be necessary to properly navigate your trip. So what can you initiate to save the added cost of surging rental car prices? Read below to find out how you can wiggle a little more money from your rental car budget to splurge a little more on your Airbnb.

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Best Alternatives to Renting a Car

A Hertz car rental office is seen the day after Hertz

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Rather than utilizing a traditional car rental service, vacationers are creatively discovering alternatives to combat surging rates. Instead of relying on Hertz or Avis to get around for their next road trip, eager travelers are choosing options that are softer on the wallet, as well as less of a headache.

Peer-to-Peer Car Rental Service

"Car-sharing" is a business model where car owners rent their personal cars to customers in their specific location. Easy-to-use apps for car-sharing services such as Turo, Avail, and Getaround have seen a tremendous amount of growth in the last few years, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic. Huge bonuses to using Turo or Getaround are that they each offer roadside assistance 24-hours a day if the customer or the car owner chooses that.

Important aspects to consider when renting from a peer-to-peer or car-sharing service are the pick-up and drop-off (some car owners will meet you at the airport for a small fee) location, the additional fees, the miles covered (shoot for unlimited), and the overall value. A neat perk of car-sharing is that you can choose a brand new car or a specialized car you would not normally ever be able to drive — a fun feature to ensure a memorable trip!

Dealership-Based: Silvercar by Audi

Lower Saxony, Hanover: Used cars are parked at an Audi dealer

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The most luxurious way to beat Budget Car Rental is to use Audi's Silvercar. An upscale service where you can experience a contact-free pick-up and/or delivery, equipped with amazing amenities such as in-car WiFi, Sirius XM Satelite Radio, and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto. The only downside to going with Silvercar is that it is only available in 30 locations around the United States, so hopefully, you are visiting one of those places. We highly suggest this option if you have a little extra room in the travel budget.

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Use a Ridesharing Service 

Of course, you have already heard Lyft and Uber and have it downloaded on your phone (or your kids do). And if you are already using these apps every weekend to get to and from events or for carting the family to the museum or commuting to work, then you can keep on scrolling down. However, the fact of the matter is, if there are no rental cars available, you may have to opt to spend that allocated money on ridesharing your way through your destination of choice!

Allow yourself to relax in the back seat and treat yourself to a "personal driver" for your next getaway. The best thing about Lyft and Uber is that you can almost guarantee they will be available in any major city, nationally or internationally!

Lyft Rentals New Service

A sign is posted in front of a Lyft driver center on August 12, 2020 in San Francisco, California

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I know we just mentioned the popular ridesharing service Lyft above, but did you know that in the spring of 2021, the company began offering self-drive car rentals in 28 major cities in the U.S.? In places like Chicago, Atlanta, Denver, Boston, San Franciso, and San Antonio, you can try your luck at using the new Lyft Rentals service. Customers looking to use the provider are choosing from Lyft's own fleet as well as from Sixt rental company.

Membership-Based Zipcar

Zipcar is a fantastic way to rent a car on-demand, wherever you are, for any allotted amount of time you desire. Originally for those looking for an alternative to owning a car, Zipcar is now becoming a common way to avoid the rising costs of car rental companies. Zipcar charges a low monthly membership fee for different tiers or you can simply book for an hourly or daily rate. Another form of car-sharing, Zipcar makes finding a car to use on the spot, almost hassle-free. Use their efficient smartphone app 24 hours a day to easily unlock a car near you (completely contact-free). Then when you are done with your day, conveniently drop the car off at the exact location you picked it up.

Find Local Car Rental Agencies

One last suggestion in the fight to fight absurd rental-car prices is to try not to use websites like Kayak or Expedia and attempt to find local car rental companies in your destination city. With a quick Google search, you can most likely reach a provider in the community that would be thrilled to have your business. A pro tip is to call as soon as possible when you have your travel dates to ensure you have a trustworthy rental car.

Have any advice to give on how to rent a car during difficult times? Share your tips with us on our Wide Open Roads Facebook!

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