Remember when you could rent a car for $30 a day? We probably didn’t appreciate that nearly enough, because the country is currently feeling the sting of rental car prices that are double and triple that in the last year or so. If you can find one, that is.
As you may remember when air travel shut down last year, rental car companies had to sell off large sections of their fleets to stay afloat (even veteran company Hertz filed for bankruptcy). As a result, the rental car selection in the U.S. was slashed, which then led to higher prices and lower inventory when travel started picking up again. To compound that problem, rental car companies can’t restock their fleets quickly due to the chip shortage and other supply chain delays. Hang tight, though, because we have some alternative ideas for you.
Think of Turo as an AirB2B for car renters; private owners sign up with Turo to rent out their cars with a peer-to-peer model. You’ll find a surprising number of unique loan options that go way behind the standard categories featured at an airport rental counter. Want to try out a 2021 Maserati Levante (or a 2008 Yaris, for that matter)? A quick price check here in Austin shows anything from $40/day to $200+ per day.
Note that Turo owners can’t deliver cars in New York because of insurance complications. And if you’re thinking about putting your car out for hire, be sure to check the fine print on liabilities. In some cities in California, Turo Go gives you the option to book, locate, and unlock cars using Turo's app (like the now-defunct Cars2Go used to provide).
Unlike some car rental companies that have traditionally required the renter to be 25, Turo rents to adults 18 and up with a valid driver’s license.
Hear me out: for about $20 per day plus mileage (69 cents per mile in Austin when I checked today), you can rent a pickup from U-Haul. Collision damage will cost you an extra $30, which means everything is covered minus a $150 deductible. The most annoying thing is having to click through several screens offering storage, moving supplies, dollies, etc. This is the best deal by far, totaling $100 for three days plus mileage.
A cargo van rents for the same price, so you could load up a ton of gear for a beach weekend.
As we reported back in April, Hawaii News Now reported sky-high rental cars costs due to limited availability. U-Haul was the beneficiary, claiming that Hawaii U-Haul facilities are "the busiest they’ve been in years." Hey, they might not be fancy but they work just fine.
The car insurance company Hagerty has been around for a long time, and it mobilized its giant community to create a car-sharing service around the country. Much like Turo, owners offer their rides for daily rentals, but the options are incredible. For instance, if I’m going to pay $100 a day for a rental car, it’s going to be a lot more fun to rent a 1968 Ford Mustang than a bland late-model car from a national rental company.
The first time I heard about Hagerty DriveShare was through a journalist event in California in 2019; a representative brought a vintage Bronco for us to drive, which was a blast. At the Ford Bronco launch in Texas in June, Hagerty brought another vintage topless Bronco borrowed from a local owner.
To try it out, register on DriveShare (membership is free), and note that the current minimum age for driving a rental is 25.
New York-based company Revel offers a couple of viable options in the city: moped rentals and a Tesla rideshare service. You could rent an electric moped that goes 30 mph and comes with two helmets; all you need is a driver’s license. If the Dumb and Dumber minibike scene can be recreated over the course of a couple of days, you can surely get all over NYC on a moped.
It’s not without its share of risks, however. As Lawyer Daniel Flanzig, who represents two people who brought personal-injury suits against Revel in Brooklyn Supreme Court, told the NY Post, “New York City is not the proper place to be learning for the first time how to ride a scooter. It’s not all that far off from a motorcycle.”
Revel’s rideshare option is available in NYC only and works more like Uber and Lyft. It hires out a fleet of Tesla models with the front passenger seat removed so the passengers have more legroom, and they’re only available below 42nd Street in Manhattan. There’s a waitlist, so it may be a while before you can sample the service.
The market is ripe for more creativity, so expect to see more companies popping up. If you don't mind country byways and dirt roads, you could rent a tractor for the day from a local equipment company. Or try a lawnmower or e-bike. Got any other ideas?
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