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Hitting the road for the holidays? Car rental prices are sky-high again

Lauren Zumbach, Chicago Tribune on

Published in Auto Racing

People renting cars for holiday trips may be in for some sticker shock.

Rental car companies have brought in more vehicles since shortages sent prices sky-high this summer, but rates are rising again as more people prepare to hit the road over Thanksgiving and the winter holidays.

“The holidays are looking better than this summer, but I wouldn’t be celebrating too much. It’s still a pricey time to rent a car, and we predict that it will be for quite some time moving forward,” said Matt Clarke, vice president of North America marketing at travel search company Kayak.

Just how much rates are expected to go up depends on who you ask, and where you’re renting.

Kayak estimates average rental prices in Chicago over Thanksgiving are about $104 per day, up 90% compared with the same period in 2019. Nationwide, rates averaged $97 per day, though New Yorkers are expected to pay even more: about $135 per day over Thanksgiving.

Christmas rates in Chicago were about $102 per day, up about 65% compared with 2019, according to Kayak.

 

AAA forecast a more modest increase, with an average daily car rental rate of $98 across 20 U.S. locations over Thanksgiving, up just 4% from last year but nearly 31% higher than 2019.

Finding vehicles can also be a challenge in certain areas. Victoria Park, 42, of Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood, booked a rental from Thrifty for a trip to Phoenix last weekend because her usual car rental company was sold out. But when her flight landed, Thrifty had closed early because it was out of cars, she said.

Other airport rental agencies were fully booked too. Park took an Uber to her hotel and eventually got a refund through American Express Travel, which she used to book the rental.

“I understand there’s a shortage … but at least let us know ahead of time. Even if they’d sent an email while we were on the plane, we could have made arrangements so we weren’t just stranded,” she said.

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