Rental Car Companies Across U.S. Struggle to Replace Diminished Fleets

Blue sedan during sunset at dealership in lot

The country is opening up and travel is increasing, but visitors are finding the rental car landscape a bit empty.

Rental car companies are continuing to have a hard time keeping up with demand after selling off fleets to stay afloat during the pandemic.

“The fundamental thing that’s causing it is the very rational corporate response to the pandemic and the almost shutting down of international and domestic travel for most of 2020 and the first half of 2021,” Gregory Scott, spokesperson for the American Car Rental Association (ACRA), told The Center Square. “Airport rentals dropped 70-90% in March and April of last year, and as a result there were literally tens of thousands of vehicles sitting unrented and unwanted because people stopped traveling.”

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Commentary: Making Sense of the Post-Pandemic Economy

Guy on phone with stocks on computer screen

Are you having a hard time understanding why the housing market is heating up, and why the cost of essentials such as milk, eggs, and gas is climbing? Are you in the market for a used car? Then you know how expensive those are right now. And why can’t businesses find employees, yet millions remain unemployed? Economists agree the recovery isn’t like anything we’ve seen before. That’s because we’ve never had a situation before where the heavy hand of government shut down private enterprises on a nationwide scale. The market distortions are enormous. As states reopen, there is a herky-jerky feel to the economy that has many people unsettled.

Former Federal Reserve vice chairman Alan Blinder wrote in the Wall Street Journal recently, “the recovery is not linear. Rather, it is proceeding in fits and starts. Sales of physical goods, for example, dipped only briefly when Covid hit, recovered quickly, and are now well above their pre-pandemic levels. In stark contrast, businesses that deliver personal services, such as restaurants and hotels, suffered a devastating depression and are still below their pre-pandemic levels.”

By far the most uneven outcome so far since the economy crashed in spring 2000, besides the 7.6 million fewer jobs compared to pre-pandemic levels, has been inflation, which is up 5 percent the past 12 months.

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Price Jump for Used Cars Results in Boost in Michigan Sales Tax Collected

Close up of a line of cars

The microchip shortage responsible for bottlenecking the production of new cars has been a boon for the used car market.

However, the lack of available new vehicles also has created a greater demand and thus a scarcity of quality used vehicles.

This has driven up the cost of used cars and trucks, which has also increased the sales tax collected on used vehicle transactions. The national average increase in used car sales prices is 16.8% or $3,926 per vehicle sold.

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