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Can't find a rental car this summer? What you can do instead

The pandemic caused a rental car shortage, but car-sharing services are aiming to save Americans' summer vacations.
/ Source: TODAY

After a year of being cooped up inside during the pandemic, many of us are eager to travel this summer, but the latest product shortage might make that much-awaited getaway a bit more expensive.

Disinfectant wipes and toilet paper are finally fully stocked in stores, but the pandemic seems to have affected an unexpected supply chain: rental cars. It's pretty random, but not all that bizarre when you consider the fact that many rental car companies had to sell off some of their inventory when people stopped traveling during lockdown.

And now that we're all hitting the road once again, those same companies are scrambling to keep up with the sudden demand for rental cars. As a result, many travelers are finding it nearly impossible to secure a car for their summer getaway, and the ones who are lucky enough to find one are paying a pretty penny for it.

According to Kayak, rental car prices are up 83% compared to this time in 2019 and searches for rental cars have skyrocketed in certain hot spots, like Lihue, Hawaii, a popular destination that has seen a 512% increase recently.

"I don't think any of us, nine months ago, six months ago, expected such an accelerated return of visitors into Hawaii," John De Fries, Hawaii tourism authority president and CEO told TODAY.

The supply and demand conundrum is leading some travelers to look into alternative vehicle options. Take Kati Delbert, for instance, told TODAY that she recently rented a truck when she couldn't find a rental car in time for her vacation.

"We actually saved money doing a U-Haul, even with gas included," she said.

It's a brilliant idea, sure, but if you don't feel like renting a moving van during your next vacation, there are still plenty of car-sharing services to consider if you can't score a rental car. NBC News investigative and consumer correspondent Vicky Nguyen shared a few handy options that could help.

Turo

Nguyen was excited to find plenty of car options available on this service's website — many of them with significantly lower rates than your average rental car — and decided to take the service for a test drive.

Upon pickup, she discovered that Turo users begin their rental experience by taking photos of the car so there's a record of any existing scratches or dings. Nguyen was also happy to hear that Turo offers several insurance plans at different price points and deductibles for customers looking for a bit of extra coverage.

One drawback? Turo hosts set their own car delivery fees and they can get pretty pricey (upward of $120). You might also have to put down a deposit in advance.

Getaround

This peer-to-peer option lets you rent a car at an hourly rate and operates in more than 800 cities around the world. Users can book a vast array of vehicles through the Getaround app without meeting anyone in person or coordinating key pickups.

Avail

This service offers free cancellations and no charges for being under 25. As an added bonus, every trip includes full coverage from Allstate insurance, so you don't have to worry about hidden insurance fees being tacked onto your bill.

Zipcar

Zipcar is available in plenty of cities across the country, including 600 university campuses. Members of the service can rent cars on demand at a daily or hourly rate and joining is easy (you just need a valid driver's license).

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