MILWAUKEE — If you're planning an out-of-state trip, typically your first step is to look at airfare, then line up a hotel and finally, book your car rental. Travel experts say that the planning process is being turned upside down because the supply of rental cars can't keep up with demand.
"We're actually seeing people booking trips, booking vacations, and then having to cancel them because they can't get a rental car and they don't want to deal with not being able to get around," said Jonathan Weinberg, founder of car rental website AutoSlash.com.
AutoSlash.com gives you quotes for car rentals and helps you find the best deals in whatever city you're traveling to.
Weinberg says at the start of the pandemic, rental car companies sold off up to 50 percent of their fleets, a decision that's coming back to bite them considering the recent surge in travel demand.
Add a computer chip shortage impacting vehicles to the mix and car rental companies are scrambling to rebuild inventory.
"The rental car companies are actually buying used vehicles right now, they're buying them at auction because they can't get any new vehicles to supply the demand that they're seeing. That's something that we've never seen," said Weinberg.
Weinberg explains a lack of inventory means people are paying a lot more.
"Rental car pricing is running anywhere from double to triple what we normally see," he said.
Before taxes and fees in Milwaukee, AutoSlash.com reports rental car prices for this upcoming weekend (June 19-20) start at $81 a day, and 4th of July weekend, prices start at $102 a day.
Weinberg says that's double the normal price.
He says Hawaii, Alaska, Montana, and Wyoming are states particularly hit hard with inventory issues, but dealerships across the country are impacted.
So, what can you do to save?
Sign up for discounts: Costco and AAA are two memberships offering savings.
To avoid long lines at airports, book your rental car as far in advance as you can and sign up for rental car companies' free loyalty programs.
Also, you can expand your search and check with car dealerships in the city you're traveling to and ask if they have any rentals. Or, try out a car-sharing service like Turo or Getaround where you can rent a car from a private owner.