Astronomical rental car prices have eased, but will they skyrocket again?

Oct 25, 2021, 6:25 PM | Updated: 9:18 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — Whew! We survived it. The 2021 rental car apocalypse seems to be winding down.

After months of astronomical rates for car rentals, prices are finally falling back to Earth.

But the pandemic is not over and there is still a shortage of new cars, so why are rental prices coming back down? And will they stay there? 

If you have reserved a moving van to avoid paying an arm and leg for an economy rental car, travel expert Scott Keyes of Scott’s Cheap Flights has some good news. 

“You no longer need to plan to pack the family into a U-Haul rental,” said Keyes. “You no longer have to plan to rent a pickup truck from Home Depot. You can probably go the normal route for your rental car on your next vacation.” 

Vacationers were actually renting moving trucks in Hawaii over the spring and summer as prices shot up to $1,000 to $2,000 for five-day rentals.

Rental rates were sky high all over the country as travel demand surged after taking a drastic hit when the pandemic erupted.

Travel site Hopper pegged the national average rate at $120 per day over the summer, compared to $45 before the pandemic.

Struggling rental car companies sold off hundreds of thousands of cars to stay afloat. 

“In the spring and summer of 2021, the car rental agencies were left flat-footed and had to jack up the price until they could start to replenish those fleets,” Keyes explained. 

Fast forward to today, rentals are going for normal, pre-pandemic levels, according to Keyes’ latest price check. 

“The prices were essentially how they had been pre-pandemic. Orlando, the daily rates again were $20 a day. Vegas, $36 a day, Honolulu $32, Denver $43. So, these are the types of kind of normal daily car rental prices that I think folks had come to expect pre-pandemic,” said Keyes. 


Supply chain issues continue to hurt the car industry, with new cars rolling off the line slower than most would like. But the rental car companies have managed to slowly rebuild their fleets after selling off most of their inventory to financially survive 2020. 

“While they haven’t, I think, quite entirely replenished their fleets, there’s still certainly a shortage of demand for our supply for cars nationwide,” Keyes explained. “They’ve been able to piece-by-piece, slowly but surely, buy more cars.” 

Because of that, Keyes believes the eye-popping, wallet-gouging rates will not make a comeback when the spring and summer travel season returns. 

“It’s going to stay a little bit more stable, a little bit more predictable, and that’s going to prevent the types of wild price swings that we saw in car rental prices earlier this year,” he said. 

Keyes does expect car rental prices to go up somewhat for the holidays. 

“If you were looking to rent over the Christmas, New Year’s period, it is going to be more expensive, but that’s how it’s going to be every year,” he explained. “You can expect that all the prices of everything related to travel, tend to jump over the winter holiday period. Your best bet in many ways is actually to make that reservation today.” 

Keyes added we should keep checking rental rates, even after you have booked the car.

He recommends always booking as soon as you know your dates, so if prices drop — you can rebook the car at the cheaper rate and then cancel the old reservation. 

KSL 5 TV Live

KSL Investigates

(KSL TV)...

Matt Gephardt & Cimaron Neugebauer

Bountiful woman left without phone service or answers days after her husband dies

When you pay for a phone service, you expect it to work. But after being unable to make or receive calls despite reaching out to the provider multiple times to fix it – a Utah woman decided it was time to Get Gephardt.

1 day ago

Cami Johnson reported to police in 2017 that she was drugged and sexually assaulted by her ex-husba...

Daniella Rivera

Sexual assault survivor says delays in police investigation allowed perpetrator to attack a teenager

A Utah woman said delays in properly investigating her report of sexual assault allowed her perpetrator to remain free and attack a teenage girl more than a year later. The KSL Investigators examined the timeline of multiple investigations involving the same man.

1 day ago

In the moment they feel like small purchases, right? An ornament here. A stocking stuffer there. A ...

Matt Gephardt

How you can avoid holiday debt despite the pressure to spend

In the moment they feel like small purchases, right? An ornament here. A stocking stuffer there. A last-minute office gift. But all this can quickly add up to a financial holiday hangover. And perhaps it’s one you’re still feeling from the last holiday season.

2 days ago

After a yearlong fight for a copy of the Utah attorney general’s schedule, KSL’s attorneys have...

Annie Knox and Daniella Rivera

KSL files motion seeking release of AG’s calendar in public records fight

After a yearlong fight for a copy of the Utah attorney general’s schedule, KSL’s attorneys have asked a judge to order the release of the records, without the case going to trial.

2 days ago

Man's picture with details about him...

Daniella Rivera

Sandy case highlights challenges tracking sex offenders who move across state lines

The KSL Investigators have been following the case of a convicted sex offender from California who moved into a Sandy neighborhood but did not show up on Utah's registry for nearly a year. Now, we don't know where he is, but we do know he's not a resident at the latest address he gave to authorities.

3 days ago

Debra Gamero teaches a student...

Matt Gephardt

The insurance you didn’t know you needed to protect your side hustle

Having a side hustle to bring in extra cash requires determination and hard work. But if you do it without the right insurance policy, you might find an unexpected event could blow up your side hustle along with your finances.

10 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Stylish room interior with beautiful Christmas tree and decorative fireplace...

Lighting Design

Create a Festive Home with Our Easy-to-Follow Holiday Prep Guide

Get ready for festive celebrations! Discover expert tips to prepare your home for the holidays, creating a warm and welcoming atmosphere for unforgettable moments.

Battery low message on mobile device screen. Internet and technology concept...

PC Laptops

9 Tips to Get More Power Out of Your Laptop Battery

Get more power out of your laptop battery and help it last longer by implementing some of these tips from our guide.

Users display warnings about the use of artificial intelligence (AI), access to malicious software ...

Les Olson

How to Stay Safe from Cybersecurity Threats

Read our tips for reading for how to respond to rising cybersecurity threats in 2023 and beyond to keep yourself and your company safe.

Design mockup half in white and half in color of luxury house interior with open plan living room a...

Lighting Design

Lighting Design 101: Learn the Basics

These lighting design basics will help you when designing your home, so you can meet both practical and aesthetic needs.

an antler with large horns int he wilderness...

Three Bear Lodge

Yellowstone in the Fall: A Wildlife Spectacle Worth Witnessing

While most people travel to this park in the summer, late fall in Yellowstone provides a wealth of highlights to make a memorable experience.

a diverse group of students raising their hands in a classroom...

Little Orchard Preschool

6 Benefits of Preschool for Kids

Some of the benefits of preschool for kids include developing independence, curiosity, and learning more about the world.

Astronomical rental car prices have eased, but will they skyrocket again?