Rental vehicle inventory improving, but difficult to find deal

Click to play video: 'Consumer Matters: Summer car rental forecast'
Consumer Matters: Summer car rental forecast
WATCH: If you're planning a road trip this summer, don't expect many deals when it comes to renting a vehicle. Industry experts say supplies are still tight, especially in Canada. Consumer Matters Anne Drewa has details of how to save at the rental counter – Jul 6, 2023

When it comes to renting a car this summer, expect a repeat of last year, experts say.

While vehicle inventory is improving in the U.S. market, there just isn’t enough supply to meet strong seasonable demand in Canada.

“Current climate is rental supplies are about the same as last year. The Canadian access to fleet allocation from the manufacturers has not eased in a particularly significant way,” said Craig Hirota from the Associated Canadian Car Rental Operators.

Hirota also says higher repair costs, financing, and insurance are still burdening the industry.

“The vehicles we have been able to access in the last three years are at significantly higher cost structures than we’ve experienced in the past,” said Hirota.

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B.C. non-smoker hit with smoking fee in car rental nightmare

With a shortage of vehicle inventory, Hirota expects prices to remain on par compared to last year.

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“I don’t have any sense it will be tighter than last year because we have been able to get some vehicles over the course of 24 months, but it will most likely be higher than pre-pandemic levels,” he said.

While prices are expected to remain steady, some money and travel experts say don’t expect many deals either. Travel and personal finance expert Barry Choi and founder of recommends booking your rental vehicle, but checking back frequently for a better price.

“It’s always in your best interest to book a car rental right away and check every week or so to see if the prices have gone down. If it has gone down, just rebook it and cancel your old reservation,” said Choi.

However, he cautions to ensure the car rental policy includes free cancellation and the change is made more than 24 hours before arriving at the rental counter.

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Choi also says the type of rental vehicle you select can make a big difference. Smaller cars like a sedan, for example, can cost less than an SUV.

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“You have to look at the different types of cars and realize that it can be way more cost-efficient to go for a lower class. So, it would be great to drive a convertible down the coast of California, but not if you are spending more than $100 a day,” said Choi.

Also, consider refueling your rental vehicle before returning it or you’ll likely pay more than the local price at the pump.

Renting a vehicle at non-airport locations may also help lower your car rental bill. “It can still be worthwhile to rent off-site, if there are savings that are worthwhile,” said Choi.

Cost compare different locations for the best price and factor in transportation costs and the extra time to pick up the vehicle.

Click to play video: 'Consumer Matters: Car rental nightmare'
Consumer Matters: Car rental nightmare

When it comes to buying the optional collision damage waiver which limits or eliminates your financial liability for any damage to the rental, insurance experts say it can be an unnecessary expense. However, consumers need to understand their current auto insurance policy, home insurance, and credit card insurance.

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“Before you go on your trip, talk to your car insurance provider, because there is coverage through your optional policy,” said BCAA’s Meghan Hill. “The coverage that you have through ICBC or your BC car insurance policy is only applicable in Canada or the U.S. If you are traveling outside of those countries, it’s really important to explore your options.”

Hill also recommends packing your current auto insurance policy to avoid any issues at the rental counter.

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