Economy rental cars are in demand!

I happened to catch a great consumer travel segment with Susan Koeppen on the CBS Early Show.  Koeppen reported that economy rental cars are very much in demand due to high gas prices.  In fact, economy rental cars are quite often selling out across the country.  Koeppen reported that she had tried to rent a economy car yesterday in New York City and discovered imagethat the only car available was a gas guzzling Escalade.

If you’ve been following my  Hawaii vacation saving tips, you know that I advise to rent the smallest car to suit your needs.  With Hawaii’s gas prices being higher than the national average, it’s even more important to think about renting a car that’s easier on gas.

You might book an economy or compact car only to find out that they are all sold out when you arrive at the rental desk.  You’ll likely get stuck with a car or SUV that gets lower gas mileage.  If this happens:

  • Never pay a higher rate for the more expensive “upgrade” rental.  Make sure you are only charged the rate of the car you booked.
  • Ask for compensation like a discount or free tank of gas to off set the higher gas quantities that the bigger car will require.     

How do you increase your chances of getting an economy rental car while there’s such a high demand for them?  Here’s some of the tips:

  1. This first tip is an obvious one, but worth emphasizing.  Start with booking an economy or compact car in advance.  (Note:  I usually use a  travel booking engine like Kayak.com to find the lowest rates.)
  2. Join the membership programs for that car rental company.  You’ll likely get a preferred status.
  3. Consider pre-paying for the economy car, which should increase the likelihood that you’ll get what you reserved and paid for.  If you don’t get the economy rental and you’ve pre-paid, you should really kick up a fuss and ask for discounts to compensate you for the higher gas consumption.

What size car do you usually rent on vacation?  If you don’t normally opt for the more gas efficient cars, are you now more inclined to want to rent them now?

2 comments
  1. Sheila, I just returned from Hawaii a couple weeks ago, and the gas prices are not much highter than the mainland. Yes, Maui was running about $4.46/gal, but I was told to expect almost a whole dollar difference, so as the saying goes, “Prepare for the worst, and pleasantly surprised by anything else.” Oahu was running any where from $4.04-14/gallon. Right now my town in PA is at $4.05/gallon. So it’s not as bad as it COULD BE!!

  2. Joanne – That’s good news for Hawaii residents and travelers.

    It’s very unusual that Hawaii’s gas prices are in line with mainland prices. We were on the Big Island in March and paying probably at least 25 cents more per gallon that what we pay in North Carolina.

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