One year after the coronavirus outbreak, renting a car sure is a different experience. At least it is for someone like Alena Iskanderova. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, car rental locations were often crowded and the vehicles were pricey. Sometimes, the vehicles were clean, sometimes not, she recalls. What a difference a year makes. Prices are dramatically lower now. In some markets, they've plunged by up to 40%. Today, the car rental locations are quiet, and the employees keep a safe distance. "Many rental companies have decreased the interactions between their employees and customers," says Iskanderova, a paleontologist from Seattle. The vehicles are squeaky clean, but she doesn't take any chances. She always packs disinfecting wipes and cleans the steering wheel and other high-touch areas before driving away. Iskanderova also stores all of her personal items in a zip-lock bag. Renting has changed — a lot. I covered some of the immediate shifts for FORBES last year. But some of the changes appear to have become permanent. What do you need to know about renting a car now? Here's what you have to know before you rent a car:
Demand for rental cars is increasing but is still well below 2019 levels.
The experience is dramatically different. Rental companies are sanitizing their vehicles and offering more touchless rentals.
During the months ahead, your car rental company may run out of vehicles even if you have a confirmed reservation. Plan ahead.