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The Road Ahead: How To Rent a Car

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.


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