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6 budget-friendly ways to rent a car and avoid sky-high prices this summer

By: Melissa Wiley

The United States is facing a rental-car apocalypse.

Rental-car prices have soared in recent weeks, Insider's Brittany Chang reported. The increase in prices is in part due to an increase in travel demand. There's also a nationwide shortage in rental cars, as companies like Hertz and Avis sold parts of their fleet to stay afloat during the pandemic, Insider previously reported.

In extreme cases, car rental prices have skyrocketed to as much as $700 per day, Chris Woronka, a senior hotel and leisure analyst at Deutsche Bank, previously told Insider.

Fortunately for travelers, there are a few lesser-known alternatives to traditional rental-car companies.

Here are six creative ways to avoid sky-high rental-car prices this summer.

1. Rent someone else's personal car through Turo

Turo is a car-sharing app that functions like an Airbnb for cars.

Any driver over the age of 18 can sign up for the app and rent other people's personal vehicles for periods of a few hours to months.

Prices vary depending on the car make, model, location, and owner, and what add-ons you choose, like having the owner fill up the gas tank, adding insurance, or requesting that the owner drive the car to you. While the company's website states that rentals start at $25 per day, some owners offer cheaper per diem rates, and long-term discounts can lower daily rates as well.

Turo has 450,000 listings across 5,500 cities in the US and Canada, according to its website.

2. Rent an RV through Outdoorsy

Outdoorsy is like Turo, but for RVs.

Through Outdoorsy, travelers over the age of 25 can rent campers and RVs directly from owners. Prices average between $50 and $275 a night, depending on the season, location, and amenities, according to the company. Some owners offer delivery to your location for an additional fee as well as discounts for long-term rentals.

The platform has more listings in sunnier states like California but is an option in many cities across the US, which are listed here.

3. Book a pickup truck through U-Haul

U-Haul trucks are typically associated with moving, but if you don't mind traveling around with the U-Haul brand logo, they make for a great rental-car alternative.

Pickup-truck rental rates start at $20 per day and are offered at 20,000 locations across the US and Canada, according to U-Haul's rental website. Travelers must be at least 18 years old to rent U-Haul trucks.

4. Look into Home Depot & Lowe's truck rentals, too

Home repair stores like Home Depot and Lowe's also offer truck rentals.

Home Depot truck rentals are available to travelers over the age of 21 with proof of insurance and start at $129 for an F250 Flatbed Truck Rental. They can be rented through a store's special services desk or tool rental center.

Lowe's truck rentals start at $89 per day for an eight-foot Chevy Silverado 1500 with proof of insurance. Lowe's trucks are available on a first-come, first-serve basis at select stores, according to their rental page, so the company recommends that travelers call ahead to their local store.

Both Home Depot and Lowe's permit unlimited miles, but require renters to bring trucks back with a full tank of gas.

5. Use Amtrak's AutoTrain to travel between Virginia and Florida

If you're looking to travel from Virginia to Florida or vice versa, check out AmTrak's AutoTrain, Edward Pizzarello suggested in an article for The Points Guy.

The AutoTrain transports passengers, as well as their automobiles.

The 14-hour route runs directly between Lorton, VA, about 20 miles south of Washington, DC, and ends in Sanford, Florida, about the same distance from Orlando. It can transport up to 330 cars plus passengers.

The cost to store a standard car, which includes SUVs and trucks, runs between $204 and $254 one-way, according to Pizzarello. Priority offloading is an additional $65 per car.

Adult coach seats currently start at $89 one way, according to Amtrak's AutoTrain landing page. Roomettes and sleeper cabins are available at higher price points.

6. Check car dealerships for "try before you buy" offers and rental programs

Another method, Pizzarello suggests, is going to car dealers and taking out a vehicle as part of their "try before you buy" offers.

Some car companies, like Nissan and Toyota, also offer rental-car programs. It's important to note that rentals aren't available at all dealerships across the US, and that prices vary depending on a dealership's location.

For example, it costs around $20 per day to rent a Nissan sedan in Orange, California, and $50 per day to rent a Nissan sedan in Jackson Heights, New York.



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