When the COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States in March 2020, the travel and transportation industry was hammered by a lack of demand for products and services. 

Tens of millions of people from coast to coast were forced to cancel and reschedule travel plans. Air travel, sea voyages and road travel were all uprooted for months. 

Then the Spring of 2021 came. The vaccine was released to individuals over the age of eighteen and travel endured an uptick in demand. The demand for travel increased but a supply chain issue loomed. 

The demand for rental cars in the Spring of 2021 has so far outpaced the supply of rental fleets in the United States. Rental giants like Hertz declared for bankruptcy, but may be bought by investors and emerge from bankruptcy. Rental car giants were forced to sell off dormant rental fleets

What Happened to All of The Car Rental Fleets? 

With the extreme lack of demand for travel and travel related services – businesses in the travel industry had to pivot and adjust to the changing times of the pandemic. These adjustments involved offloading rental vehicle fleets in an attempt to reduce overhead and storage fees in lots. Due to the lack of demand during the pandemic, rental car lots from coast to coast were overfilled with inventory and had to offload their inventory to buyers in the market.

Compounded on top of the fleet is a shortage for semiconductor chips that are used in a plethora of different electronic devices (including new cars). Due to this shortage in semiconductors, the supply chain has been impacted. Rental car companies have atypically been buying used cars to help offset the impact of semiconductor chips in the new car market.

What Can I Do If I Can’t Afford a Rental Car?

With exorbitant prices in the rental car industry, there are some alternative routes to the fees that the major players are charging. While some are less conventional than others, the options below can help individuals unwilling to pay the high prices, or unable to secure a rental car at the airport. 


VRBO is an online service that connects people looking to rent out their vehicles with individuals looking for rental vehicles. Think of it as an airbnb ® for cars.

Instead of having to work within the rental car industry giants, people that rent from VRBO work with individuals that are willing to rent out their vehicles. Much of the vehicles available on VRBO are cheaper than their rental car counterparts and are more robust than the traditional route. 

Many of the vehicles available on VRBO vary between $70 – $130 a day. It’s important to consider however that a $130 vehicle from a rental car company may get you an entry level compact four door vehicle, while $130 on VRBO can get you in a recently purchased Tesla.

It’s also important to consider that car insurance is generally separate from the first sticker price. Auto insurance is mandatory to protect individuals in the event of auto accidents and injuries. Depending on the value of the vehicle, the drivers age and driving record, the cost of insurance can vary.   

While researching the most affordable vehicles in the Denver, CO area – many of the more affordable price points came out to $75-95 a day including insurance. Keep in mind that there may be additional charges for picking or dropping off a vehicle along with maximum mileages. Simply put – read the fine print

Home Depot

You know Home Depot as a home improvement store. But as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the store may begin to wear a different hat for travelers in a bind. 

Due to the surging prices of rental vehicles individuals in binds have found themselves booking trucks through Home Depot. Ensure that the individual renting the Home Depot truck understands any mileage policies associated with the rental. Overlooking these policies can lead to potential surprise fees for a renter. 


If you’re seriously in a crunch and have exhausted all other options available, or within your price range, a U-Haul may be an option to get around if your group is less than three people.  Biggest drawback of going the route of an oversized vehicle are the blind spots, cramped cab space and fuel efficiency. The biggest pro is the cargo holds space so save that money and that fancy hotel for another time and camp out in the bed of the U-Haul! 

Keep in mind that the bigger the vehicle, the poorer the mileage. Think about choosing the smallest vehicle available. If a pickup truck is available at the local U-Haul, consider this option.