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Rental Car Shortage: How to save money when you book

Rental companies sold off inventory to stay afloat last year, but are having a hard time buying new cars to replace them.

INDIANAPOLIS — People are booking rental cars for summer travel, but rental car companies only have so many vehicles available.

That is causing prices that look more like airfare.

Matt Marietta, of Fishers, said he was aware of the rental limitations, but not quite how bad they were. 

"On the north side, there aren't any cars, so the only cars are down here," Marietta said.

That's why he needed to make a trip to the airport to get a rental vehicle for his parents.

Rental car shortages are countrywide right now. Rental companies sold off inventory to stay afloat last year and normally, getting new cars wouldn't be an issue. Except this time around, car manufacturers are behind on production because of the semi-conductor shortage. 

Sara Rathner with NerdWallet said this means high prices and problems for consumers. 

"I mean, you see stories of people renting U-Hauls to drive around Hawaii," Rathner said.

In June it was nearly 88% more expensive to rent a car or truck than the same time last year, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. 

RELATED: Prices for US consumers jumped in June by the most in 13 years

To save money, Rathner said to compare prices using sites like Kayak and Expedia. If you are flying, try bundling services.

"Don't ignore those. They are great sources of information and great ways to shop around," Rathner said.

You will also want to look for discounts through your employer, credit card, wholesale club and memberships like AAA or AARP. Military and veterans may also be eligible for a discount, too.

If you can't find anything at one of the major carriers, there are peer-to-peer car rental services, like an Airbnb for cars.

"One is called Turo, one is called Get Around. Lyft is also getting into rental cars. So you could book those directly through the app and your rental includes the fare to take a lift to the car rental pickup location," Rathner said.

And don't stop searching just because you have a confirmation.

"Continue to shop around because if your rental is refundable, you could cancel your original booking if you find something that's a more favorable price," Rathner said.

When it is time to get the car, they are going to offer you insurance. Double-check your personal policy ahead of time to see if it covers rental cars so you’re not paying for protection twice.

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