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Chris Bryant

The Rental Car Apocalypse Has a Terrible Sequel

A shortage of vehicles and a post-pandemic boom in travel add to the industry’s inflation bonus.

A Hertz Location As 2021 U.S. Car Rental Revenue Climbs 21%
Photographer: Bloomberg/Bloomberg

If you’re itching for a dream vacation this summer after two years of travel restrictions, then you might end up paying more to rent a car than you spend on a plane ticket. And when you reach the front of the queue at the rental counter, don’t be surprised if you’re handed keys to an older vehicle or an unfamiliar brand.

Your inevitable frustration reflects a shortage of new cars amid the post-pandemic travel rebound that’s helping big listed lessors like Avis Budget Group Inc. and Hertz Global Holdings Inc. rack up windfall profits. Analysts expect Avis to earn almost $2 billion of net income in 2022, which is more than it made in the years 2010 to 2019 combined.