By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily
Travelers often take for granted that once they fly somewhere, they can just rent a car and cruise around their destination.
Not this year.
“People are flying (to Jackson) and driving down to Salt Lake City to get rental cars, changing their plans,” said Justin Walters at the Jackson Hole Chamber of Commerce. “Some people are canceling altogether.”
It’s a “carpocalypse”, according to some in the industry. Car rental companies had to sell their inventory to cut costs during the pandemic. Additionally, a shortage of critical components has hampered the manufacture of new vehicles. So now that Americans are traveling again, the demand far outpaces the supply.
In addition to the shortage of inventory, the price of a rental car has gone through the roof.
Michelle Walters from Cheapcarrental.net says that rental car rates across the U.S. are, on average, about 30% higher than average rental car rates from the same time two years ago.
Closer to home, though, that percentage increase is actually quite conservative. The current rate for a rental car in Jackson is 10 times higher than the national average.
Say, for example, you wanted to rent a Toyota Corrolla for a week, beginning Friday, June 17. To pick that vehicle up from the Jackson Airport, the cost would be $5,201 (according to the website KAYAK).
Of course, Jackson is known for its high-end visitors and high-dollar real estate. Cody, on the other side of Yellowstone National Park, has lodging rates and food prices that are more reasonable.
So to rent a car in Cody should be much more affordable than in Jackson, right? Of course it is! That same Toyota Corrolla would rent in Cody, at the same time, for just… $1,678.
It seems the closer you get to a major tourist destination like Yellowstone National Park, the higher the car rental rates are.
To rent a similar vehicle in Cheyenne for the same time period, a person would pay just $660 – a fraction of the cost in either Cody OR Jackson. And Rock Springs is even less expensive – a Kia Rio rented for that same week in June would cost just $218.
Options for travelers in high-demand destinations in the state are limited. There are some taxi services – a quick Google search shows over a dozen such operations in the Jackson area – but Uber and Lyft aren’t as prevalent in Wyoming as they are in more urban areas.
And perhaps some budding entrepreneurs might start renting out their cars, like many rent out their homes.
An AirBnB-type business called Turo allows people to offer their personal vehicles for rent – but that option hasn’t yet caught on in rural areas like Wyoming.
So until a solution presents itself, travelers will have to prepare for some hefty sticker shock if they are hoping to rent a vehicle while traveling this summer.