Are we doing this right, it’s End of Year Resolutions, right? No? Ok, then let’s try something new. AutoRentals.com is starting a new 3 Zooms Bi-Weekly Review. That’s right, every two weeks, we’ll share three topics about car rental, travel, the internet, web technologies, user experience or anything else interesting. Buckle up, here’s our first 3 Zooms.
Zoom #1: UFO(Drive) sightings throughout the USA
First, let’s get the pronunciation right. It’s not “U-F-O Drive”. It’s “oo-foe drive”. And, it’s not your typical car rental. With a focus on electric vehicles and phone-as-a-key rental process, UFODrive stands apart from traditional car rental. Starting in and then expanding throughout Europe, UFODrive has recently set its sights on the world’s number one car rental market – the United States. Already operating in San Francisco, Las Vegas, Austin, Chicago, New York and Boston (with Miami coming soon), UFODrive is bringing higher expectations to the car rental process to the US.
Instead of a traditional rental counter and agent, the entire process goes through the UFODrive mobile app. The specific make and model you reserve is the one you’ll receive. As a renter, you’ll complete the verification process ahead of pickup time so that you can walk up the vehicle, open up the app and open up the car – heading out quickly from the UFODrive location. There are still some challenges left to overcome from previous entries into this experience in the US market like SilverCar and even ZipCar. And, some portion of the renters will be first time EV drivers who will have range anxiety and have a steep learning curve. Customer education and the UFODrive app will be key in providing a seamless experience for the renter and allow this EV rental company to scale.
Zoom #2: Pack your skis, and your patience
We’re heading into prime ski season (already there with the accumulation of “Powda” in Park City) and if last year was any indication, hitting the slopes will be busier than ever. Last year, multiple ski resorts reported record sales of lift tickets and pre-purchase sales for 2023 are even higher. What’s driving the growth? It’s day pass skiers, not season pass downhill enthusiasts. The resorts prefer it that way as snowboarders and skiers on weeklong and weekend trips spend greatly more per day than season pass holders. The demand was already developing in August when Vail Resorts began to put a limit on day lift tickets sold for the season.
If you are considering a ski trip, or already have one booked, don’t hesitate to lock in your rental car immediately. The demand will be sky high in the Mile High City (and elsewhere out West), so book your AWD SUV ASAP. Or, consider other destinations, like the Northeast (hello Vermont!) where demand may be a little lower.
Zoom #3: Have you seen these prices?
We have; and there’s some surprises. We study these prices inside and out, backwards and forward. It’s part of what we do best – gather rates from the widest set of car rental suppliers, online travel agencies and car rental brokers across the world to present to you. Let’s just say – 2021 was a really unique year for car rental. The chip shortage leading to limited inventory, multiple bankruptcies, rebounding demand from the pandemic – prices were wild. The 2022 holiday season has seen a decrease from the highs in 2021 in the aggregate. One surprising nugget? The prices have really started to drop as we get closer to Christmas day. Even though prices started out higher than 2019 & 2020, the average total rate per day actually dipped below both those years starting about 7 days out from the peak pickup day of December 22, 2022. As of today (4 days out from that peak day), the prices are down 18% from 2019 at the same time range.
Florida car rental markets lead the way in price drops in 2022 compared to 2019 and 2020, while price increases are being seen in the New York airport markets and Hawaii. Will we see 2023 rates similar to 2019? Or, and more likely, will the higher daily rates that have boosted the top and bottom line of car rental companies continue forward as demand continues to increase and fleet becomes more available?
That’s the finish line on the first Zoom-Zoom-Zoom. See you in 2023!