Americans in the market for a rental car have much to complain about lately. First there’s sticker shock: Rental costs are astronomically higher than even pre-pandemic levels. Then there’s supply: Even with price hikes, there aren’t enough vehicles to go around.
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The causes are no great mystery. The COVID-19 pandemic had a devastating impact on the major car rental agencies. With travel at a standstill, bookings nosedived last spring. Rental operators sold large portions of their fleets and curtailed new purchases as demand contracted. The turmoil was enough to push even long-established industry leader Hertz into bankruptcy.
A year later, the landscape looks completely different. More than four months into a nationwide vaccination campaign, travel is picking up again. Vehicle bookings are way up year over year, and both established rental agencies and venture-funded upstarts are seeing their revenue jump.
“It was a total…