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Get in Line Now for Your Rental Car, RV

April 28, 2002|Jane Engle

LAS VEGAS — If you plan to rent a car or RV for the peak summer season, you should act now, experts say. And you may be paying more than you did last summer.

"You're going to have a lot of customers vying for fewer cars and paying higher rates" in the summer, predicted Neil Abrams, president of New York-based Abrams Consulting Group.

Although the rental business so far is down about 15% from a year ago, companies have cut their fleets by that much or more, tightening the supply of cars, he said. Rates, which usually drop a little after Christmas, have instead increased about 30% this year, said Jon LeSage, vice president of Long Beach-based Abrams Travel Data Services, a subsidiary of Abrams.

Especially for travel on peak weekends starting with Memorial Day, "if you don't book now, you won't get the car you want," Abrams said.

The RV outlook is more mixed. At El Monte RV in Santa Fe Springs, which claims to be the second-largest RV rental operator in the U.S., business in March was up 42% from last year and "April is looking really strong," said Joe Laing, director of marketing. As a result, RV rental rates are somewhat higher, but a more pressing issue is availability. "If [renters] really want to travel in July or August, they should book by the end of May," he said.

At Mesa, Ariz.-based Cruise America Inc., which claims to be the largest RV rental company in North America, more Americans are booking RVs but fewer foreigners are, said Bob Caldarone, assistant vice president of marketing. Overall availability is therefore good and rates are stable, he said.

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