VFACTS: Rental car sales on the path to recovery


Rental car sales are building steadily from a near standstill during 2020, but holiday bargains may still be in short supply.


It’s fair to suggest that the days of jumping on a last-minute flight and grabbing an otherwise-idle rental car from your destination airport are gone for now. And while sales of new cars to rental fleets have been increasing, you should probably book early if you are planning a holiday!

The rental car industry used to account for around seven per cent of all new car sales in Australia.

During the peak of the pandemic this dropped to less than four per cent (of a smaller market) and has since recovered to six per cent of new cars sales to date in 2021.

But even with signs of a recovery, this still indicates a deficit of tens-of-thousands of available cars, which could make it tricky to secure a booking once travel and movement restrictions start to ease around the country.

A quick scan of rental car aggregation sites shows reasonable prices (under $50 per day for a week-long booking in Noosa in December) from some brands on compact models.

Wind the clock back 12 months, and the lack of vehicle availability had prices reported at nearly triple that.

You may need to settle for the ‘type’ of car too, as the mix of vehicles has changed over the past year.

Light commercial additions to rental fleets have doubled from an average of seven per cent of sales to 16 per cent today. More surprisingly, and inverse to car sales trends in general, SUV additions have dropped from 55 per cent of fleets to just 44 per cent. September sales data even indicates a two per cent gap in favour of passenger cars (45 per cent) to SUVs (43 per cent).

So while things seem to be on the up, don’t count on scoring an upgrade, and pack light!

James has been part of the digital publishing landscape in Australia since 2002 and has worked within the automotive industry since 2007. He joined CarAdvice in 2013, left in 2017 to work with BMW and then returned at the end of 2019 to spearhead the content direction of Drive.

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