Rental car crunch leaves Raleigh woman without her reserved rental on Hilton Head trip

While the supply for rental cars was down during the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown, now that travel is back, demand is soaring, which is causing problems for those looking to rent a car.

Jacquelyn Thomas reserved a rental car through Priceline a month before her planned trip to Hilton Head. The confirmation from Priceline shows she reserved a Chevy Tahoe or similar.

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She needed that size and type of vehicle as she wanted one that holds seven passengers. She said the day before she picked up the rental, she called to make sure she'd get a seven-passenger car.

"The representative was like, 'well sure I mean if that's what your confirmation says, that's what you'll get,'" Thomas said.

However, when it came time to pick up the rental there were problems.

"He said I have a great five-passenger Dodge whatever, and I said, 'did you say five-passenger?' He said, 'yes, five.' I said, 'no sir, we reserved a seven-passenger.'"

She showed the confirmation from Priceline, but it didn't help.

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"We even called Priceline the same day and they were like, 'well mama if there are no vehicles. There are no vehicles, I'm sorry, there's nothing we can do,'" Thomas said.

Since the rental offered didn't fit their needs, they were not charged for the rental. Instead, Thomas and her friends had to drive their two own cars to Hilton Head. Once she got back from her vacation, Thomas was still upset that the SUV she reserved wasn't available, so she got in touch with Troubleshooter Diane Wilson, and Wilson reached out to Priceline.

A representative with Priceline issued this statement: "Priceline reserves car rentals based on availability provided by the rental car companies. Vehicles are constantly being rented and returned to the rental car locations, and occasionally the car type reserved is not available at the time a customer arrives at the counter.

Under normal circumstances, when a reserved car class isn't available at the pick-up time, the rental car company provides the customer with the next highest available car class at no additional charge; however, there is a fleet shortage right now, so the rental car companies are doing their best to provide customers with a vehicle that will accommodate their needs from what they have on the lot. Priceline also assists customers on a case-by-case basis to determine a solution that will work for them.
For this particular customer, as the car did not meet her needs, she was not charged for the rental. Additionally, both Avis and Priceline spoke to her this week and have provided goodwill vouchers for use on a future rental."


Thomas was very happy with the resolution offered. She says she will use the voucher and thanked Wilson for helping her get the case resolved.

Here are some tips to make sure you get a rental you need:

Make sure you book early and experts also say booking directly with the car rental company should help guarantee the rental you need. Another tip is to look for rental companies outside of the airport locations, they tend to be less crowded for example may be close to your hotel or vacation rental.
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