Hertz Canceling Some Car Rental Reservations Over Eclipse Weekend

Filed Under: Hertz, Rental Cars

Eclipse mania is sweeping the nation from coast-to-coast. Or at least in every city, town, or map dot near or within the 70-mile wide path of totality. Businesses fortunate enough to be located along that strip of land are having their moment in the sun, or shall we say shadow.

As part of our eclipse coverage here on OMAAT, I had my good friend Dawn — an eclipse enthusiast who has spent a decade planning for the big one — share 7 of her tips for viewing the eclipse. My family will be joining her’s and a hundred thousand of our closest friends in the middle of nowhere Wyoming, which is ranked as one of the best viewing spots based on the probability of good weather. We paid $60 per night (minimum four nights) for a site at one of the state parks, which I thought was gouging given that the regular nightly rate is $30, no minimum stay required. But I expect my reselling friends would now be telling me that I should have bought out the entire campground and then resold them to the highest bidder, making enough to put one of my kids through college.

I exaggerate, but only a little.

Anyway, a few days ago we learned that Hertz has cancelled some car rental reservations for eclipse weekend. They are apparently claiming that some of their more popular locations are oversold, meaning they accepted more reservations than they have cars available. So they just canceled a few, unilaterally. And that’s sort of the rub with car rentals — nothing is really guaranteed, though some rental companies are better than others.

Worse yet, Hertz didn’t even have the courtesy to inform these customers directly, and instead used robocalls to notify them that they’d been left high and dry. Just lovely…

The irony of course is that Hertz actually has an entire website dedicated to renting cars for the eclipse. (Interestingly, it has a domain from the United Kingdom.)

Hertz website for the 2017 solar eclipse

How much does it cost to rent a car for eclipse weekend?

The cynic in me wonders if Hertz is canceling some lower value reservations now that they have seen just how high the demand for cars is that weekend. This would allow them to continue to sell more high value reservations, thus maximizing profits.

I took a peek at a few key cities, assuming a Saturday to Tuesday rental period.

Denver, for example, is about a 3-hour drive away from prime viewing territory in Wyoming to the north, or Nebraska to the northeast. The good news is that cars are still available in Denver, and they aren’t too terribly expensive. That’s right, $125 per day is a good deal, just wait.

Rental car prices in Denver for eclipse weekend

In St. Louis, the cheapest vehicle to rent is a pickup truck which would give you a nice place to lay out and watch the show. It’s actually a really good deal too.

Rental car prices in St. Louis for eclipse weekend

Then we get to Portland, which some think is going to be the best eclipse viewing location. It’s also one of the bigger population centers near the path of totality. Most of the car rental companies are sold out, but there is one place offering vehicles in Portland, at a rate of about $1,500 per day. I think at some point I might just be tempted to buy an old clunker off of Craigslist and then donate it to a charity before flying home.

Rental car prices in Portland for eclipse weekend. Don’t worry, Orbitz says it’s a great deal!

But at least you can rent a vehicle in Portland. Boise is completely sold out.

Boise is out of rental cars for eclipse weekend

Bottom line

Rental cars are in high demand for the Great American Solar Eclipse of 2017. The path of totality is mostly outside of urban areas, so most everyone that is flying in for the event is going to need transportation to a viewing site. That is straining the capacity of the car rental agencies, and sending prices through the roof. If you haven’t made a reservation yet, do it soon.

Do you have all of your travel plans in place for the Great Solar Eclipse of 2017?

(Tip of the hat to View from the Wing)

  1. What if you do a pre-paid rental? Are those safer or more prone to be canceled as they are usually lower rates

  2. I live in Boise, and there’s definitely Eclipse mania here. It’s all that the news has been talking about for weeks, and every store has Eclipse glasses, t-shirts, etc. I think half of my office is taking that day off! I’ll be watching the Eclipse during my lunch hour from the work parking lot.

  3. Hertz used to be THE place to rent a car. Someone decided to destroy the brand and nowadays I only rent from Hertz if they are the only option or way cheaper than the competition. That was the case 2 weeks ago in Italy and I had the worst experience ever renting a car. My place to go for car rental is National.

  4. And THAT’s why I bust my rear maintaining executive elite status with National. I can still book a car – even in Boise.

  5. If you live in Boise and want to rent your car out, have a look at Turo.com. Someone’s trying to rent their 2011 BMW for $500 / day, so there’s a nice benchmark. Maybe you can get $300 / day for an old pickup!

  6. Prepaid using Budget from Louisville. I hope that makes it less likely we’ll have a canceled reservation.

    Going to Hopkinsville to see the eclipse.

  7. @Matt – I immediately thought of this Seinfeld moment (probably only those of us of a certain age would remeber it). Glad you dug up the clip.

    I’ll be driving from Seattle with my son. I have no idea what to expect traffic wise. A friend from Bend, OR expects complete mayhem. I’m trying to plan our destination along the path based on:

    1) Weather (avoid clouds)
    2) Road traffic capacity (preferring multi-lane freeways to basic highways)
    3) Popularity of destination (the I5 corridor to Portland will be a mess, I assume).
    4) Travel time

    Right now, I’m looking at Baker City (6 hour drive – not accounting for traffic) or salem (4.5h), both just within the northern edge of totality.

    Anyone making the same plans? Any good intel on expected traffic, etc.?

  8. Born and raised in Wyoming. Left as soon as I could; wanted to see the world. Now the world comes to Casper with 2:30min of totality. Will be there to witness a once in a lifetime event.

  9. Hertz used to be my choice for car rentals but like all the other companies,the cost of one way renting is extremely high without an airline reservation/ticket.,™NEWS FLASH…EVERYONE DOSEN’T FLY™

  10. Hertz’s website is screwy. Once, I went to reserve a car and the “Pay Now” was significantly higher than the option “Pay when you pickup”. I contacted Hertz support about that and their response was to not trust the prices on the website. Odd.

    About six years ago, I heard a story from a system administrator who had some close dealings with the IT operations at car rental companies. I do not know if this was Hertz but he told a story of the bunch of minivans were going to a particular agency in Florida. That was not too unusual until someone noticed that their nation-wide stock of minivans was almost depleted for one particular weekend. That is when they noticed that one of their software developers was testing new software on a production system. Idiots.

  11. I guess I am in the minority but I don’t seem to be able to develop any interest whatsoever in this event. I can’t really imagine taking off work or driving anywhere to see less than 3 minutes of “totality”. Around here it gets dark for hours and hours every night and no one finds it remarkable.

  12. We live in Milwaukee. To see the eclipse in southern Illinois, we reserved two rooms at the Hampton Inn-Champaign/Urbana using our Hilton points. (This hotel is now sold out but as of yesterday there were still some Hilton-owned properties available for points in the Champaign/Urbana area.) All available Hilton-owned properties in southern Illinois and eastern Missouri that are within 100 miles of both sides of the path of totality are sold out. I also checked campgrounds and they’re all booked. So….we snagged the Champaign Hampton Inn and will drive the 3 hours south to Carbondale-area to view the eclipse.

    We plan on leaving extremely early in the morning in case there is crazy traffic jams in rural Illinois. (There are only so many roads in/out of small towns.) We’re also bringing our bikes along to give us some flexibility once we get there. Once we park our car, we’re staying put. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime event for us and we intend to fully enjoy it. Lots of festivals in small towns everywhere.

  13. I had a similar experience with Hertz a couple of months ago. I had prepaid for a reservation for a 4 day weekend trip. Not a holiday but just an average summer weekend. When I arrived to pick up my prepaid car, I was told there was no car for me. I then had to fight with them for over a month to get my prepayment back. This seems to be a common problem with Hertz that I have not had with other car rental companies.

  14. What a bummer if you spent large, travelled hundreds of miles, and then it was raining with full cloud cover. Then it gets dark momentarily and you stand in night rain. Epic fail.

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