By Caroline Vandergriff

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Roads and airways are expected to be crowded this Memorial Day weekend and throughout the summer, with more and more people anxious to travel after being stuck at home during the pandemic.

A shortage of rental cars across the country could easily ruin those plans.

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“What we’re seeing right now is unprecedented,” said Jonathan Weinberg, founder and CEO of Autoslash.com. “Areas like the state of Hawaii, Alaska, Wyoming – three states that are basically sold out for the entire summer.”

Car rentals have been especially hard to find in major vacation destinations, but even Dallas is experiencing the tight supply.

People without advance reservations were out of luck at the DFW Airport today.

“I went to Hertz, and then I went to National, and then finally they told me that all of them are sold out from yesterday’s weather,” said a woman who ultimately had to get an Uber to drive her five hours home.

The shortage hasn’t just been an issue this week.

“We were waiting in the line and one of the managers came out from the lot and said I’m sorry guys, we have no cars,” said Steven Nardi, who says he booked a rental car two months in advance for a recent trip to North Texas, but still wasn’t able to get one when he arrived at the DFW Airport. “There were no cars in our area. So we were kind of stuck all weekend.”

It’s a much different problem than what rental car companies were facing a year ago when the pandemic brought the travel industry to a halt.

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“The COVID recession was unlike anything we’d ever been through and as a result, a lot of the rental agencies had to make decisions for the survival of their business, and that involved selling off cars and selling off parts of their fleet,” said Steve Sintra, vice-president and GM of KAYAK North America.

Now that demand is back up, rental car companies are having a hard time adding more cars to their lots. New car production has been held up by a global shortage of semiconductor chips, which control a car’s critical systems.

“A number of auto manufacturers have told their dealers they don’t expect to see new inventory until late August, which is obviously going to be far too late for it save the summer travel season,” Weinberg said.

That means the rental car shortage, and the sky-high prices that come with it, is only expected to get worse.

Nationwide, car rental rates for the week of Memorial Day are up 199% from last year, according to AAA. Dallas has seen a 220% increase.

“So when we talk about booking a rental car, book early,” said Joshua Zuber with AAA Texas. “If possible, remain flexible with your travel dates. For example, weekly rates might be less expensive than weekend rates, on a per day basis.”

It’s advice Nardi plans to take when he comes back to North Texas in October.

“I’ll get to see the Cowboys play, so that’s a plus,” he said. “I just wonder how much it’s going to cost me to get back and forth.”

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He’s already budgeting for the added expense, like everyone who plans to travel this year should.

Caroline Vandergriff