Ridiculous or not? Half the car at twice the price

What the heck is going on with car rental prices? Charlotte Drost would like to know.

“I have to pay over $600 for a week of economy rental car rate in Jackson Hole, Wyoming in July,” she says. “These are the most expensive rates I’ve ever seen — and no one would negotiate!”

Across the country and around the world, travelers are being taken aback by high car rental rates. When Charles Ruffner tried to rent a vehicle in Croatia, for example, his agency quoted him a price that was twice what he’d paid just two years before.

“The quality of the car had gone down, too,” he says. “The model had been downgraded and it had many miles on it.”
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Should I book a vacation now — or wait?

In a word: wait. But not too long.

I’ve been getting this question a lot, and I usually refrain from making predictions. No one really knows how prices will fare.

But look at this. These are oil prices during the last three months.


This is the Dow Jones US Airline Index. Remember, stock prices reflect the anticipated future performance of a company.


Here’s the Dow Jones US Hotels Index.


So what does all of this mean? Well, Wall Street is betting that airlines and hotels won’t be as profitable in the near-term (or, perhaps more unprofitable, in the case of airlines). Combine that with lower energy costs, and it’s hard to argue that rates and fares will go up. In fact, the best deals may be just ahead.

If I were a bettin’ man, I’d wait until early 2009 to book my vacation. But don’t hold off for too long. It looks as if oil prices and the major indexes are looking for a bottom.