Photo: Zivica Kerkez/Shutterstock

If You’re Thinking of Renting a Car to See the Solar Eclipse, You Might Already Be Too Late

by Eben Diskin Feb 15, 2024

The solar eclipse is approaching, and people are getting creative when it comes to viewing it. Gone are the days of simply standing in your backyard, looking up for 20 seconds, saying, “woah, cool,” and then going back inside. Now, people are planning entire vacations around the solar eclipse to give themselves the most epic, memorable viewing experience.

The 2024 solar eclipse is taking place in North America on April 8. Its path of totality, where the moon passes directly in front of the sun, is the best geographic strip from which to view it. The 115-mile path stretches from Mazatlan in Mexico across 13 US states to Canada’s Atlantic coast.

Solar eclipse map

Photo: NASA

Whether you live in the eclipse path or not, solar eclipse road trips seem to be a trend this year. According to Priceline, there’s been a surge in demand for rental cars in cities in the eclipse path. For example, Priceline’s searches for rental cars in the path of totality are skyrocketing.

“Demand for rental cars is picking up, especially in cities with high daily rates,” Christina Bennette, Consumer Travel Expert for Priceline, tells Matador Network. “Cleveland, for example, has had a 1,500 percent increase in searches for car rentals the weekend of the solar eclipse. It seems like eclipse enthusiasts are gearing up for some road-trip action.”

Enterprise Rent-A-Car is seeing a similar trend, with a notable increase in rental activity in key locations along the path of totality on and around April 8. “Some areas of Texas and Oklahoma are showing more than double the bookings as compared to the same time frame the previous year,” Michael Wilmering, Public Relations Manager for Enterprise, tells Matador Network. “Rentals in Austin and San Antonio in particular are in high demand. We are also seeing increased demand in areas throughout Ohio, New England, and upstate New York.”

This increased demand is consistent across all three of their rental brands – Enterprise, National, and Alamo – and is expected to continue growing as spring approaches.

But it’s not just rental cars. Travel searches in general are on the rise in cities tied to the eclipse. That means flights and hotels, too.

“Overall, this year’s solar eclipse is creating quite the spike in travel demand,” says Bennett. “We’ve seen over 2,000 percent more searches for flights to Indianapolis and 8,000 percent more searches for Buffalo hotels compared to the same time period in 2023.” She also notes that cities like San Antonio, Austin, Dallas, Indianapolis, Cleveland, Buffalo, and Shreveport are seeing premium pricing, indicating a heightened general interest in these locations from would-be travelers searching for cars, flights, and hotels.

RVs are also seeing a spike in demand. According to RVshare, one of the biggest communities for RV owners and renters, RV bookings in the path of totality are at least 20 times higher for this year’s solar eclipse than other popular travel dates throughout the year.

“Spanning across multiple states, we will see travelers come from all over the world to experience the best and longest eclipse views,” RVshare’s Travel Expert, Maddi Bourgerie, said in a press release. “When analyzing our data from the last total solar eclipse in 2017, we know RV rentals close to the path of totality will be sold out.”

Is it too late to rent a car for the eclipse?

The prognosis for RV rentals this year doesn’t look promising, but what about cars? Conventional wisdom for rental car bookings seems to be: book early but late is better than never. Cars are going fast for the eclipse, but there’s still plenty of inventory. To be sure you get the car you want in your location of choice, book as soon as you can.

“Reserving a vehicle as early as possible for future travel continues to be critical,” Wilmering notes. “Providing flexible dates and branch pick up locations in your search may help to increase your options. Enterprise can redirect customers to other nearby options – if available – during the online reservation process when they are booking, if their selected option is showing no vehicle availability.”

KAYAK is predicting a similar rental scarcity around the eclipse. “With the increase in search demand for rental cars in the cities near the eclipse, if you’re hoping to score a deal, now’s a good time to act as prices will likely increase the closer we get to the eclipse,” Jake Bouvrie, KAYAK’s Chief Economist, tells Matador Network. “With this being a popular spring break week for some areas, it’s better to book now to help ensure availability.”

The good news? The path of totality is long. If you’re intent on having an eclipse road trip experience, there are plenty of destinations from which you can see the phenomenon, and probably secure a rental car, even if your first-choice city is sold out or the prices are too high. Instead of renting a car in expensive San Antonio, for example, you might instead rent in Shreveport, Louisiana, where the average rental car (per Priceline) is one-third the cost.

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