The U.S. car rental market achieved a projected $23.22 billion in revenue for 2020, the lowest overall revenue since 2011, according to data collected by Auto Rental News.
The 27.4% drop in total revenue for 2020 compared to revenue of $32 billion in 2019 is historically unparalleled, in fact much steeper than during the Great Recession when revenues only dropped 6.7% from 2008 to 2009.
The industry averaged 1.98 million units in its overall fleet in 2020, a 12.4% decline over 2019. As a result, revenue per unit, per month (RPU) dropped to $975 for the year, from $1,174 in 2019.
“With a near total air travel shutdown, the Hertz and Advantage bankruptcies, an unexpectedly hot used car market and a seismic, forced shift to local rentals, this year will enter the record books as the most disruptive in car rental’s history,” said Chris Brown, executive editor of Auto Rental News.
This year more than ever, the industry can be divided into quarters.
“The first quarter ended as one of the most profitable and promising since exiting the Great Recession,” Brown said. “The economic and societal shutdown defined the second quarter. The third quarter saw a massive supply correction, with car rental companies able to capture newfound demand in the fourth quarter.”
Supply chain shutdowns constricted wholesale supply to the point that car rental companies were able to sell sitting fleet at extraordinary prices during the summer, normally peak season for travel.
“The used car market was the industry’s salvation, to be sure,” Brown continued.
With the need for personal mobility favoring shared transportation, business shifted...