Hertz Fun Collection Chevrolet Corvette ZHZ - click above to enlarge

The economy is in one of the deepest recessions in decades, and one pleasant side-effect of fiscal woes is that many companies are offering huge discounts to get you off the consumer sidelines. One industry that hasn't gone that route so far is the rental car industry. Abrams Consulting Group tells The New York Times that the cost of a week-long rental went from $199 in May 2008 to $345 this year; a 73% increase. The news hasn't gotten much better for June, as the prices went up 65% from $210 to $347. If car rentals are down 15% on the year, why the increase?

The reason for the jump in prices is that there are fewer vehicles to rent, as companies like Hertz and Avis have cut back on the amount of vehicles that they're buying. They're also selling vehicles to used-car starved dealerships. The result of smaller fleets is customers paying more for the cars and trucks that are left. And since customers have become accustomed to getting their rentals at the last minute, some aren't getting a rental at all.

To beat the car rental blues, The New York Times suggests that you start your search earlier. Not getting a rental from companies at the airport is also a good idea, as off-airport companies don't have as much demand. Sites like Priceline and Expedia also generally offer discounts over retail.

[Source: New York Times]