How the pandemic has changed car travel

Driver in mask applying hand sanitizer

It’s no secret that the coronavirus pandemic impacted travel significantly and continues to do so today. Even though more people are starting to travel again with borders opening between countries and airport traffic increasing, travel isn’t the same as it was before the pandemic — not in the air nor on the road.

In this blog post, we’re going to highlight how the pandemic has changed auto travel and how that impacts you as you look to get back on the road. If you’ve been wondering how to navigate car shortages or car maintenance post-pandemic, this post will serve as a helpful guide.

The new, used, and rental car shortage

Consumers looking to purchase or rent a vehicle right now will quickly see that demand is high and inventory is low, leading to higher prices and sometimes no availability at all. This is just one example of how the pandemic has changed auto travel and how we’re all feeling those impacts now.

New and used cars

New car production has slowed due to manufacturing shortages after the pandemic caused manufacturing pauses on many different industries. This has caused a domino effect, where car shoppers are seeing less overall inventory of vehicles available to purchase.

Rental cars

When the impacts of the pandemic on travel started being felt across various industries in 2020, the rental car industry was among the industries severely impacted. To help with financial losses from people not using rental cars to travel, rental car companies began selling off their fleets of vehicles. This was a good solution in 2020 when traveling was so limited, but now that things are picking up again, we’re looking at the same issue that we’re seeing with new and used cars — high demand and low inventory.

The impact on drivers

These shortages have caused significant impacts on drivers, both those purchasing a vehicle or renting a car.

If you’re looking to purchase a new or used car right now, it’s good to be aware that in the current market, it’ll be hard to find a bargain and there’s less room for negotiating. Be open-minded about what you’re looking for, and if you don’t absolutely need to get a new vehicle right now, it‘s probably best to wait it out and let inventories on the lot increase.

If you’re looking to rent a car, the best thing you can do is have realistic expectations and start planning as early as possible. Your budget will need to be higher than it may have been in the past for a car rental, and there’s a chance no cars will be available. If finding a rental car used to be an afterthought after you booked plane tickets and lodging, consider making a rental car reservation your first planning priority if you know you’re headed to a destination where a car will be necessary. Some people are finding workarounds to avoid renting a car altogether right now, including renting a moving vehicle to use as a rental car, which can be more cost-effective, or changing trip plans entirely to go to a destination where a rental car isn’t necessary.

Another option drivers may have for a trip is using rideshare services like Lyft or Uber to get around, but a driver shortage means that may not be a reliable option depending on your location. And when you CAN find a driver, it may be more expensive than you’re used to. Other options that may be worth looking into are a car service or airport shuttle companies.

How driving on the road has changed

In June of 2021, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released preliminary estimates of crash fatalities in 2020 involving motor vehicle occupants, motorcyclists and people walking and biking. The findings showed that even though people were driving less during the height of the pandemic, there was an increase in traffic fatalities throughout the pandemic. The NHTSA’s early estimates show that an estimated 38,680 people died in motor vehicle traffic crashes — the largest projected number of fatalities since 2007.

A separate report from the NHTSA on traffic safety during the coronavirus showed: During the first nine months of 2020, driving patterns and behaviors in the United States changed significantly. Of the drivers who remained on the roads, some engaged in riskier behavior, including speeding, failure to wear seat belts, and driving under the influence of alcohol or other drugs.

As a driver, what does this mean for you? We always encourage safe and distraction-free driving, but it’s more important than ever to remember safe driving 101: buckle your seatbelt, travel at a safe speed, and avoid distractions and dangerous influences. And of course, put your phone down and find a designated driver if you need one.

Getting your car ready to go back to the office, or at least back on the road

So, your car got a lot less use in the last year or so and you’re wondering what maintenance a vehicle needs after sitting in park for most of the time. If that scenario sounds about right for you, you’re not alone.

Maintenance

Even if your car was sitting, it was still aging. You (or your trusted maintenance provider) may want to consider doing a check-up on your car to look at battery health and your tires and fluid levels, among other things. If your car really hasn’t gotten any use, we’d recommend popping open the hood to make sure there are no signs of nesting critters, like chewed wires. If you’re still not using your vehicle much, we recommend starting it and moving it every so often, even if you’re just taking a quick drive around your neighborhood.

Other ways to make your return to the road hassle-free

  • If you use E-ZPass for tolls, make sure you have a positive account balance.
  • Make sure your registration and inspection are up to date.
  • If you use parking at work, make sure your parking tag or any payments are up to date.

How auto insurance has changed during the pandemic

At Elephant, we released a new auto insurance discount during the pandemic on account of more people working from home. We know many people are commuting less and working from home more — and for many companies, this new hybrid environment will continue — which is why we added a Work From Home Discount™ our policyholders can take advantage of.

You may also see an impact from the pandemic when you’re filing a claim. For example, if you need a rental car while your primary car is being repaired after an accident, the rental car shortage may impact the ability or type of rental car you can get. Manufacturing shortages may also impact vehicle repair times in certain instances.

Get back on the road with the coverage you need — and make sure you’re getting the discounts that fit your driving habits.

As you saw in this blog post, the pandemic has impacted car travel significantly, but we want to ensure you have safe travels as you get back on the road.

If the way you drive and use your vehicle has changed, it’s a great time to do a check-in with your auto insurance provider to see how those changes may have impacted your policy or the coverage you need. If you’re spending most of your work week working from home instead of commuting to the office, you may want to check out our Work From Home Discount™.

Other Elephant Insurance discounts include a homeowner discount, good student discount and multi-car discount. You can even get a discount on your policy for getting an online quote.

As you get back on the road, protect yourself by insuring with Elephant and get a quote today.

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