Philly pivots on rental car shortage

After COVID-19 halted travel for much of 2020, a subsequent rental car crunch is redefining plans for summer 2021.

Customers in the Philadelphia area describe long lines, high prices, and lack of cars when trying to take a day trip to the beach or a road trip across the country. This has prompted some to change their plans or to try ride-sharing start-ups as an alternative.

“I kind of gave up on rental cars for now, until I found out that it calmed down a bit,” said Derek Lombardi, a city planner in Philadelphia. Before the pandemic, Lombardi said, he regularly booked rental cars at the Enterprise location on Washington Avenue to return home to Rhode Island at Christmas and take day and overnight trips in the summer.

Now, the lack of availability and higher prices have caused Lombardi to travel differently, either riding with friends or staying in places where he can catch the train.

“It definitely put a damper on travel plans,” he said.

Casandra Best, 39, of Philadelphia, had booked flights and hotel stays for a pre-school trip to Alaska with her husband and daughter when they began researching rental car prices. Seven days of car rental would net them $ 1,800, hundreds more than what they paid for their flights.

“It was crazy, so we canceled everything,” Best said. The family even considered renting a van from a Home Depot in Anchorage and using it as a form of transportation, but those vehicles were also booked.

What was supposed to be a surprise trip for their 10-year-old, a hiatus because “COVID hasn’t been kind to kids,” is now on indefinite suspension.

More than a dozen people responded to WHYY News via email and social media, describing the issues with car rental this summer, from lost reservations to general frustrations with higher prices and poor availability. , now dubbed the “car rental apocalypse”.

Enterprise Holdings, which owns Enterprise, Alamo, and National branded car rental services, blamed the scarcity on high demand for cars and a continuing shortage of electronics needed for cars.

“Enterprise Holdings, like the rest of the industry, is experiencing increased demand for travel vehicles,” said spokesperson Sara Miller. “A key challenge right now is the challenges of the global supply chain. “

She urged customers to book as early as possible.

The biggest supply chain problem is a shortage of semiconductors or ‘car chips’, which has plagued the auto industry as a whole since chipmakers pivoted to making parts for it. consumer electronics as demand increased at the start of the pandemic. Auto retailers are making fewer cars and this shortage has forced rental car companies to buy used cars at auction, Bloomberg reported. Many are operating at lower levels than they were before the pandemic, having sold cars in 2020, when demand was weak.

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