Sandy leads to Thanksgiving rental car shortage

Sandy damaged thousands of cars — including those owned by rental companies. The loss of vehicles has been compounded by rising demand. Thanksgiving and Christmas are normally busy rental periods.
By SCOTT MAYEROWITZ Modified: November 20, 2012 at 8:02 pm •  Published: November 21, 2012
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Thanksgiving travelers who have yet to rent a car in the Northeast are out of luck: Superstorm Sandy has created a shortage.

The storm has damaged thousands of cars — including those owned by rental companies. The loss of vehicles has been compounded by rising demand. Thanksgiving and Christmas are normally busy rental periods. And lingering mass transit problems caused by Sandy have added to demand.

Existing reservations are mostly being honored, but people who still want to book for Thanksgiving are finding almost no cars left. The few cars available carry a hefty premium.

To help ease the shortage, car rental companies have driven in thousands of vehicles from elsewhere in the country. They have also kept older models that they would normally sell to used-car dealers.

They'll need every car. Thousands of people in the Northeast are still without vehicles. Some cars were flooded by surging waters and will be replaced with new ones once insurance checks are cut. Others were damaged by falling trees and debris and are in body shops.

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Auto rental companies respond

Outside of the holiday rush, car rental companies say there are enough vehicles available for drivers. Here's what they did to ensure a large enough fleet:

Hertz held on to older vehicles that were scheduled to be sold. It also brought in extra cars and even rented trailers and generators to keep open some locations destroyed by the storm.

Avis Budget brought in 6,000 extra cars from elsewhere in the country.

Enterprise Holdings — which owns Enterprise Rent-A-Car, National Car Rental and Alamo Rent A Car — moved 17,000 cars to the Northeast region from other parts of the country. Another 10,000 brand new cars, set for other states, were instead redirected to New York and New Jersey.

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