Rental Car Shortage Means Sticker Shock For New Mexico Travelers Local News

The shock of the unusual stickers is in play as travelers in need of a rental car try to make a reservation.

Travel is increasing exponentially, but the supply of rental cars is still stuck after companies sold nearly half of their fleets during the pandemic.

Megan Eaves, from Santa Fe, found out when she wanted to book a car for her usual return visit from London, where she lived for 10 years as a travel writer and communications consultant.

“The prices are astronomical,” Eaves wrote in an email. “$ 150 to $ 200 / day. I saw a fairly normal SUV advertised for around $ 6,000 for my three week visit. I guess I could probably buy a used car for that amount! “

Eaves recalled rental car rates from previous years at around $ 40 to $ 60 per day.

An online review of car rental rates from July 9 to 12 showed the lowest prices in Santa Fe at around $ 100 per day and climbing to $ 150 and $ 200. Car rental companies at the Albuquerque International Sunport typically had low prices in the $ 60 to $ 70 per day range, but most daily rentals were $ 120 to $ 178.

Jonathan Weinberg, founder and CEO of AutoSlash, a Garden City, NY-based website that helps consumers save money on car rentals, said rental prices in Albuquerque are generally lower than the national average. “I haven’t seen a lot of sold-out situations in Albuquerque,” ​​he said.

Charles and Vicky Huettner walked the nostalgic road from Chicago to Santa Fe – via Amtrak.

They rented a car from Avis.

“They got us a good deal,” said Vicky Huettner as the couple waited at the Avis / Budget site for a shuttle to Lamy station to catch the train home.

“We are seniors,” she added. “It was less than $ 400 for seven days. It was reasonable. The first company we called was Enterprise. They didn’t have cars.

The car rental market was nailed down at the start of the pandemic and now in the back. The semiconductor shortage has stifled the new car market that car rental companies rely on to replenish their fleets.

“Last year, when COVID first hit, car rentals fell 90%,” Weinberg said. “They really needed to sell as many cars as they could as fast as they could. Three quarters of a million cars have been sold in the used car market. I think up to half of their fleets have been sold.

It happened amid the collapse of air travel in the early days of the pandemic. It was not known when the pandemic would end or how long it would take for tourism to resume.

In 2019, typically 2.4 to 2.7 million people passed through Transportation Security Administration checkpoints at U.S. airports each day. That number fell to 593,000 on March 19, 2020 and to 90,000 on April 11, 2020, according to TSA statistics.

As of February 2, 2021, only 493,000 people passed through airport checkpoints, but the number was over 1 million every day after March 11 and dropped to 2 million on June 11.

“Fast forward to 2021, we first noticed a [rental car] shortage on Presidents’ Day weekend, ”Weinberg said. “People started to feel comfortable traveling. Eighteen to 20 airports in Florida have been completely depleted of rental cars. We had never seen this before. We thought it was a unique thing. We started seeing it week after week and in other popular places.

Car rental companies had never had a problem purchasing vehicles before this year, he said, calling the situation a “perfect factor storm”: demand for rental cars has returned faster than businesses could not buy cars.

Weinberg said low car rental rates across the country in 2019 were around $ 30 to $ 35 per day, with some places offering rates as low as $ 19 or even $ 15.

“We have doubled or tripled the prices, wholesale,” he said.

Car rental companies in Santa Fe referred questions to corporate headquarters, which did not specifically comment on local car supplies.

“We anticipate strong demand for car rentals throughout the summer and encourage customers to book as early as possible while making other travel arrangements,” Hertz said in a statement. “Another tip is to consider booking with a neighborhood car rental agency which may have more availability when airport volumes are high.”

Enterprise Holdings said in its statement, “In addition to the increase in overall demand, other trends that we are seeing are the increase in rental terms and the demand for specialized vehicles such as vans, pickup trucks. , convertibles and large SUVs. If you are planning to travel, we encourage you to reserve a vehicle as soon as possible. Providing flexible travel dates and in-branch pickup locations in your search can also help expand your options.

Eaves, 39, was able to solve his transportation problems without resorting to a rental car when visiting Santa Fe from London.

“I’m keeping an eye on the prices, but a very generous friend offered to use his extra car, so I’ll probably take it,” Eaves said.

“I really want to travel and take in the beauty of the state if I can – camping, hiking, hot springs and the vast landscapes,” she added. “Otherwise, I’ll probably be counting on family, friends and, of course, the Rail Runner. I love this train.

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