EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Business

November 21, 2012

Sandy leads to shortage of rental cars for Thanksgiving

NEW YORK (AP) — Thanksgiving travelers faced an extra challenge this year: Superstorm Sandy created a rental car shortage in the Northeast.

The storm 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 were mostly being honored, but last-minute customers found almost no cars left. The few cars available carried a hefty premium.

Tadd Rosenfeld was flying into New York’s LaGuardia airport Wednesday. He couldn’t find a car with any major rental company. U-Save was the only one with a car and it wanted nearly $350 a day — more than his plane ticket from Florida. Now, he is considering renting a moving truck.

“Showing up to Thanksgiving in a U-Haul is worse than showing up with an escort. But at $19 a day, it’s tempting,” says Rosenfeld, CEO of TeamLauncher.com, an outsourcing company based in Miami.

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

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 waiting to be repaired

Insurance companies State Farm, Progressive, New Jersey Manufacturers, Nationwide and USAA told The Associated Press in the days following the storm that they received about 38,000 car-damage claims. Other companies either did not return calls or declined to release claims information.

Car rental companies were hesitant to speak about their own losses but Avis Budget Group Inc. said it removed from service 2 percent of its fleet from Philadelphia to Connecticut. The company did not respond to repeated requests to clarify how many cars that was.

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