A shortage of rental cars is causing problems for some
By Kassie Simmons | April 27, 2021 at 6:27 PM EDT – Updated April 27 at 7:01 PM
WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) – Wilmington local Maura Blalock-Mercurio booked a luxury SUV six weeks ahead, but the keys weren’t waiting for her when she went to pick them up.
“We showed up at the airport that day to pick up our vehicle. They said, ‘Well, we don’t have your vehicle, but we have a minivan.’ Well, a minivan doesn’t hold — it’s not the same thing,” said Blalock-Mercurio.
It’s a problem that thousands of travelers are running into: an increased demand for rental cars and a much smaller supply than usual. Typically overflowing rental car lots are left nearly empty after some companies were forced to sell fleets of vehicles to stay afloat during the pandemic.
“Had I just been stepping off of a plane and there was — that was the shocker to me. There was a family standing there, of five, at Hertz with the same problem that had just stepped off the plane,” said Blalock-Mercurio. “They’re here to visit our community and spend money in our community and they can’t even leave the airport.”
Her family was left without a choice other than to figure out Plan B. That meant driving the 16 hours to Massachusetts in a cramped vehicle — a sour way to kick off their Easter getaway.
“I was absolutely furious. You could go stand in front of the airport and stand at Hertz or Expedia and see it happening. I was taken aback and we were certainly not the only ones that were there.”
So what should you do if you arrive at your destination but have no way to get around? Industry experts say mapping out your trip can help.
“The two main things are prepaying and being flexible,” said Sarah Hall, a AAA Branch Manager. “Make sure you’re going through somebody reputable, a travel agent that can help you and work with that company to find out what the problem is.”
Blalock-Mercurio ran into those rental car roadblocks at Wilmington’s ILM airport but other towns across the country have similar issues, proving it’s something to keep in mind as you plan that long-awaited getaway.
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