It was the Rental Car Apocalypse.
For Thursday and most of Friday, no rental cars were available at any local agencies for love or money.
Well, if you had enough money, you could rent a car from St. Louis Exotics, a subsidiary of Enterprise Rent-A-Car. The Ladue location offered what it calls Super Sports Cars — a Maserati Ghibli or a Mercedes E-Class Coupe, for example — for $279.99 a day.
Range Rovers and similar SUVs cost a bit more.
But otherwise, even love couldn’t get you a car — though some became available late Friday afternoon.
U-Haul was out of trucks. But if you absolutely, positively need a mode of transportation and don’t particularly care what it looks like, you can rent one of their moving vans. Not only could you have a vehicle, it came with at least 402 cubic meters of cargo space.
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Demand for rental cars has been strong throughout the summer and into September, said Michael Wilmering, public relations manager for Enterprise, which also owns National Car Rental and Alamo Rent A Car.
Car rental locations in St.
Jeremiah Matthews, a sales agent at the Dollar Rent a Car location at St. Louis International Airport, said: The Ministry celebrates its 40th anniversary this year.
Rental car sales are not uncommon, said Breana Conner-Haynes, another sales agent at Dollar Rent a Car’s airport location. They can happen up to twice a month. Typically, weekdays are busier than weekends, she said.
When floods destroyed so many private cars in August, rental car agencies sold out quickly and for some time, she said.
The industry was hit hard by the coronavirus in 2020, when travel largely ground to a halt. Rental car companies significantly reduced their new fleet purchases that year, and they were caught without enough cars when travel picked up again in 2021 and this year.
According to an article in Barron’s, “companies’ fleet sizes were depleted due to problems securing new vehicles after an early pandemic sell-off.”
Wilmering said Enterprise has seen “significant improvement” in rebuilding its fleet compared to last year. Now, the problem is a global shortage of microchips needed for today’s cars and other supply chain issues that are limiting the availability of new cars, he said in the statement.
To ensure a car is there when you need it, he said, make a reservation as soon as possible.
But sometimes, even a reservation will not help.
Brandon Galloway flew from Houston to St. Louis on Friday to attend a wedding in Mount Vernon, Illinois. He had a booking with National Car Rental for three months. But his flight was delayed.
He contacted the car rental company, which told him it would hold his reservation for 24 hours. Anything longer than that, and the reservation would be terminated.
A few hours later, he was ready to board his plane at George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston.
“I looked at my app to see what my reservation number was. The reservation was no longer there,” he said. Not only that, the company had no record of him ever having one, although he could prove that he did.
He tried all the other car rental companies in town and found they were sold out.
Finally, he said, “I went through Priceline and booked one through Avis.”