Rental car crunch continues due to inventory issues and increased demand

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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KLEO) — Travel is back in full swing this summer as the precautions of the pandemic start to fade. But some lingering covid-related supply chain issues are plaguing one major section of the travel industry.

Business travelers like Warren Bell are back to booking rental cars around the country every week.

“Usually I can find something through somebody,” Bell said of booking a rental car each week.

But this summer, that is not a guarantee as many rental car companies are experiencing a major lack in inventory.

“It started during covid when a lot of the rental companies sold off a lot of their cars,” Bell said.

“Now when everybody started traveling again this year no cars were available to be bought,” Vern Eide Rental Cars manager Tom Borchard said.

“It’s new car availability, with the computer chip shortage and the production of new cars way, way behind what it normally would be,” Sioux Falls Regional Airport Executive Director Dan Letellier said.

The car inventory issues combined with the big surge in travel has created a major crunch in rental cars.

“There’s about a 40 percent shortage in rental cars nationwide, so the cars they have, they switch them around nationwide, so that has impacted our inventory in Sioux Falls,” Letellier said.

Letellier said early all of the national rental retailers at the Sioux Falls Regional Airport are booked all this week, with the rest of the summer filling up fast.

“It is a challenge probably for the rest of this month at least to find a rental car,” Letellier said.

And if you do find a rental vehicle available, It’s going to cost you.

“It’s probably close to double what it normally would be,” Letellier said.

“I’ve heard of people getting quoted just astronomical rates, and a lot of times things were over promised and under delivered. That’s a phone call I get all the time with people stranded, about to take off on their big road trip for the summer,” Borchard said.

The national rental car crisis has meant a big boost in business for the local Vern Eide Rental Car Center. The rental portion of the company started about 4 years ago, serving largely body shops, local businesses and holiday travel plans for people living in Sioux Falls. Now they’re working to keep up with the big increase in demand.

“Since our parent company is a car dealership we were able to stack up some of our inventory better than our competitors,” Borchard said. ”But things probably won’t get back to normal in the rental business until the dealership lots fill back up.”

The rental car shortage is affecting inventory and prices all over the country, not only for travelers, but also for local body shops and businesses looking for those temporary local rentals.

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