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Storm, Holiday Make For Tight Car Rental Market In Northeast

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Car rental (Joe Raedle/Getty Image)

Car rental (Joe Raedle/Getty Image)

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By SCOTT MAYEROWITZ,  AP Business Writer

NEW YORK (AP) _ Thanksgiving travelers who have yet to rent a
car in the Northeast are out of luck: Superstorm Sandy has created
a shortage.

The storm has 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 are mostly being honored, but people who
still want to book for Thanksgiving are finding almost no cars
left. The few cars available carry a hefty premium.

Tadd Rosenfeld is 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 have driven 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.

They’ll need every car. 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.

“It’s an unusual situation,” says Neil Abrams of the Abrams
Consulting Group, which focuses on the car rental industry.

“Unfortunately, you can’t go out and buy cars for a demand spike.
You don’t know how long it will last.”

Car rental companies were hesitant to speak about their own
losses but Avis Budget Group Inc. says 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.

Outside of the holiday rush, car rental companies say there are
enough vehicles available for drivers. Here’s what they did to
ensure a large enough fleet:

_ Hertz held on to older vehicles that were scheduled to be
sold. It also brought in extra cars and even rented trailers and
generators to keep open some locations destroyed by the storm.

_ Avis Budget brought in 6,000 extra cars from elsewhere in the
country.

_ Enterprise Holdings _ which owns Enterprise Rent-A-Car,
National Car Rental and Alamo Rent A Car _ moved 17,000 cars to the
Northeast region from other parts of the country. Another 10,000
brand new cars, slated for other states, were instead redirected to
New York and New Jersey.

____
Scott Mayerowitz can be reached at

http://twitter.com/GlobeTrotScott.

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)

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