LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — Right now, Las Vegas is dealing with a rental car shortage.
Lately, there have been long lines at the Rent-A-Car Center at McCarran Airport. And when you do finally get a car, it will cost you.
13 Action News spoke with one industry expert who's been in the business for 11 years and says he's never seen a shortage like this.
"We’re definitely seeing a huge shortage. We are calling it the 'car rental apocalypse,'" said Jonathan Weinberg, founder of AutoSlash.com, a website designed to help customers get the best possible deal on a rental car.
He says at the beginning of the pandemic, car rental companies were struggling to survive, so they sold a lot of their inventory.
"Rental car bookings were down 90%. The rental car companies shifted into survival mode. They had to sell off large numbers of vehicles in order to survive. We’re talking hundreds of thousands of vehicles. They sold off between 30% and 40% of their fleets," said Weinberg.
With travel picking back up thanks to the vaccine and increased consumer confidence, he says these companies' depleted fleets are taking a toll on tourists.
"We first noticed an issue on Presidents’ Day/Valentine’s Day weekend. We just saw a huge demand in areas like Florida, Phoenix, and Las Vegas. We saw 18 out of the 20 airports sold out on Presidents’ Day/Valentine’s Day weekend in Florida. It was a pretty severe shortage. We were having difficulty finding vehicles for customers and we thought that was kind of a blip. But as it turned out, the next few weeks we saw the same issues. It actually got worse in Vegas," said Weinberg.
Now, Weinberg says these companies are trying to replenish the rentals they sold off. But he warns, it's going to take some time.
"I think it’s going to take a while. The big issue right now is that there just aren’t enough vehicles to go around. Both new and used car pricing are at historic highs. A lot of the car manufacturers had to shut down production early in COVID, and that kind of put them behind in terms of production capacity. And now we have this semiconductor shortage, which is being reported in the news. If you think about cars, they’re basically computers on four wheels. There are all sorts of computer chips in cars controlling the climate systems, the entertainment systems, and the engine management. And without these computer chips, you just simply can’t get these cars off the production line. So, it’s causing huge back ups. The car manufacturers are not able to get these cars out to consumers or to their fleet customers, like rental car companies. So, I actually think it’s going to get worse before it gets better," said Weinberg.
Weinberg's best advice is to book your rental car as far in advance as possible. Any less than two weeks, and he says you run the risk of not getting a rental car at all. If you give yourself at least 3-4 weeks, he says you shouldn't have any issues with inventory. But even then, you can expect your rental car will cost more than usual.