NORTH MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WBTW) — Rental cars are in short supply across the country, especially in tourist destinations like the Grand Strand.
Meanwhile, experts warn prices are sky-high.
As a growing number of people fly into the Myrtle Beach area for a getaway, many need a set of wheels to get around with.
Some turn to Herb McCollum, who runs Whatcha McCollum Car Rental in North Myrtle Beach.
“Everyone’s got cabin fever and they want to get out and go somewhere,” he said. “They seem to be coming to Myrtle Beach.”
He and other car renters are having trouble keeping up with the demand. Wednesday afternoon, McCollum only had one car in his lot and it already had a reservation.
“It’s a real problem for a lot of people,” he said. “A lot of them are just used to having cars available when the get off the plane. But if they didn’t have a reservation, it’s very hard.”
CEO and founder of rental car site autoslash.com, Jonathan Weinberg, said major rental companies nationwide weren’t prepared for the spike in demand as more people get vaccinated and travel.
“If we rewind back to March of 2020 when COVID first started, rental car companies saw the demand for rentals go down 90%,” he said. “Survival of the business depended on them selling off as many vehicles as they could. That translated to hundreds of thousands of vehicles being sold off into the used car market.”
Now, Weinberg says rental companies are struggling to get their fleets back.
“The car manufacturers had shut down production lines early in COVID,” he said. “They were down for a few months that put them behind the eight ball a little bit in terms of productions. And then you have this semi-conductor shortage.”
He said even if you can find a rental, you could pay three to 10 times more.
“We’ve definitely seen an uptick in travel and it really happened over the last couple of months,” Director of Public Affairs at AAA Carolinas Tiffany Wright said.
Wright recommends you don’t wait if you know you’ll need to rent a car.
“Book early,” she said. “Don’t wait until the day-of. Don’t wait until you get to your destination. Make sure that you’re booking early.”
Autoslash projects the rental car shortage will last through the summer.
The Myrtle Beach Chamber of Commerce said in a statement visitors who need help with transportation can contact its visitors’ information line at 1-800-356-3016 or email the chamber at firstname.lastname@example.org