Rental Car Shortage Follows Sandy, Thanksgiving Travelers Stuck

A rental car shortage due to the after-effects of Hurricane Sandy is currently affecting parts of the Northeast for a number of reasons, and Thanksgiving travelers are finding it difficult to get around in the wake of the weather event.

The rental car shortage is readily apparent here on storm-ravaged Long Island. Anecdotal reports of a rental car shortage have been circulating after the Sandy catastrophe, and in this area, it’s not hard to see why.

A rental car shortage is one of those less obvious effects of an event like Sandy — and traveling through my own devastated hometown of Babylon last week for the first time since police checkpoints eased up and floodwaters receded, it is immediately clear how car rental outlets would be overextended.

Floods had reached far beyond standard flooding zones in my village, and surveying the damage, one of the first thoughts that springs to mind is “what did everyone do with their cars?” It seems that the ongoing rental car shortage indicates that in addition to hundreds of thousands of homes, many did not expect the flooding to reach their personal vehicles until it was far too late.

Unofficially, it would seem that insurance claims from flooded drivers are what has tapped the rental car supply so thoroughly and led to the rental car shortage. (At least, that’s what one rental car company rep told my father last weekend as he tried to secure a vehicle in vain for a planned business trip.)

And insurance companies are good friends to the rental car companies, renting in bulk even outside of massive events — so it only stands to reason they are a priority over your visit to Aunt Edna in Schenectady this Thanksgiving weekend.

Hertz Rental

Add to that the presence of government agencies like FEMA, all of whom probably have some priority status, as well as workers who traveled in from other places to put the area back together after Sandy, and a rental car shortage seems guaranteed.

So why don’t the rental car companies get more cars? Neil Abrams of the Abrams Consulting Group, experts in the industry, explains:

‘‘It’s an unusual situation … Unfortunately, you can’t go out and buy cars for a demand spike. You don’t know how long it will last.’’

When the car rental shortage will ease up is unclear — have your Thanksgiving travel plans been affected by the car rental shortage?