Springfield car rental owners say pandemic has had impact on car availability

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) – Rental car companies across the country are feeling the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Joe Horton, owner of Rent-A-Wreck in Springfield, said he’s seen the impact first-hand. He said the boom in car rentals could be contributed to several reasons, however, he said it all leads back to the pandemic.

He explained that last year, companies sold off a large portion of their fleet because people weren’t traveling, so cars were sitting at airports and on lots.

With COVID-19 restrictions easing in areas across the country, including the Ozarks, Horton said travel is picking back up. He said people are looking to rent cars again, but there’s an ongoing chip shortage in the automotive industry, preventing companies from getting inventory.

“As the demand increases, they’re trying to pick up their inventory, and I’m in the same boat to a lesser degree,” explained Horton. “So we’re falling behind, which is why car prices are up; used car prices are certainly up with the stuff I buy. Making it just another part of the perfect storm.”

Horton explained that the perfect storm has created a weird time for car rental companies everywhere. Mix in vaccines rolling out, people itching for a sense of normalcy, and spring break travel, Horton said it’s been incredibly hectic.

“I really noticed it during spring break with it being so many different school systems in the Ozarks, they all had different times for spring break and people were traveling a lot,” explained Horton.

Horton said those staggered spring breaks, left many car rental lots booked, busy, and some empty.

With more than 20 years in the business, Horton emphasized that he’s never seen the industry like this before.

“It’s been crazy,” said Horton. He reiterated that it all comes back to supply and demand. He said because the demand is extremely high and the supply is low, leaving prices higher than usual.

To stay ahead, he said if you need a rental, no matter where you’re renting from, try to book as far in advance as you can.

“Do it online or call them in person and try to stay ahead however you can because I think this summer is going to get very busy again,” explained Horton.

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