Canada has a car rental shortage and you can blame the COVID pandemic

May 12 2022, 11:11 pm

If you were craving road trips during the pandemic and were hoping things would be easier this summer, an ongoing rental car shortage could make things challenging if you don’t have a vehicle equipped for a long drive.

The summer of 2022 is poised to be big, real big, and it should be a return to form for many industries and tourist destinations.

Road trips have always been an exciting part of the summer experience, and part of the excitement is renting a car. However, due to various factors, including the seemingly never-ending global chip shortage, finding a rental car is either next to impossible, or simply overpriced due to limited supply.

A 2022 Statistics Canada study highlighted why the rental car industry is so important to tourism and why it is struggling to reach pre-pandemic levels when it comes to the availability of vehicles.

We want road trips!

The demand for a road trip is high. According to a survey conducted by Ipsos, 91% of people surveyed plan to enjoy the activities they missed during the pandemic.

In BC, where gas prices are the highest in Canada, 47% of drivers don’t seem to care about the cost of fuel and will be embarking on road trips anyway.

But we can’t rent a car!

During the pandemic, car rental providers downsized their fleets. This was preferable for most companies rather than having unused cars in lots for long periods.

The chip shortage is making replenishing fleets a challenge.

It’s not just a problem for people looking for cars; the challenges faced by the car rental industry also impact workers.

“The industry in Canada directly employed over 22,000 workers in 2019,” reads the Statistics Canada study. Of those workers, 3,149 were located in BC.

BC, in particular, is adversely affected by the rental car shortage.

“As a share of the economy, British Columbia has the largest tourism sector of all provinces.”

If a picture says a thousand words, this chart on BC’s rental inventory says even more.

bc road trip

The pandemic dealt a huge blow to BC’s rental fleet. (Statistics Canada)

In 2010, there was an average of 15,758 vehicles available. That more than doubled by 2019 to 32,779. By the end of 2020, that number dropped to 19,061.

How am I going to get to <insert destination here> now?

There’s good news when it comes to alternatives.

For starters, even though the long drives are a source of excitement, there are lots of low-budget airlines offering cheap flights.

Airline companies like Lynx, Flair, and Swoop offer discounted rates for travel across Canada.

If you’re craving that authentic road trip experience with your wind flying through your hair, have you heard of Turo?

Like Airbnb for cars

While car rental companies are struggling to find stock, Turo is leveraging people who already own cars.

“There are 23 million cars in Canada, and these cars are sitting idle 95% of the time,” Turo President Cedric Mathieu told Daily Hive.

“Our mission is really to put them to better use and create a future where there are fewer cars on the road, but access by more people.”

From everyday vehicles to luxury cars, you can essentially find any make or model through Turo.

A quick scan through some car rental agencies across Canada shows that stock is either limited or completely sold out, even when planning a month ahead. That isn’t the case with Turo, and you’ll likely be able to find stock any time of year.

In BC, bookings with Turo are up 1,110% year over year. In Alberta, they’re up over 3000%.

On the other side of the service, if you want to offer your vehicle up to would-be travellers, you could make some easy money on the side.

With summer just around the corner, at least you have some options for your road trips with or without the traditional car rental.

Amir AliAmir Ali

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