Rental car companies see demand soar after Sandy

A car submerged in floodwaters, in the parking

A car submerged in floodwaters, in the parking space behind Main Street in Sag Harbor. (Oct. 31, 2012) (Credit: Gordon M. Grant)

Rental cars companies are scrambling to meet the spiking demand for vehicles in the wake of superstorm Sandy, which damaged scores of cars on Long Island.

Residents needing temporary replacement vehicles are swamping rental car companies. And the businesses are having a hard time filling the need.

"Demand is at an all-time high for our 50 Long Island branch offices," said Laura Bryant, a spokeswoman for Clayton-Mo.-based Enterprise Holdings.

The upshot is wait times of as much as a month at some car companies and waiting lists with as many as 250 names. And some offices are restricting rentals to customers of insurance companies.

The rental companies' corporate offices declined to provide data on local car rentals because they said they haven't yet compiled such statistics. Employees at local offices provided information but declined to give their names.

The Hicksville Enterprise office said it had a waiting list of 250 and that it was focusing on people affected by superstorm Sandy and Wednesday's nor'easter. The Huntington location said its demand for cars has jumped to about 250 a week, from the typical 200. And it has 55 people on a waiting list. For now, it is renting to insurance customers only.

"We gave everyone who lost a vehicle priority," a manager said.

The Hertz Corp. location in Huntington Station has "hundreds" of people on a waiting list but the person answering the phone declined to elaborate. The Hicksville location said the wait time ranged from two weeks to a month.

A woman answering the phone Thursday at the Hempstead location of Avis Budget Group said the business had received "a few extra cars," and was calling people on the waiting list. But, she said, "Tomorrow is another story."

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