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How the rental vehicle shortage will impact holidaymakers

There is a significant shortage of rental vehicles in South Africa, according to Drive South Africa. File picture: Pexels

There is a significant shortage of rental vehicles in South Africa, according to Drive South Africa. File picture: Pexels

Published Dec 20, 2021

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If you consider a rental car this festive season, best you act fast.

There is a significant shortage of rental vehicles in South Africa, according to Drive South Africa. The team conducted a survey among their suppliers about the status of their fleets as local tourists gear up for the holiday and demand rises.

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Ellena van Tonder, the sales and product manager for Drive South Africa, said the reason for the shortages was that car hire companies were forced to downscale their fleets in 2020 as rentals plummeted due to global travel restrictions.

“Demand has picked up considerably in recent months. The rental companies are working to replenish their fleets, but this will take time, and we will not be able to keep up with demand.

"The difficulty with supply is also impacted by the shorter lead times they are experiencing with bookings. Due to Covid, people are reluctant to book far in advance because they don’t know if travel restrictions may be implemented or a new level of lockdown may be announced, so we find the lead times are much shorter than they used to be. This may lead to disappointment though, as we are already 99% booked for December and people looking for January rentals should be booking now," van Tonder explained.

There's also a shortage of 4x4 and campervan hire, which were frequently used by international travellers to South Africa. Mark Matheson, from Bushlore Africa, said they reduced their fleet in 2020 due to Covid.

"We reduced the fleet size by around 40%. As travel resumed in late 2020 and early 2021, we held our fleet at this level due to continued uncertainty and limited demand. The second half of 2021 saw a big increase in demand. There is a strong desire to travel. Our occupancies were excellent right through to the end of November and this led to us starting to increase fleet size.

“The demand is there, but rental fleets are likely to remain smaller while there is still some uncertainty. Despite some concerns around the new variant and latest developments, we are still optimistic 2022 should be a good year," said Matheson.

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