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


If you’ve been craving road trips during the pandemic and hoping things would get easier this summer, an ongoing shortage of rental cars could make things difficult if you don’t have a vehicle equipped for a long drive.

The summer of 2022 is about to be big, really big, and it should be a comeback 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 endless global chip shortage, finding a rental car is either nearly impossible or simply too expensive due to limited supply.

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

We want road trips!

The demand for a road trip is strong. According to a survey conducted by Ipsos, 91% of respondents plan to take advantage of activities they missed during the pandemic.

In British Columbia, where gas prices are the highest in Canada, 47% of drivers don’t seem to care about the cost of gas and will take road trips anyway.

But we cannot rent a car!

During the pandemic, car rental companies have reduced their fleets. This was better for most companies than having cars sitting idle in batches for long periods of time.

The shortage of chips makes it difficult to resupply fleets.

This isn’t just a problem for people looking for cars; the challenges facing the car rental industry also impact workers.

“The industry in Canada directly employed more than 22,000 workers in 2019,” reads the Statistics Canada study. Of these workers, 3,149 were in British Columbia.

British Columbia, in particular, is being negatively affected by the shortage of rental cars.

“As a part of the economy, British Columbia has the largest tourism sector of any province.”

If a picture is worth a thousand words, this chart on BC Rental Housing Inventory says even more.

The pandemic has taken a heavy toll on BC’s rental fleet. (Statistics Canada)

In 2010, there were an average of 15,758 vehicles available. This more than doubled in 2019 to 32,779. At the end of 2020, this number fell to 19,061.

How will I get to now ?

There is good news when it comes to alternatives.

For starters, although long journeys are a source of excitement, many budget airlines offer cheap flights.

Airlines like Lynx, Flair and Swoop offer discount fares for travel across Canada.

If you crave an authentic road trip experience with the wind in your hair, have you heard of Turo?

Like Airbnb for cars

While car rental companies struggle to find inventory, Turo is banking on people who already own cars.

“There are 23 million cars in Canada, and those cars sit idle 95% of the time,” Turo president Cedric Mathieu told The Daily Hive.

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

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

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

In British Columbia, bookings with Turo grew 1,110% year over year. In Alberta, they increased by more than 3,000%.

On the other side of the service, if you want to offer your vehicle to potential travelers, you could earn some easy money.

With summer fast approaching, you have at least a few options for your road trips with or without the traditional car rental.

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