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Rental cars flying off the lots

In high demand as crashes claim vehicles

Some motorist was probably in need of a rental car after this recent collision.

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Some motorist was probably in need of a rental car after this recent collision. (KEN GIGLIOTTI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

Looking for a rental car in Winnipeg? Get in line.

The heavy snowfall in late December and early January, and the resulting chaos on the city's roads, has Manitoba Public Insurance's damaged vehicle compound at over capacity.

At the same time, the dangerous driving conditions have also amped up demand for rental vehicles around town.

"I'd be surprised if there's a rental car available in the city," said Sherry Beck, assistant manager at Value Rent-A-Car on Watt Street.

"We're a small company with 30 vehicles and all of them are gone. If you came in today, I couldn't make you any guarantees (when you'd get a vehicle). You're probably looking at a three- to four-day wait."

The situation is slightly better at Enterprise Rent-A-Car. Christina Sifert, assistant manager of the McPhillips Street location, said you'd be looking at a five-day wait last week, but now they expect to have some vehicles available today.

She was quick to add there can be some variation between locations, but there's no doubt the deep ruts in the roads and questionable snow clearing by the city caused a run on rentals.

She said it's the only time in recent memory anybody can remember being completely out of vehicles.

"That only happens when we see 21,000 (Autopac) claims in December," she said.

MPI spokesman Brian Smiley said its Plessis Road compound holds 2,100 vehicles. Over the weekend, 2,900 were crammed in.

"We're parking vehicles where they normally wouldn't be parked. We're parking the overflow in the aisles and along the fence lines," he said.

Smiley said it's been a decade since its compound has been at over capacity.

More than 20,000 collision claims were opened up in December, he said, which is about 20 per cent higher than the year before. Early estimates for January are calling for about 5,500 collision claims to be filed this month, roughly the same as a year ago.

Beck said on a normal day, just 10 per cent of her fleet is rented out on Autopac claims. Today, that figure is 90 per cent.

"Since December, (the demand) has just been unreal. I probably get 60 calls per day and I can't help these people," she said.

Making matters worse for rental companies is the fact some customers are bringing back vehicles that are themselves damaged.

geoff.kirbyson@freepress.mb.ca

History

Updated on Tuesday, January 14, 2014 at 6:53 AM CST:
Replaces photo

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