SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF/CNN) — With local airports abuzz again with travelers and COVID-19 restrictions tumbling and vaccination rates soaring around the country, thousands of San Francisco Bay Area residents are heading off to Hawaii to shake off the penned-up pandemic blues.
And while travel restrictions has been eased in Hawaii, a new surprise is greeting visitors — soaring rental car fees. Tourists are now renting Uhauls because of those rental car prices.READ MORE: As COVID Delta Variant Infections Subside Experts Warn of Winter Surge
The cheapest rental car in Maui in March ran for $722 a day, according to CNN affiliate KHNL-TV.
“This surge in demand is primarily for our smaller vehicles,” said Kaleo Alau, U-Haul Company of Hawaii president, in an emailed statement to CNN. “We realize this demand is occurring when tourists are unable to secure a rental car, or they learn that our rental fleet options are more affordable.”
Of course, this now also means a shortage of U-Haul trucks for people who actually need to move, Alau said.READ MORE: Concord Restaurant, Bar Patrons Divided Over Vaccine Mandate
“We are working everyday with our primary customer base — the islands’ residential movers — to ensure we can still meet their transportation needs,” Alau said.
The shortage of rental cars isn’t just in Hawaii, either.
As a result of the pandemic, rental car companies across the United States parked their cars in unused lots at ballparks, and cars were rented for a fraction of their normal price — or sold as used cars. The industry sold off more than a half a million cars, about a third of its combined fleets, just to generate cash it needed to survive the crisis.MORE NEWS: Newsom Signs Law to Replace Fr. Serra Statue With Memorial to Indigenous Californians
The rejuvenation of tourism thus sent car rental prices soaring. A search of car rental sites in March showed a Kia Rio, a sub-compact car, going for $300 a day in Orlando.