A shortage of rental cars is predicted in the Top End ahead of a busy dry season.
- Tourism authorities in Darwin are concerned about a tight rental car market
- A local car hire company has almost booked its last cars for June and July
- The finger is being pointed at new and secondhand car shortages, half-price flights, and resources sector block-bookings
J’s Car Hire is a second-tier car hire company which rents older cars.
James De Dassel said most of his cars have been on the road since dry season 2020.
“It’s unprecedented,” he said.
“I think it’s going to be crazy. I think there will be a shortage”
He said his bookings are almost full for June and July.
“With the half price flights coming in, we’re getting big inquiries just the last two days, emails and phone calls, for most of the day,” Mr De Dassel said.
Book early, book often
Tourism Top End general manager Glen Hingley has 10 affiliated rental companies that are booked through his CBD tourist office, and the phones are running hot.
He said there are macro factors affecting the rental market, all as a result of COVID-19.
“A lot of companies were able to sell those cars or move those fleets down south and it’s been difficult to get them back,” he said.
“With the new car market, Japan just isn’t sending cars to Australia at the rate it was in 2019.
“We’ve also got a bit of competition with the resource sector who do a lot of car rental.”
Mr Hingley advised visitors to plan ahead.
“Book early and have some flexibility with dates,” he said.
Mr Hingley also said seven cars had just returned from the Easter weekend with damage and are now waiting for repair, which has a knock-on effect to rentals.
Supply and demand problem
Automobile Association NT chief executive Anthony Hill said it was a simple supply and demand problem.
“I know some manufacturers are facing parts problems,” he said.
“The car rental industry has cars on order but they’re being told it could be six months before supply is back to normal.
“But it’s not just normal cars, there’s a high demand for four-wheel drives at the moment up here.”
Mr Hill advised booking early, and also to consider organised tours.
The other car hire operators in Darwin and the tourism minister have been contacted for comment.