For two days, it was almost impossible to find rental cars in St. Louis

It was the Rental Car Apocalypse.

For Thursday and most of Friday, there were no rental cars available at any local offices for love or money.

Well, if you had enough money, you could rent a car from St. Louis Exotics, a subsidiary of Enterprise Rent-A-Car. The Ladue location offered what it calls Super Sports Cars — a Maserati Ghibli or a Mercedes E-Class Coupe, for example — for $279.99 a day.

The Range Rover and similar SUVs cost a bit more.

But otherwise, even love couldn’t get you a car — though a few became available late Friday afternoon.

U-Haul was out of trucks. But if you absolutely, positively needed a mode of transportation and didn’t particularly care what it looked like, you could rent one of their moving vans. Not only could you have a vehicle, but it had at least 402 cubic feet of towing space.

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Demand for rental cars has been strong throughout the summer and into September, said Michael Wilmering, director of public relations for Enterprise, which also owns National Car Rental and Alamo Rent A Car.

St. Louis car rental locations were hit hard this week by Joyce Meyer Ministries’ Love Life Women’s Conference, which takes place Thursday through Saturday at the Dome at America’s Center.

Jeremiah Matthews, a sales representative at the Dollar Rent a Car location at St. Louis International Airport. Louis Lambert, said the office was renting a large number of cars to people attending the convention. The ministry is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year.

Rental car sales are not unusual, said Breana Conner-Haynes, another sales representative at Dollar Rent a Car’s airport location. They can happen up to twice a month. Typically, weekdays are busier than weekends, he said.

When flash floods destroyed so many private cars in August, car rental agencies sold out quickly and for some time, he said.

The industry was hit hard by the coronavirus in 2020 when travel largely ground to a halt. Rental car companies drastically reduced their new fleet purchases that year and were caught without enough cars when travel resumed in 2021 and this year.

According to an article in Barron’s, “Companies’ fleet sizes have been depleted by new vehicle insurance issues after early pandemic sales.”

Wilmering said Enterprise has seen “significant improvement” in its fleet rebuild compared to last year. Now, the problem is a global shortage of microchips necessary for today’s cars and other supply chain issues that limit the availability of new cars, he said in the statement.

To make sure a car is there when you need it, he said, make a reservation as early as possible.

But sometimes, even a reservation won’t help.

Brandon Galloway flew from Houston to St. Louis on Friday to attend a wedding in Mount Vernon, Illinois. He had a reservation with National Car Rental for three months. But his flight was delayed.

He contacted the car rental company, who told him they would hold his reservation for 24 hours. Anything more than that, and the reservation would end.

A few hours later, he was to board his plane at George W. Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston.

“I looked at my app to see what my reservation number was. The reservation no longer existed,” she said. Not only that, the company had no record of ever having one, although it could prove that it did.

Tried all the other car rental companies in town and found they were sold out.

Finally, he said, “I went through Priceline and booked one through Avis.”

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