It’s an odd choice of vehicle for someone who is not in the moving business.
Up until last week, Matt Landau had never actually driven a U-Haul truck. He is not moving house, nor is he moving other people’s stuff.
Nevertheless, he is now driving a moving truck on the streets of Maui, and on the narrow roads through the island’s lava fields. Some people raise their eyebrows, perhaps understandably, and others wave. All he wanted was a car, but they were simply out of his price range.
Welcome to America in 2021 when prices for the most unexpected items have soared. It’s not much rosier for those who want to buy a used car rather than rent: average used-car prices surpassed $25,000 for the first time, partly due to the global chip shortage, and seating-foam and plastic supply-chain issues.
For Landau, a U-Haul was not his first choice, of course. At the start of the pandemic, millions of consumers noticed a shortage in toilet paper, hand sanitizer and Clorox CLX wipes. And now, more than a year later, people like Landau are finding it hard to purchase other items for a reasonable price.
When Landau was shopping around for rental cars, he saw daily rates for a normal sedan between $400 and $500, “if you could even get one — most were sold out.” He’s now paying an approximately $100 daily rate, plus mileage and gas.
Landau’s car-rental dilemma is similar to the predicament many people have found themselves in during the pandemic.
Aside from the truck, Landau has nothing to do with the moving business. He is the founder of VRMB, a consulting company that helps vacation rental owners and managers grow their businesses (in a category that has taken off in recent months, by the way). He and two members of his staff are on the island for a weeklong trip to visit clients, and he is mixing in some sightseeing.
He does, however, get friendly waves from other U-Haul
drivers. “It’s like a little inside club,” he said.
The truck is good to tote groceries and paddle boards, said Landau, but it can be tricky to park, and acceleration is underwhelming. Still, it does the job, and after a long search for a rental car, this is what he ended up with.
Landau’s car-rental dilemma is similar to the predicament many people have found themselves in during the pandemic: struggling to find certain items at a reasonable price. This is the summer 2021 edition. We’ve already seen this pandemic mismatch on supply and demand.
The rental-car shortage stems from a dearth of chips required for a car’s safety systems, braking and entertainment consoles.
The rental-car shortage stems from a dearth of chips required for a car’s safety systems, braking and entertainment consoles. Tesla
is reportedly willing to pay upfront for the chips, and other car makers including Ford
have all issued warnings about the shortage.
The shortages and delays create a “domino effect as rental-car companies work to increase their inventory of new vehicles in time to meet the increased demand for domestic road travel,” said AAA spokeswoman Julie Hall. People want to see the world, and their friends and family, after missing out on summer fun last year.
Over Memorial Day weekend alone, for instance, an estimated 37 million people hit the road for a trip of at least 50 miles, according to AAA estimates. That’s a 60% increase over the 23 million people who traveled the previous Memorial Day weekend, the lowest figure since AAA began calculating estimates in 2000.
Shrinking supplies and higher demands are creating high prices. The average daily rental rate is currently $134 — that’s double the average this time last year, Hall said.
Landau, meanwhile, continues to get side-eye from residents in Maui for driving around in a U-Haul truck. “They clearly identified us as not moving anywhere,” he said.