Rental cars scarce in NYC for Thanksgiving

Cars wait in line to fuel up at a gas station, on November 1, 2012 in Toms River, New Jersey. An estimate found that 250,000 cars were damaged or destroyed in Hurricane Sandy, which is leaving rental car companies facing a supply shortage.

A perfect storm of holiday hassle is shaping up in the New York area. Sandy destroyed or damaged between 100,000 and 250,000 vehicles according to the National Automobile Dealers Association. Many of those washed out drivers are trying to rent replacement cars -- which is leaving rental car companies scrambling to ease a shortage.

Many rental branches in New York have long waiting lists; Some are closed because they just don't have cars.

One major company, Hertz, is honoring existing reservations, but can't guarantee much else.

"For those who haven't made reservations, the availability is extremely tight at this point in time so the probability of securing a car for travel over Thanksgiving weekend is slim," says Paula Rivera, a spokesperson for Hertz. She suggests taking public transit to a nearby city and renting a car there.

Meanwhile, to meet demand, companies are driving in tens of thousands of extra vehicles, which can cause a lot of headaches.

"They are not in business to keep vehicles around in case there is a hurricane," says Paul Eisenstein, an auto industry expert at The Detroit Bureau. "That's just bad business."

Rental car companies just don't have extra cars lying around, and so the replacement cars are coming in from as far away as Colorado. That means that the waiting lists for New York rental cars could ultimately outlast your Thanksgiving food coma.

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