Owners of a couple of St. John car rental companies cheered the news that the quota for the number of rental cars allowed on St. John is going up.
“I’m happy because we need to be able to provide the service for our customers,” said St. John Car Rental owner Albert Willis.
Greg Edward, who owns Courtesy Car Rental, agreed with Willis. He added that the change was long overdue.
Motor Vehicle Bureau Director Jerris T. Browne said that the existing quota of 625 cars will double. However, he said he currently has requests from 270 new vehicle permits from 16 existing agencies and 167 from nine people who want to get into the business. The remaining 188 slots will allow for future growth.
“But that doesn’t mean we’re going to give them to any Tom, Dick or Harry. They’ll have to go through the process,” Browne said.
St. John currently has a total of 19 companies renting vehicles but Browne said three of them haven’t asked for additional cars.
Browne said that the car rental quota hasn’t been increased on St. John in 18 years.
“The rental companies have been complaining,” Browne said.
Car rental company owners have grumbled for years that the number of rental vehicles allowed on St. John was too low. Since they often ran out of vehicles, particularly in the busy winter months, tourists began renting vehicles on St. Thomas to bring over on the barge. There’s no way to know yet if the increased availability of cars on St. John will change that practice since many tourists appear to like the convenience of picking up their car at or near Cyril E. King Airport, stopping for groceries on the way to the car barge terminal at Red Hook, and driving straight to their vacation villa or hotel.
If they rent on St. John, they’re faced with a taxi trip from the airport, a ferry trip across Pillsbury Sound and a walk or drive to the St. John-based car rental agency.
Willis said he regularly turns away customers because he doesn’t have enough cars so he’s sure that with the additional cars, some of those renting on St. Thomas will use St. John businesses.
“Lots of people would prefer to rent on St. John,” Willis said, citing the stress of driving on busier St. Thomas as one reason.
While more cars are coming, Edward said that lag time in ordering vehicles means the St. John agencies won’t have their full complement of vehicles until the following winter season.
While Browne said St. John car rental businesses can allow their cars to be taken to St. Thomas, currently the contract signed by the renter prohibits it. Willis said he doesn’t think the St. John companies will change their minds on that issue. He said that breakdowns could be a problem.
Most St. Thomas companies that allow their cars to be taken to St. John stress that those who do so are on their own when it comes to repairs. Willis said that he’s had people who rented on St. Thomas ask his staff to fix their tires or ask for a map.
Browne said that while the car rental business owners are aware the change is coming, he’ll send out formal letters to the agencies to inform them of their increases. He said MVB staff on St. John will meet with agency representatives in the week ahead both reconcile and update their records.
Car rental company owners are advised to call MVB Assistant Director Myrna George to schedule appointments for information on their new allotments. Her number is 776-6262 or 643-5110.