JACKSON – At the R Lazy S Ranch, the dude ranch sitting just below the quieter southern entrance to Grand Teton National Park, people pay an all-inclusive weekly rate for food, lodging, horseback riding and ranch fishing: about $ 2000 per person, at the lower end.
But this year, getting around the valley could eclipse that cost if customers choose to hire a car.
“It ends up costing less to stay on our ranch for two people, all inclusive, than to rent a car,” Kelly Stirn, owner of R Lazy S, told the Jackson Hole News & Guide.
It of course depends on when people visit Jackson Hole and what type of car they are renting.
But Stirn’s concern about rental car prices is widespread. Nationally, rental prices have increased by 30% according to a widely cited study by CheapCarRental.net, a website that helps consumers find rental cars at low cost. Part of the reason is the offer: Companies like Avis Budget Group, which operates Avis and Budget, and Hertz, which does the same for Hertz, Dollar and Thrifty, sold hundreds of thousands of cars in 2020 according to the New. York Times and Washington. To post. And now, when companies look to buy cars and newly vaccinated Americans look to get out and visit places like Jackson Hole, an international microchip shortage is hampering efforts to rebuild fleets.
The shortage and the resulting prices are driving the people of Teton County in a hurry.
Visitors to Jackson Hole Airport have complained about paying more than expected, but not as much as announced later this summer. A local car rental company is already sold out for the summer as the Jackson Hole Chamber of Commerce encourages visitors to carpool. And taxi drivers wonder if they’ll see a benefit – and be able to meet the demand – as some enterprising taxi companies look to hire their cars for a few dollars.
At the root of it all are predictions that next summer will be busy. People are emerging from the pandemic vaccinated and, by all accounts, ready to travel.
“Between those vaccinated and the restrictions relaxed, we have again what people want, which is the outdoors, the scenery, the beauty and just the ability to enjoy nature,” said Rick Howe, vice president of the Jackson Hole Chamber of Commerce. “We can expect an incredibly busy summer.”
People like Stirn worry about traffic, parking and crowds in restaurants.
“The upside, of course, is that Jackson’s businesses will do well,” he said. “The downside is that Jackson is loved to death.”
Texas resident Cody Clark, 32, picked up a rental car Monday at Jackson Hole Airport. He had originally booked a Jeep for a week, expecting to pay $ 400. Then his plans and those of his wife Macy’s changed, and he went to change the reservation from seven days to six days.
But he said he was told the same car would cost around $ 2,700 – around seven times as much for less time.
Clark therefore opted for a smaller car, a Chrysler.
But he said he was still paying $ 700 for the week, $ 300 more than expected.
“Now is not a good time to travel,” he told News & Guide.
And Clark may be ahead of the curve.
The News & Guide called several car rental companies in Jackson Hole on Tuesday, but representatives declined to comment or sent the newspaper up the food chain to company offices or managers who did not respond.
Leisure Sports, a Jackson-based company that rents cars in addition to rafts, canoes, driftboats and other outdoor gear, however, said its rental car fleet is already booked for the summer, a month earlier than usual. And that’s without increasing the rates.
Prices are high elsewhere, especially in busy months like July, August and September.
On Priceline, a premium SUV like a Chevrolet Suburban is rented for $ 650 per day during the week of July 18-25. Taxes and miscellaneous charges included, this works out to approximately $ 5,600 per week.
The other prices are lower but still expensive. That same week, the cheapest car on Priceline is Hertz’s “choice of supplier” option: an option that will cost renters $ 340 per day, or about $ 2,900 per week with fees and taxes.
For some, the increase in the price of rental cars can be synonymous with opportunity.
“We hope that means more people will need to take a cab,” said Steve Lancaster, a 71-year-old cab driver who waited outside Jackson Hole Airport on Monday. But he acknowledged that there are unknowns, as if people travel as much as they should – and how many people show up if they do.
“If COVID recedes and people return to 75% of normal, then I think tourists are going to come in and overwhelm the system,” he said. “There won’t be enough rental cars. Maybe there aren’t even enough taxis. “
Mike Rohde, director of business development and fleet manager at Rocky Mountain Yeti, said four or five people a day called the dealership asking for rentals.
Some who can’t find a rental just turn around and buy cars.
“I actually had two personal clients who said, ‘We tried to rent,’ and they just said, ‘You know what? It will be easier for us to buy a car, ”Rohde said. These people, he said, are second home owners who decide they’d rather have a permanent vehicle rather than a short-term rental.
“I was born and raised here so I’ve seen a lot of changes,” Rohde said, “but this one is definitely new.”
Howe, of the House, said the rental car shortage was prompting his employer to encourage visitors meeting other family or friends in Jackson Hole to rent cars together. It was something he was doing before the pandemic started, and the rental car shortage started hitting businesses across the United States.
But the chamber has also started referring the Jacksonites to a car-sharing app called Turo, which is kind of like an AirBnB for rental cars. This is new, what Howe said began after the House began to hear that neighboring communities like Salt Lake City were also experiencing high rental costs.
The platform allows people to rent their own cars, while the company covers the daily costs and has its own insurance.
Vadim Bulibas owns Teton Limousine with Alexandru Lupanciuc and was on dispatch to Broncs Taxi on Tuesday while Lupanciuc, owner of the taxi company, was gone.
Bulibas said the two combined companies had fewer than 10 vehicles and that Broncs would lease one of his cars on Turo this summer.
Part of the reason was what the company could get out of it.
“A suburb costs $ 350 a day, and I’ve seen people charge $ 500, $ 1,500,” he says. “It’s crazy.”
People are booking the Broncs taxi car, Bulibas said. He and Lupanciuc listed it on Thursday and, within five hours, they had four bookings. The car was reserved for a month, despite the Jackson Hole price being probably above average on the site. Turo reported that the Jeep Grand Cherokee – its second most popular truck and SUV – was renting an average of $ 56 per day.
Still, the cars on Turo appear to be cheaper than those offered by traditional rental companies. From July 18 to 25, a Subaru Outback rents on Turo for $ 208 per day. A Toyota Highlander costs $ 278 per day.
On Priceline, the cheapest option is, again, the “supplier choice” option at $ 340 per day. The next best is a full-size SUV, which should be leased with a per diem of $ 410.
“You hear these stories about skyrocketing rates and anyone who would be intrigued by the possibility of making the extra money,” said Rohde of Rocky Mountain Yeti. “With the cost of living in Jackson, any sane person is going to be looking for an excuse or a new reason to make money.”
But for some, like Stirn, the high cost of renting traditional cars remains a concern.
While his guests struggle to find a way to get to the ranch – the R Lazy S has shut down its usual shuttle service to and from the airport in order to prioritize room cleaning between guests – he believes that ‘They’ll be fine in part because the ranch is doing it. so much on his own property.
Instead, he’s worried that people will be disheartened if they face too many inconveniences.
“My fear is that we’re going to attract a lot of people here,” he said, “and all of a sudden we’re going to have a lack of service from the airport with taxis, maybe long lines. waiting in restaurants. or just crowds in the park. And that, he worried, could impact the visitor experience and deter future visitors from coming.