The Del Mar Fairgrounds in the heart of San Diego County have been empty for nine weeks. There have not had any craft shows, no thoroughbred races, no fairs.
Yet, there they sit: Hundreds of cars, trucks, and vans parked bumper-to-bumper, door-to-door in the Del Mar parking lots.
A fairgrounds spokeswoman told NBC 7 those are all rental vehicles from various national companies that are having a hard time finding customers during the global pandemic.
There are hundreds more parked right across the street from San Diego International Airport. Some cars are parked so close to each other in a dirt lot next to the Sheraton on Harbor Island that the side mirrors are folded in.
“That’s surprising to me,” said Nora Bertotta, who just returned her rental. “I didn’t realize that would be such a large effect on them.”
The Sacramento woman flew to San Diego to help her son move. She stayed home until now.
“Everything’s been really easy because there are not that many people here,” Bertotta said.
That’s the problem. The coronavirus has wiped out a majority of rental car customers because very few people are traveling.
The Transportation Safety Administration website said more than 2,000,000 a day traveled through United States airports this time last year. On Tuesday, barely more than 190,000 flew throughout the U.S.
“It scares me about the economy,” sighed Bertotta.
NBC 7 reached out to several national companies like Enterprise, National, and Alamo. No one replied as of Wednesday evening.
Several local independent car rental businesses said the pandemic had crushed their businesses. One owner who declined to be identified said ride-share apps like Uber and Lyft already slashed their income. He said the pandemic is closing his business for good.
He said he assumed the larger companies might be able to hold on longer, but they’re losing money every second.
One of the few bright spots, the Del Mar Fairgrounds spokeswoman, said they’ve been able to make some income by leasing the parking lots while no events are being held at the fairgrounds.