Government warns on car rentals


Image courtesy of St. John Car rental

If you're one of those people who rents a car at the St. Thomas airport, gets groceries at Tutu, and then takes the car barge across to Cruz Bay, read this.

The Bureau of Motor Vehicles has just reminded VI rental agencies and the barges it is illegal for a car rented on one island to be used on another.  

A St. Thomas-registered car cannot go on the barge to St. John. So if you want to have a car, while staying on St. John, you have to rent from a STJ agency.

The notice (read it here, thanks to NoSeeUm's blog) says vehicles can legally be used "… only on the island … and may not be used on any other island … and shall not be transported for use on any other island." Violators could be fined a minimum of $1,000.

What's this mean to you?  Well, if a St. Thomas rental company does rent you a car, and you take it to St. John, they risk having their business license revoked – and there are plenty of people who will be happy to turn them in.  For instance, the car barge companies employees are likely to be reminded how to ID a St. Thomas car. (Not so subtle tipoff: the license plate begins with STT.)  Second, folks who operate St. John car rental companies can be expected to be looking for STT cars on the island – and reporting them to Motor Vehicles.

There is no question that renting a car at the airport and then driving to Red Hook is easier than enduring 'taxi dispatch hell' at the airport and the annoyance of taking a cab but stopping at four hotels on your way to Red Hook where you may, or may not, catch the next ferry.  Then again, there are those who question whether the convenience of tourists is a high priority for STT cab drivers.

55 thoughts on “Government warns on car rentals”

  1. Just another example of the corrupt relationship between our so-called government and the some of the local businesses.

  2. That has never made any sense to me. I could buy a car and ferry it anywhere, but I can’t rent one and do the same?
    On the other hand, I prefer to use a private van service, contacted beforehand, to get me to the ferry on St. Thomas and rent my jeep on St. John.
    Bonus: I get a place to park in Cruz Bay!

  3. I’m pretty sure that the legisripoffartists were told, when the bill to support this scam was originally submitted 6, 7 or 8 years ago (at the behest of STJ car rental companies), that it was unconstitutional. I don’t remember it ever passing. There has to be a “rational basis”, etc., and the sole basis of such an asinine rule is to line the pockets of a chosen few. Try looking up the Statute that mandates such asininity. I wouldn’t be surprised if someone at the BMV is full of it.

  4. Please expand on “a place to park in Cruz Bay”, does the rental company allow you to park in their lot when you are in town?

  5. This makes absolutely no sense, and oculd also be a violation of ADA. I am not aware of any car rentals on St John that are wheelchair accessible?

  6. A lot of the car rental companies run out of cars, this has happened
    The last two years fir my family. Now what do they do can el their
    Vacation to St John.

  7. I would like to know what the Dept of Tourism has to say about this. What about during Christmas when every STJ car rental company is sold out. Do our StJ guests have to go without? I am outraged.

  8. Wow ~ this is huge. I know that this upsets a lot of people and their routine. BUT, I have been to many islands, which were beautiful and natural like ST John and revisited only to see the island destroyed by over population of humans, commercialism and cars! In order to preserve the natural beauty some things need to be restricted. I think limiting the numbers of vehicles on the island is a step in the right direction!
    BRAVO !!

  9. I would love to have the name of the van service as I almost missed my ferry on our recent trip due to a stop over at one of the hotels. Our choice was to race to make the ferry OR wait around for another hour.

  10. OK VI’s government, just keep making it a PAIN to visit. Just depend only on your precious cruise ship jewelry buyers for tourist income. Oh, what will you do when the cruise lines pull back from visiting…….crime is rampant on St Thomas and when I lived there, last year, tourists were being robbed & shot by druggies.

  11. Amen. St. John car rentals are considerably higher and the quality of the vehicles aren’t nearly as good. Another ploy to MAKE you use St. Johns rentals….and have you driving around in second rate vehicles. What a shame…this could stop some people from taking the trip…it’s definitely cheaper and much more convenient to get your car in St. Thomas and shop at Tutu when you’re staying for 10 days. Sad to hear this.

  12. In the past, I’ve stayed on St. Thomas and traveled to St. John for day trips. I’ve always brought my rental car on the car ferry because every time I’ve been unable to find a rental car company on St. John that is willing to rent me a car for the day. (Sure, their websites may advertise daily rates, but try calling them to reserve a car for a day and they will tell you they can’t do this.)
    Traveling to the USVI used to be easy, but it has become too much of a hassle in recent years. As much as I’ve enjoyed my previous stays, I’m finding myself spending more of vacation time in other places rather than deal with the asinine regulations like this.


  14. I like your arguement and would love to believe that the Government initiated this law for environmental protection reasons but I just don’t think that is where their motivation comes from. It’s a pity really.

  15. I agree David, these laws and attitudes are really hurting the islands,I live here and am disappointed with what is going on all over. Many people don’t see we depend on Tourism, until it will be too late.

  16. So, I am a week out from arriving and doing exactly what I have done for the past 6 years, rent a car in the airport and head on over. How strictly is this enforced and how long has it been on the books?

  17. This flat out stinks. We’ve been to St. John 17 times and this July will be our last if this law stays in effect. Going from the airport to Red Hook is a joke. Rude cab drivers who demand tips for bad service. Let the your voice be heard! Send the governor an email. http://governordejongh.com/index.html

  18. A few trips ago I rented a pickup truck when I landed at the airport as I was buying some building supplies at the Home Depot. Loaded up the truck with lumber etc., drove onto the barge and voila .. on St. John with supplies in the truck bed and off to Coral Bay. Who will I have to bribe next time?

  19. We have been going to St John for 11 years. We rent a car at the airport and barge it to St John. So much easier. In addition there are never enough cars for rent in St John and they are so arrogant. . We are going back to St John for the second time this year in 3 weeks and already have a car rented at the airport. I guess we will have to cancel the car rental. If this law stays in effect this will be our last visit to St John!!!!!!! How stupid!!!! I am also outraged!!!!

  20. This is such a stupid idea, not to mention likely unconstitutional. If this stays in effect, I will not return to St. John.

  21. On our many trips to St John, we have always enjoyed the convenience of picking up a car at the airport and returning it there upon departure. SJ is in competition with MANY travel destinations in today’s world.. it’s not at all a wise decision to make it increasingly unworkable for visitors.

  22. Between the rising airfare costs, closed businesses and now this? There’s more than 2 islands in the Caribbean. I’ll take my business elsewhere thanks.

  23. The Department of Motor Vehicles of the U.S. Virgin Islands has decided to enforce an older law restricting rental vehicles to the island of rental. This means that St. Thomas rental vehicles will not be allowed to move to St. John. I spoke with Governor Dejongh’s office 1(340)774-0001 and was told that the rental agencies would be receiving a letter of relief for reservations that are within the next 60 days. I have left a message for the Governor and awaiting his response. I encourage each of you to engage the Governor’s office as well as other resources that are listed below. I briefly spoke with Mr. Browne and he has asked that I send him a formal email with our requests and how this statute will impact our tourism experience. I left messages for two senators listed below and awaiting their response. This will impact our future trips to St. John as well as any future decisions on property ownership moving forward.
    Department of Motor Vehicles
    [email protected]
    Governor of the Virgin Islands
    [email protected]
    Senator Craig Barshinger St. John
    [email protected] Chief of staff
    Senator Shawn-Michael Malone
    [email protected]

  24. Alot of things are proposed/regulated in the USVI but never followed up upon. So the question is, will this be enforced? If this truly is enforced, it is a major problem for villa owners, guests, day trippers, management companies, and yes locally owned and operated ferry operators. So if the politicians feel they are taking care of the locally owned car rental companies on StJ, they are dissing other contributors to the local economy by this assinine law.

  25. Our family of 6 has probably stayed our last time on St. John. It was so convenient with 4 kids. Load the luggage once, stop and get groceries, pay one rate for car barge, and drive to our villa in our van. Why make it so hard for your main source of $$$. I’ve done the taxi, what a nightmare! I will go to other islands, but I will miss my St. John. I feel for the villa owners and island businesses!

  26. I just directly called Budget Rental Cars and they stated that they do allow cars to be taken from STT to St John as long as it is returned to/dropped off back at STT. They did not say anything about that changing. I think the best course of action is to check with the car rental agency…Budget still says it is okay.

  27. AWW … yet another stupid idea. Who benefits from this decision? The STJ car rentals are already overbooked so they don’t need the business, STT taxi drivers? We always rented from Avis and then Budget, both said they allowed their cars on the barge and we were never stopped. Hertz said no because the companies aren’t supposed to. Maybe it was a law all the time. Makes no sense.

  28. We would never have been able to celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary without renting jeeps on STT. It’s what we’ve done every time, but as Richard points out, when you have several children, one of whom is a baby, and loads of stuff, it’s virtually impossible to do it any other way. I’m with the rest of you; I love STJ, but my husband and I can spend our snorkeling vacations elsewhere if this is truly enforced :(.

  29. This is what happens when some bureaucrat morphs into a wannabe lawyer and decides he can interpret a statute.
    See for yourself: click on http://www.lexisnexis.com/hottopics/vicode/
    Then click Title 20 [open it to level 5], then scroll down to Chapter 38 where you will find Section 422 (h). The title of Section 422 is “Regulation of Car Rental Business”, not “How to misinterpret a law and put the screws to tourists who spend their dollars here”.
    Plainly Subsection (h) is meant to prevent a car rental company from moving its vehicles from an island where it is licensed to one where it has no license. There’s nothing there that any reasonable person could read as prohibiting Joe Tourist from taking his Corolla from Red Hook to Cruz Bay.Well, DUH!
    The law is poorly written and should be clarified e.g. “No rental car company or its agents or employees shall move any vehicle owned or operated by it onto an island where the vehicle has not been licensed”.

  30. I have been traveling to STJ for 11 years but the airlines have become ridiculously insane with bad scheduling, outrageous ticket prices and endless fees. For the last 5 or 6 years I have rented a vehicle on STT and barged over to STJ. Since my current trip is a few weeks away I will come but this will actually be my last time. I’ve had enough.

  31. We have been traveling to St John since 1984 and have owned a condo for the past 8 years. We have always rented our vehicle on St John. It is so convenient and if we have any problems, Roosevelt is always available plus very convenient parking at Best Rent A Car when needed….

  32. Wow. Who runs the govt down on the islands, Obama. This almost sounds like the socialistic views of our “chosen one”. What next? Woody’s won’t be able to serve $2 beers for happy hour? Or Skinny’s can’t sell angus burgers to their patrons? This is a sad day for St John. I refuse to go back to the cab to red hook, pay to play ferry ride, and beggar/bag handlers at Cruz Bay. I hope they think twice about this ruling.

  33. Sounds like some politician has a family run rental agency on st John and is showing favoritiism. Why don’t they spend the energy getting rid of the crack heads and junkies roaming downtown it getting really bad down there.

  34. Mojo,
    From your comments, it sounds like you are not interested in civil discourse to address a real problem. You are one of those people who use any excuse to address whatever is affecting your sick mind. What does this have to do with Obama? Have you even ever being to USVI?

  35. your comments about Obama and socialism as it relates to this issue is so misguided that you should be embarrassed – btw – it has been the Repubs that have hurt the rights of individuals (e.g probition of on-line poker, marijuana prohibition, birth control – who one can marry, ERA, ability to get health adequate coverage, protecting the rich, etc etc etc) – you are watching too much FOX news
    back to the topic at hand…

  36. I imagine there is something to be said for controlling congestion by controlling the number of autos on the island. But, isnt there a problem with government controlling free enterprise in a democracy?

  37. Actually,Mojo, this type of legislation to protect the chosen few is much more aligned with corporate facism than socialism. Maybe you should study a little history and find out why the far right in America supported Mussolini and corporate facism in the early 1940’s. I’m not big on Obama, but I like the idea of free enterprise and everyone paying their fair share while helping out those that get left at the bottom of the pile by the almighty dollar. The tea party has some pretty twisted, poorly informed views.

  38. The Department of Motor Vehicles of the U.S. Virgin Islands has decided to enforce an older law restricting rental vehicles to the island of rental. This means that St. Thomas rental vehicles will not be allowed to move to St. John. I spoke with Governor Dejongh’s office 1(340)774-0001 and was told that the rental agencies would be receiving a letter of relief for reservations that are within the next 60 days..

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