St. John car rentals: times are tough

CourtesyThe owner of a longtime St. John car rental company lives in fear of St. Thomas.

"(That island) can easily crush St. John with a blink of an eye," Greg Edward told the St. John Source as he voiced complaints about what he sees as unfair business competition between St. John and St. Thomas.

It's all about the cars.  Edward said St. John's car rental agencies have been limited to a total of 625 cars for almost 20 years. St. Thomas, on the other hand, can license 3,000. He told the newspaper as many as 700 of those STT cars come to St. John each week, driven for day trips or lengthier stays.

St. Thomas' skimming the car rental business hurts him two ways.  People make reservations with him but then decide to rent on St. Thomas and, first, costing him the business and, second, leaving him with an un-rented car on his lot for the week.  He has 15 vehicles in his fleet. Prices begin at $450/week.

Edward said he opened his Courtesy Car Rentals, almost 20 years ago.  He left a job at Caneel Bay to go into business and refinanced his home to get the startup capital.

33 thoughts on “St. John car rentals: times are tough”

  1. That’s a sensitve way to respond. I dont think there is that much of a difference. Most of the car rental agencies I know on St. John give you the week rental for a 6 day rate. One day free.Even if that is not the case the cost for car barges back and forth I am sure more than make up the difference.

  2. So when he leaves the island himself and flies to Miami does he bypass the car rental kiosks at Miami International and cab into downtown Miami to pick up his rental from an in-town location?
    I understand his concern about competition I just don’t comprehend how he can characterize it as “unfair competition”. He doesn’t sound like a businessman finding ways to win in a free, competitive marketplace. He sounds like someone who is seeing the gravy train he feels entitled to running out of gas.
    And about that “refinanced his home for start up capital” statement.. what’s his point? That was 20 years ago and that mortgage is long paid off from his business revenue.

  3. Not at all a factor in our decision. On top of the major hassle factor add in taxi $ plus $ per bag handling to the passenger ferry – $ per passenger plus $ per bag again for the ferry (more wait time) – then do it all again on your return trip when, in our case, we add in an overnight on St Thomas (necessary to catch that. early flight back to the left coast.) The convenience factor of being picked up at the airport, driving to the barge (pit stopping for a few groceries),then driving directly to the villa ….on they return, leaving the car at the airport is priceless.

  4. I’ve been going to St. John for what is now 16 years. Obviously self centered people don’t think of the impact of anything on the locas. They leave their trash on the beaches, become rude to the locals, even the older folks to work hard for their living, they act as if they own the island and treat the island like it’s their own personal toilet. Every dollar you spend and how you spend it affects the 4000ish people that have worked their heart out to support this small beautiful place. St. John, you will always get my money first, even if it is more expensive. That includes rental cars, groceries, restaurants, local artists. I wish the cheap asses would stay off the island By the way, I and my family are in the middle class income bracket. We don’t even come close to 70,000 per year in income. If we can do it for the betterment of the island anyone can.

  5. Without a doubt the main reason for renting in St. Thomas is to by-pass the hassle and the cost of taking the taxi to Red Hook. It is much more time consuming and the bag fees etc. are ridiculous. Why put up more more aggravation and waste more time? It’s pretty simple.

  6. Just offer a sxervice where everything is included.
    Transfer from STT to Red hook, ferry cost, and pick them up at the cruz bay dock. This way, your getting your customers as soon as they get off the plane. I’m sure it will be an added convenience that you could charge for. I know I would pay it if I could do it all in one bundle. Tranfer to redhook, ferry, transfer to the car, and the car itself.

  7. The “unfair” part comes from the fact that St. John car rental owners are restrained from increasing their fleets by a government quota which has not increased in 19 years. During peak times St. John car rentals can’t fulfill the car rentals they DO get. So even more people have to go to St. Thomas to get vehicles.

  8. Adapt to market realities or die.
    Most people rent on St. Thomas because it is 1) convenient, and 2)avoids the steep taxi fares.
    Best suggestion I can offer the rental companies on St John is to team up with the taxi operators on St. Thomas, along with the ferry service, and put together some sort of package deal that provides a compelling deal that is competitive or better in terms of convenience and pricing.
    Otherwise, more and more people will wise up to the reality that the smarter choice (right now) is to rent on St. Thomas.

  9. St. John is head and shoulders above St. Thomas, and those who truly feel this way will support the local businesses. If I don’t want to vacation on STT, why would I give the my vacation dollars? As others have said, I will support St, John, even if it costs me more. The people there have to make a living, or my vacation spot (and someday home?) suffers.

  10. Joe,
    You must be from the east coast. Let me guess, New York…or maybe Washington. I wonder how far off I am. Again, this is a niche market…very small. It cannot compete with a market the size of St. Thomas. To allow cars on the island not only destroys the livelihood of what true locals are left on the there but contributes to way too many people coming here, more than St. John’s environment can support. When are people going to learn that the kind of thinking you have described destroys the islands. Look at St. Thomas. How about Jamaica. So are you another one that uses the resources up only to leave when it’s destroyed and find some other beautiful place to make more convenient and cheaper only to run it to the ground? I wish people who come to St. John would protect it like they would protect their own property or home. Here’s a novel thought. Why don’t we think of St. John as a precious resource and treat it accordingly. Joe, St. John won’t die if you disappear. It will continue to attract more people like me, who can’t stand the “adapt to the market or die” mentality. This isn’t a shamwow or the flobee. It’s an island that needs to quit being prostituted for money.

  11. Thanks for your understanding of this issue. We appreciate anyone who wants to protect this Island and it’s resources.

  12. I feel for the St. John car rental companies. Especially, the small family run businesses. I consider St. John businesses to be my “local” establishments that I’d rather deal with. But there are three (3) main reasons that I continue to rent at St. Thomas. 1) I can pick up the car at or near the airport, avoid the costly and not-so pleasant taxi ride to Red Hook, and get on the car ferry to St. John — sometimes stopping along the way to get some basics; 2) I can go back and forth between St. John and St. Thomas by car ferry so that I always have the car to do all the fun things that are important to me on vacation; and 3) during peak season there are no cars available for rental on St. John. If these three issues can be addressed by 1) creating some kind of arrangement for St. John car rental customers to have a service that meets them at at the airport, delivers them timely to Red Hook and unites them with their rental cars at Cruz Bay, and also offering the service in reverse when we go home; 2)by allowing St. John rental cars to be used on St. Thomas (previously when I rented on St. John, I was told my St. John rental cannot be taken to St. Thomas; and 3) increasing the quota of rental cars on St. John, then we may have a solution and I will always try to rent on St. John first.
    Please note that I didn’t say anything about the rental car rates on St. John because I understand it costs more to do EVERYTHING on St. John. We don’t come to St. John because it is cheap. We come because we love it!

  13. I think you are being very closed minded to think that most visitors are self-centered, come in destroy the island & leave. I take personal offense to it. Our family is below middle income; we love St John, cherish it and treat it like the prized jewel that it is. I know there are some that do not treat St John that way. But I think you need to re think the fact that most visitors are self-centered & destructive. We have made many friends in St. John. Some work at the parks & they say MOST people are considerate of the island. When I say friends – I mean they have visited our home in Va. So we are not just vacation friends. We too give our hard earned money to the locals at St. John. So you aren’t by yourself sister!

  14. I can only speak from my perspective, and I do have sympathy for the vehicle rental companies on StJ (and read all StJ news and blogs)…
    We have been coming to StJ for many years and have taking about every method of transport to/from StT-StJ. The issue is one of hassle for the tourists like ourselves. We come all the way from San Francisco (have 2 weeks in June at the Westin), and it is horrible to get off the plane without having a chance to adjust to the heat/humidity – to pick-up our bags – then after traveling for hours – drag our bags to get into a taxi/bus – transport to Red Hook – get on the passenger ferry – travel across the Sound – get in another taxi to get to the Westin (all the way paying per person and for each bag – and dragging the bags).
    The Westin ferry is convienient, but cost $110pp and there are 4 of us ($440) – we have done this and then rented on StJ – which is fine, but the cost of the Westin ferry is just too much – compared to the method of least hassle and less cost – and that is to rent on StT (immediately getting into a car with AC – driving over to the car barge and getting directly to our villa quick and easy (we do not bother to stop for groceries in StT as the hassle is not worth the savings). I understand the situation is difficult, but it seems a better solution is 1) to increase the quota of rentals on StJ, and 2) somehow make it easier on those of us traveling to spend our hard earned money on StJ (~$450/day for the 4 of us) to get from StT to StJ. Why bite the hand that essentially feeds the economy? btw – that attitude the tourists like us are rude and trash anything is far from the truth – we love StJ and the people – and are very respectful – so I find that comment insulting and narrow-minded…

  15. We have been coming to The Island for over twenty-five years. It is quite simple…..it is easier!
    The taxi scene at the airport is daunting…..it is as if you were a bad kid on the plane and for a punishment, you have to deal with the taxi frenzy at the airport.
    We generally stay for two weeks, so we do pick up some supplies on St. Trauma….but we do spend plenty of our vacation dollars on St. John.
    The person who said get a package together from airport to your car on the Island, is thinking out of the box and is onto something. Anybody who has been through the whole ordeal, would say it is a horrible experience.

  16. Just a thought to all you car rental companies in St. John. I feel you all have a tough job. We would never dream of renting from St. Thomas because we are huge supporters of St. John & the locals. But I will say, we have rented from 6 different car rental companies in St. John. We rent 2 or 3 times from you& then you start renting us crap cars. I would think that customer loyalty would come into play somewhere. But it happens every time. So we go to another company & start again. So it works both ways. If you give me good service & a decent car – I’ll keep coming back to ya. Money in the bank my friend!

  17. I started my visits to St. John in the early 60’s . That’s a long time before a lot of you bleeding hearts were even in this world ! It was a very peaceful and beautiful place . It still is . I also own property on the island and pay my taxes just like a lot of you do . If you choose to live on an island there will be hardship . There will be sacififice . Accept it and make the best of it . Clam up and get back to work .

  18. First, let me say I own a house on the island and have been coming for over 20 years, and I have all the respect for the car rental people on St. John, as well as all the islanders. However my son got married last year on the island and most of the q guests and family tried to rent cars on the island with no luck at all. Except for a cancellation that one company had most had to rent in St. Thomas or not attend the wedding. Also the one complaint I here all the time is the cattle ride from the airport to red hook. I agree with some comments above that something should be done to make the connection to both islands a lot more enjoyable.

  19. We prefer to rent on STJ. Three reasons. First, if the car breaks down, flat, etc. we have someone on island who can help us and deal with it. Second, the place we rent from in Cruz Bay allows us to park in their lot when we come into town. Third, the people ferry runs more frequently than the car ferry.

  20. We have always rented on St. John. But….we have considered renting on STT due to the highway robbing taxis. It costs our group 100.00 + to make our way to Redhook. Add that to a villa cost and provisioning means that this middle class income family cannot afford to visit St. John as much as we would like. I am not cheap, I would consider myself frugal out of necessity. I am a considerate visitor, and from the Midwest, not the left or right coast. As if that makes a difference. The cost for a retail for the week in St. John is steep, 450.00 for a week! I think that should more than cover the business expenses and then some. I probably going to get told “it’s not St. John” but I have visited many islands and don’t even pay close to that much for a car rental for the week. Just returned from St. Maarten, paid 204.00 for a nice 4 door focus for 12 days. I know it’s not St. John, but, twice as long, 1/2 the price. We have had difficulty reserving on St. John too, arrive to find our jitney rental not available as reserved, try to give us two jeeps instead, or wait for it to be returned…..sigh. Not an easy task when your time and money is limited.

  21. We’ve Been visiting St John for more than 30 years. I have always rented cars on St John. I’ve had both good and bad experiences with the ST John car rental people, but mostly good. The worst experience is trying to get to Red Hook. The taxi service at the airport treat passengers like cattle, and act as if they’re doing travelers a favor. I do disagree with the people that write about visitors being rude and trashing the island. We have never in 30 years been that way, and most people I see there do not act that way. In fact I have seen times when we try to be as polite as possible only to be treated with disrespect, it’s a two way street, treat others like you want to be treated, but there are people on both sides that do not adhere to this “golden rule”….

  22. What I don’t get – and I’ve seen it first hand several times – is people getting off the ferry with family and luggage in tow and THEN start looking for a rental car and expect to find one? That pretty much like packing your family up and going to the airport guessing there are seats and or flights availble.

  23. Despite her somewhat harsh rhetoric, I think Nadia is pretty close to the truth. We are from New England and have just gotten back from our 6th trip in nine years.
    Although rental cars are the lightening rod, there is no question that the island is deteriorating as a laid back, island paradise.
    Unquestionably, the influx of SUVs and four door Jeeps with one or two people in them is over running a very small,very vulnerable place. And she’s right: the people who drive them have a degree of self-centeredness that can be seen and heard on the streets, in the bars and restaurants. ( I know people will scream, but the screamers are usually the same people who don’t seem to get what STJ is all about.)
    You have to be blind (or incredibly greedy) not to see or ignore the fact that the resources and carrying capacity of St. John are being stretched to the limit.
    If you want to save what’s left, Draconian measures must be taken. Among such measures: limit the size and numbers of vehicles that can come on to the island. Most certainly prohibit St. Thomas rental cars from being brought over to St. John, not just for the benefit of the STJ car rental companies but for the good of this very small, very fragile piece of real estate. (We spend a lot of time talking about protecting the coral reefs and not enough time talking about the very same impacts on the island.)
    This is not just about rental cars. This is about a political decision to protect what is here. People will not voluntarily limit their impact, economically or physically. These are hard choices. The island survives on tourism. But if there is no limit to expansion, you get a mini St. Thomas and people WILL move on to another spot, leaving behind their trash and a lot of vacant restaurants and shops (and half-completed condo projects).

  24. Hi, We rent on St Thomas because the people at the car rentals are WAY nicer than St John. I’m not saying their all bad, but We’ve not been treated nice quite a few times. If you need a sign down town to tell you to be nice to the tourists. Somethings wrong
    Chris

  25. Hi, You rent on top of St Thomas given that people at just the automobile rentals are WAY nicer than St John. I’m not claiming their every one of the bad, however We’ve not been managed nice truly a few times. If you would like a sign down town to tell you to feel nice to the tourists. Somethings wrong .
    http://www.bentleyhire.co.uk/

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