TAMPA, Fla — Inside Duane's Dealer Alternative in Safety Harbor, technicians are busy at work helping folks catch up on regular car maintenance
“Air pressure in tires are low, tires are dry rotted because vehicles were sitting,” said Duane Desouza. “Wiper blades are no longer existent because they were just sitting on the hot glass all summer long basically.”
Things most of us would keep up with during a normal year, but we all know 2020 was not that. But, ignoring tune-ups is no good either.
“When you’ve got vehicles that are low and tire pressure, tires are dry rotted, you can have a belt separation and that can be very catastrophic causing vehicles to roll over or you lost control,” Desouza said.
AAA believes some people may head out for a Memorial Day weekend road trip with a car that’s not ready. They estimate about 34 million Americans will hop on the highway this weekend, 2 million in Florida.
“The last place you want to spend your holiday is on the roadside,” said Mark Jenkins, a AAA spokesperson.
He says with more folks working from home, cars were on the road a lot less last year. But, that’s not the case in 2021.
“We’re looking at at least a 60 percent increase in travelers compared to last year, and you know with the recent news of the CDC easing mask restrictions, I think that just creates even more confidence with travelers anxious to get out there.”
Desouza says the pandemic did cause uncertainty for many drivers who now seem more open to paying a slightly larger repair bill to avoid buying a new car.
”The world got shut down overnight,” Desouza said. “And many people lost their jobs, do I want to spring for a $600 car payment?”
He says that’s helped keep auto repair shops busy.
“March was one of the automotive industry’s busiest months,” he said.
It means you’re probably not the only one trying to book an appointment for repairs which may have you looking for a rental car.
Amy Elmore is leaving for Gettysburg tonight she says they went back and forth on transportation but ultimately decided renting was for them
“When we did a price check it just turned out to be more economical to rent an RV the way we wanted to do things,” Elmore said.
“Scammers understand that rental cars are in high demand right now, and scammers can create fake websites and advertise just like legitimate companies can,” said Bryan Oglesby, the West Florida BBB Director for public relations and outreach.
He says they create those websites and pay for sponsored ads hoping to fool consumers into paying for their car with gift cards. He says legitimate companies don’t do this.
“When you visit the website do you even know what the company is? Scroll to the bottom and look for contact information, is the company transparent? Can you search them online separately?” he asked.
He says to search the company name and add “scam” at the end to see what others are saying or if they have complaints and are responsive with customers.
How to Avoid a Rental Car Con:
- Never make payments with prepaid debit cards or gift cards. Scammers prefer these payment methods because there is nothing you can do to get your money back. Remember, legitimate companies almost always accept credit cards as the primary means of payment.
- Use the contact information listed directly on the business's website, instead of relying on an internet search for customer support phone numbers (double-check the URL).
- Beware of sponsored links. Fake websites sometimes pop up in your web browser’s sponsored ad section and appear at the top of the search results. Be careful when clicking! Hover over the URL to be sure it's the right one.
- When in doubt, verify special deals directly with the company. If you are unsure about a promotional offer, get the customer service number from the company’s official website. Call the company directly to make sure the deal is real.
Elmore is also with Forward Pinellas and wants to remind folks to slow down and use caution, especially when you’re not familiar with an area.
She says since the beginning of the year, 44 people have died on Pinellas County roads and 18% of them have been pedestrians. If you’re taking a trip to another city, she says you are likely not familiar with their roads or driving habits.
“If you’re a tourist, watch for pedestrians. If you’re walking on the roads, watch for cars, make eye contact with the drivers,” she said. “Just make sure you are really paying attention to your surroundings so that no one's life is lost.”
Forward Pinellas is starting a program called “Safe Streets Pinellas” and St. Petersburg Beach is the first to adopt the initiative. Forward Pinellas is committing to a goal of zero deaths and serious injuries in Pinellas County by 2045.