Rental Car Blues

We’re already angry with the airlines, and we aren’t getting any happier with rental car companies, according to J.D. Power and Associates. My brother and his wife, who travel separately on business, gave me a hint as to why.

The drill, according to Patrick, is that he arrives to pick up the small, gas-efficient car he reserved, and the agent asks him if he wants to pay for an upgrade. No, he says. The agent then offers him a free upgrade. No, thanks, he says. Then the agent tells him that there are no small cars available.

And so he gets stuck with an SUV, mini-van or large low-mileage car that he doesn’t want. This has happened to him repeatedly, he said. His wife, Debbie, has had the same experience.

Apparently, rental car companies are buying fewer vehicles, and the  J.D. Power study cited "decreased availability of new rental vehicles," as a factor in customer dissatisfaction. Renters aren’t all that happy with the car rental reservation process or customer service, either.

Not all car rental companies were equally reviled, though. For the fourth consecutive year,  customers rated Enterprise best for overall satisfaction in the J.D. Power study. Hertz came in second.

Jim Gaz, senior director of travel and entertainment at J.D. Power and Associates, speculated that "customer satisfaction may also be influenced by the snowball effect from frustrations consumers are facing with the entire travel experience.” I hear you there, brother.

But I also think car rental companies are getting a bad rep for being rapacious and predatory because of the, well, sort of rapacious and predatory things they’ve been doing. Chris Elliott had a very informative rundown of car rental scams to watch out for.


One thought on “Rental Car Blues

  1. Kate

    In my limited experience with car rentals I’ve been left with an intense distrust of the agencies. This isn’t entirely a result of being under 25 and subjected to INSANE fees (once I paid two times the cost of what somebody over 25 would have paid). It’s also a result of seeing agents present things in an elusive and misleading way. A perfect example is the agent described above asking Patrick if he’d like to pay for an upgrade before revealing that he’d offer a free upgrade b/c the car he reserved is no longer available.
    If something that a customer reserved is no longer available, the company should offer a free upgrade and not try to trick the person into paying for the company’s mistake. I’ve never seen a hotel do such a thing- if all their twin sized rooms are booked, they’ll offer you a free upgrade to their remaining king sized rooms. Same for flights. If you book a flight and turns out it’s full, they’ll offer you a bump (w/ incentives) rather than trying to get you to pay for the perhaps more direct but later flight.
    Bottom line is, you’re not going to win loyal customers by trying to pull the wool over their heads.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *