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Economics of Hire Cars
I just had a very positive experience of car hire (Sixt, TLS, via rentalcars.com) and it has left me a happy but confused customer. Are there any industry insiders on here? I have several questions…
I booked the cheapest car I could find – “A Fiat 500, manual or equivalent” for two weeks in June from Toulouse Airport. When I arrived, I was offered a complimentary upgrade to a Mercedes C-class (automatic) at no extra charge. I took it, obviously…
Why would they do this? I could understand if I only had it booked for a day or two, but two weeks seems like a long time to give something away for the sake of a good reputation. That is two weeks where somebody who turned up to rent something expensive would be turned away or forced to get something cheaper. Or is there a glut of C-classes?
Do they figure there is more to be made in terms of fuel surcharges, etc.. with an expensive car? If so, they didn’t give it much attention when I returned it, and I didn’t pay any.
I actually rent cars from this airport relatively often (3 times in the last six months, and just about to book another one). I have made all these rentals with the same website, but different car hire companies (not just different trading names) – would the car hire company know all this?
Three times I have booked a “Fiat 500 or equivalent” – I have never driven a Fiat 500. I don’t really mind, but it doesn’t even seem like these cars figure prominently in their fleets. Why advertise it as such? What is the logic behind it?
Is there a reason why all three of my car rental experiences in Toulouse have been positive whereas I have only bad stories about renting cars in the UK – misleading patter about insurance, spurious extra charges, fake damage claims, etc..? It can’t just be coincidence. Is it legislation/enforcement? I couldn’t see that the competition at Toulouse is too different from say, Gatwick…
Or am I overthinking this? Should I just take the upgrade, smile, say thank you (I did!) and be on my way?
I often have a similar experience in Bordeaux. I rent there twice a year, in the spring and late fall and I’m usually upgraded well and even though I generally find the rates a little on the high side, there are never any hidden fees or bad surprises at turn in (although other colleagues haven’t been so lucky). Perhaps the reason is that all the cheapest cars are rented when you check in and they give you what’s available. It is surprising that you got a Mercedes C Class, that’s never been my luck.
Not an insider, but I have friends who do some legal work for Sixt in various places, so they always rent from Sixt as well. They usually wind up with a premium car as well (though Sixt’s business model is basically that all their cars are premium). All I can surmise is that they didn’t have a Fiat 500 for the entirety of your two-week rental, and so the next level up was a C-class?
Location also matters greatly. When I rent from National or Hertz at a large airport (LAX, CLT, SFO, MIA) I book the one of the cheapest and I usually wind up with that level car. When I rent a car from 30th St. Station in Philadelphia, I reserve the cheapest car and am regularly given much nicer cars – small SUVs, even Mustangs, and Cadillacs. Just based on what’s available at that moment. Though last time I wound up with a Dodge minivan. Not really my style, but…
[USER=4556]@OCTinPHL[/USER] explained it pretty well. Usually rent from Sixt 4-5x per year (usually in MAD) for 10-20 day rentals. Tend to book the base Smart (automatic) and I usually get upgraded to a 1 Series/ A Class or offered very cheap (10€/day) upgrades to 3 Series/ C-Class.
It mainly has to do with the season (low vs high), but from my experience rental duration also plays a significant role (longer rental = higher chances of upgrades)