Why Does Renting Cars Have To Be So Frustrating?

Why Does Renting Cars Have To Be So Frustrating?

128

I love just about every aspect of travel. The things that people hate about travel I mostly love, from playing around with airline award availability, to jetlag, to being at airports.

However, there’s one aspect of the travel experience that I despise, and that’s renting cars. I’ll admit that I take a defeatist attitude with this, and I probably even have a mental block. I’d love to learn from OMAAT readers on this — is there anything I’m missing, or any way to make it less miserable?

My perception of the car rental industry

Consumers overwhelmingly find the airline industry to be frustrating, though to me the car rental industry is much worse. This Seinfeld clip pretty much sums up my impression of the industry:

What do I dislike about the car rental industry? Where do we even begin?

  • Car rental companies have no issues significantly overbooking, and then you show up and find out that the car you reserved isn’t available (at best), or even that there are no cars available at all (at worst)
  • I feel like the car rental industry overall couldn’t care less about customer service at every step of the process
  • There’s almost no point in reserving a more expensive car, since half of the time they don’t actually have the car type you booked available
  • Car rental pricing is all over the place, so I haven’t found it to be worth being loyal to one brand
  • It seems like there are all kinds of discounts out there, but I’m not actually sure how to maximize them, beyond the obvious
  • Based on the amount of paperwork with most car rentals, you’d think you’re applying for a mortgage rather than renting a car

I try to avoid renting cars whenever possible, but sometimes it’s the best option. So let me share my last four car rental experiences, two of which were in the US, and two of which were in Germany. Let’s start with the US:

  • At Miami Airport I arrived at the rental car counter only to find one person working and over 50 people in line; given that the line wasn’t moving, I ended up just making a more expensive reservation with another agency on the spot, because I didn’t have hours to wait
  • In Denver I rented an SUV, because we had Winston and six big bags (this was when we were returning from Germany, and hadn’t yet “shed” most of our luggage prior to our hotel adventures); I arrived at the counter only to be told that they only had a two-seater available, and they asked if that was fine (it wasn’t — our stuff physically wouldn’t fit)

Then there’s Germany. In theory renting cars in Germany is a joy, especially from Sixt — they have some awesome luxury cars at reasonable prices, and driving on the Autobahn is actually fun. What’s frustrating is that Sixt often has dozens of different cars to choose from (rather than just generic categories), yet I haven’t had much luck with them actually having those cars:

  • We needed to drive from Frankfurt to Berlin, so I reserved a BMW 5 Series Touring, since it had plenty of room for luggage; when we went to pick up the car we were informed that while they had the car available, it couldn’t be returned in Berlin, but we could instead take an eight person van (why could I reserve that exact car if those kinds of rentals aren’t allowed?)
  • I had reserved a BMW 5 Series Touring (again) to go from Berlin to Munich, and when I arrived at the agency I was told they didn’t have that available, but rather had a much smaller Audi; however, if I drove the Audi to another Sixt location, I could “trade” cars there for the one I had actually reserved

I don’t have a great track record with renting cars

What am I doing wrong with car rentals?

I’d love some tips from those who find a way to not make renting cars miserable. Steph wrote a great post a couple of years ago with tips for making renting cars less miserable, though somehow I’m still kind of miserable when renting cars. 😉

Here’s my current approach to renting cars:

  • I use Autoslash to see if any discounts are available
  • I know premium credit cards offer car rental status, but I haven’t actually found that to be useful in any substantial way
  • I know some people rave about National Emerald Aisle, where you can pick your car from a certain aisle, but I’ve either found National’s pricing to be uncompetitive, or the locations I’ve rented at have had a very limited selection
  • In theory I wouldn’t mind paying more if there were actually a “premium” experience, but that doesn’t seem to be the case; I’ve had better experiences renting from Fox than some of the theoretically more “premium” car rental companies

So please help me out — what am I doing wrong? Should I bother collecting points with car rental agencies? Do I just not have the right status?

The only rental car experience I’ve ever found to be pleasant was with Silvercar, given how good the company was at managing expectations. Unfortunately Silvercar more or less doesn’t exist anymore — all airports locations have closed, and Silvercar is now mostly just available at select Audi dealerships.

I used to love renting from Silvercar

I also generally feel like the car rental industry is in a cycle of crappiness. I get why they often don’t have cars available, because typically anyone can make a reservation with no penalty if you don’t show up.

And heck, maybe I’m part of the problem, since I’ll often make multiple reservations. But the only reason I do that is because of how crappy the experience is — I need a backup if I arrive at a counter where there’s one person working and 50 people in line, or am in a situation where cars just aren’t available.

So I’d love to hear from you guys — is there anyone who loves the car rental industry and doesn’t feel as frustrated? I suppose the alternative is to go the Turo route, but the one and only experience in my household with that wasn’t exactly great

Bottom line

Rather than continuing to take a defeatist attitude, I’d love to learn from the experts on how to make renting cars not suck. While I do what I can to avoid renting cars, sometimes it’s simply the best option. In the US, Silvercar used to do the trick for me, but that’s no longer the case.

Help me out, folks!

Does anyone share my frustration with renting cars? And to those that don’t, any tips?

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  1. iamhere

    There are a few points I was surprised that you did not mention:
    1. If you book a more expensive car like Seinfield did and you are given a cheaper car, they do not give you a discount.
    2. Tolls. This is a big problem now that many places do not accept cash (or credit) for tolls. They convince you to buy the toll package with them which is expensive or you can...

    There are a few points I was surprised that you did not mention:
    1. If you book a more expensive car like Seinfield did and you are given a cheaper car, they do not give you a discount.
    2. Tolls. This is a big problem now that many places do not accept cash (or credit) for tolls. They convince you to buy the toll package with them which is expensive or you can have the license plate billed which they charge you a processing fee. They package the former as a "optional request", but in reality you don't have much of a choice. There are few people that would spend as much as they charge on tolls daily. Most of these have online systems where the transactions can be seen real-time, so there is no way that they have to charge so much. They could check the toll pass transaction history and charge a processing fee.
    3. Many premium credit cards are great for the insurance coverage so you are only out of pocket for part of the insurance. I have used this type of insurance before with a claim before.

    Consider if renting a car is really needed not only with cost, but also time and aggravation.

  2. Morris

    I only ever rent outside the United States and actually have a day and a half trip to Cyprus coming up (currently based in TLV, only a 45 minute flight), so this post was very good timing.

    I rent quite infrequently, so I strive to extensively research each rental, specific to the particular pickup location (reviews of the difference providers, both chains and locals). Many benefits of status are less prominent outside America, so it's...

    I only ever rent outside the United States and actually have a day and a half trip to Cyprus coming up (currently based in TLV, only a 45 minute flight), so this post was very good timing.

    I rent quite infrequently, so I strive to extensively research each rental, specific to the particular pickup location (reviews of the difference providers, both chains and locals). Many benefits of status are less prominent outside America, so it's less of a factor in picking. I also tend to go with the company's total 0 deductible coverage and not my card's. Less parties in the mix, less hassle and headache. This strategy has resulted in zero issues and actually a good record for excellent upgrades. My last rental in Belgrade via Hertz in October (booked via Aegean's Hertz portal, so earned good Aegean miles) was by far the best. I booked the cheapest automatic (Peugeot 200 series) and was given a beautiful black Mercedes full-size sedan thanks to my "lowly" 5 star status and offering to pay the extra 30 euros for comprehensive coverage (perhaps the previous comment about employees having an incentive to upgrade people that buy addons is accurate). The whole 6 days including the extra insurance came to about $120!

    My upcoming rental will be via Sixt. Free Platinum status was obtained via the Mastercard World Elite concierge promotion, and they have a promotion on SUVs that ended up being cheaper than the tiniest Kia Picanto type cars. Perhaps the Platinum will get me upgraded to a luxury SUV?

    But for non-U.S. rentals, research is definitely critical. There are many local rental companies that do not appear on the search engines and offer better rates or service that goes above and beyond even what high status offers (personal meet and greet at the airport and escort to your waiting car, etc.). They also have smaller fleets, so your chance of a massive upgrade when booking a commonly booked class is much higher (I was upgraded on a previous Cyprus trip from a compact car to a full-size Chevy SUV via a local Cypriot company as they ran out of compact cars).

    The Autoslash/Costco/BJs offerings are not that great for non-U.S.

  3. Andy

    I've been an Avis Preferred for many years, but I now actively avoid using my Avis Preferred profile. My experience is that they use the profile as an excuse to change rental terms against you favor, even if it's not true. I had always selected as a preference NOT to take out PAI insurance, since I have a PAI insurance which also covers accidents with a rented car. But they keep adding it, telling me...

    I've been an Avis Preferred for many years, but I now actively avoid using my Avis Preferred profile. My experience is that they use the profile as an excuse to change rental terms against you favor, even if it's not true. I had always selected as a preference NOT to take out PAI insurance, since I have a PAI insurance which also covers accidents with a rented car. But they keep adding it, telling me this was the preference in my profile - which is factually incorrect. Also I have selected that I want to pay in the currency of the rental location, but they keep converting into my home currency at an awful exchange rate. Same response.

  4. K4

    I HATE driving, but I did rent a few cars on my travels with Avis and Sixt in Europe.
    Had good experiences with both. Avis in Nice (station not airport) arranged me an automatic Alfa Romeo in moments, at a very good price just walking up (not booking).
    Sixt at Pisa airport gave me a 7 series when I had booked a 1 series, just because I’d ‘achieved’ status through some credit card,...

    I HATE driving, but I did rent a few cars on my travels with Avis and Sixt in Europe.
    Had good experiences with both. Avis in Nice (station not airport) arranged me an automatic Alfa Romeo in moments, at a very good price just walking up (not booking).
    Sixt at Pisa airport gave me a 7 series when I had booked a 1 series, just because I’d ‘achieved’ status through some credit card, I can’t remember which.
    My father on the other hand loves to drive, and I do remember the odd experiences when there would be no car or an inappropriate model, then my mother and I convinced him to always book at least an e class (it wasn’t about the money, he just didn’t even consider there would be a benefit paying more for something which was only being used for a few days, and often are offered to customers who’ve booked other categories if they are available at the time). To be clear there is often a mid size option or a intermediary, but then there is the premium option whereby you are given Mercedes/BMW/Audi etc (outside of Germany - where these are also part of the standard offering,) this is the one we started booking,and he has never had any issues since then.
    I also signed him up for status with Avis, and I’m assuming this has helped.
    Personally I’m a fan of Sixt, but he prefers Avis.
    Personally, I’ve not rented cars outside Europe. My father has in North America, and the Middle East as well and I’ve been with him, the only differences I’ve noticed are that the queues are much longer in NA (logical considering it’s a lot more car dependant than Europe) and in the Middle East the prices are exorbitant, and no upgrades are offered. Ever.
    For some reason, despite travelling extensively to the Far East and rest of Asia (other than the Middle East) he too has never rented a car there. Whilst driving in India is daunting, I don’t understand why he never rents cars in HK, Japan, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia etc.

  5. David

    In my experience, rental car companies try to push you towards larger cars (which either cost more, or they make the customer think they're getting a great deal). And overall they just don't care if you get the car you ordered. Last summer, me and my partner rented a car to go camping, which required driving a narrow mountain road outside the Bay Area. They only had a giant mustang available. So, being covid, options...

    In my experience, rental car companies try to push you towards larger cars (which either cost more, or they make the customer think they're getting a great deal). And overall they just don't care if you get the car you ordered. Last summer, me and my partner rented a car to go camping, which required driving a narrow mountain road outside the Bay Area. They only had a giant mustang available. So, being covid, options were limited, so we took it. Let's just say it was a tough trip on those narrow forest service roads. I can't figure out how all these electric scooters and zip car have had sophisticated apps for a number of years that can tell exactly where and when to pick up what kind of vehicle. But rental car companies can't. It's an industry ripe to be disrupted.

  6. Adam

    I agree that renting a car is often a dreadful experience, but you didn't even mention the things that annoy me the most :

    Rental agents get paid on commission so they try to upsell as much to you as possible. Lately I've been hearing the question "Do you want the basic or the advanced insurance coverage?" which cunningly fails to mention that "no coverage" is an option. And when I mention that I have...

    I agree that renting a car is often a dreadful experience, but you didn't even mention the things that annoy me the most :

    Rental agents get paid on commission so they try to upsell as much to you as possible. Lately I've been hearing the question "Do you want the basic or the advanced insurance coverage?" which cunningly fails to mention that "no coverage" is an option. And when I mention that I have coverage through my credit card, they look at me like I'm crazy and remind me of all the bad things that could happen while driving without coverage, as if my credit card means nothing to them.

    Outright lies to make you pay more. In FLL they insisted that I needed to pay for a toll transponder to drive on I-95 (while some areas have HOT lanes, I-95 is not a toll road.) Ditto in SAN with I-5 (also not a toll road). In SAN they insisted that I pay for their insurance because "purchasing liability coverage is mandatory". (In fact California doesn't include liability coverage like other states do, but you are not required to buy it from them, it is the driver's responsibility to provide it.)

    I'll reserve a car through their website, and when I show up at the counter, the rate has gone up. This usually only happens with the "cheap" guys like Fox or Payless, which is why I don't recommend them, but it's happened enough times that I usually book 2 cars when one of the cheap companies has a rate that seems too good to be true, so if they insist on a higher rate, I can go elsewhere without paying the walk-up rate.

    Mandatory insurance in places like Mexico make it impossible to know in advance what your rental will really cost. I used Expedia to rent a car once in MEX, which helpfully highlighted that insurance was included - except at the ticket counter they told me that "local law requires a higher amount of insurance than what comes with the car" - which naturally I'd have to pay for. (This was Alamo, but I had booked a second reservation in anticipation of this with Mex Rent-a-car which tried to sneak in additional insurance until I noticed this on the print-out, and made them change it back, which they did.)

    Fuel surcharge if unfilled - they charge $10+/gallon but don't actually fill it. Ever get a rental without a full tank of gas? They'll hope you overfill it when you return it (how do you know how to fill to 5/8 of a tank at the gas station?) and keep the money they charged the guy who didn't return it full.

    There are no good loyalty programs for rental cars - for the most part, the product is the same. So they don't have as much incentive as airlines/hotels to make people happy. Or at least that's been my experience.

  7. B

    I’d like to say Bgriff hit the nail on the head. Book direct. Stick to ONLY car companies you have had good experiences with hand for god sake...use the agency’s “bypass the line” option whatever it’s called.

    Personally, it’s one strike and you’re out because you aren’t wrong. Most companies are terrible. I stick to those that haven’t shafted me, had horrid service, ONLY those that have bypass line options, and only companies that...

    I’d like to say Bgriff hit the nail on the head. Book direct. Stick to ONLY car companies you have had good experiences with hand for god sake...use the agency’s “bypass the line” option whatever it’s called.

    Personally, it’s one strike and you’re out because you aren’t wrong. Most companies are terrible. I stick to those that haven’t shafted me, had horrid service, ONLY those that have bypass line options, and only companies that are international.

    Never had a problem with National or Alamo....ever. I don’t care for the gimmick of “pick any car from the side” so I’ll just book whatever class or rate looks attractive. Worst case - you get an “upgrade” if they don’t have your class available.

  8. P

    I have always had fantastic service from Sixt, in quite a lot of countries. You do need to do your homework and make sure you add notes to the reservation if you require a specific type of car, but they will always look after you pretty well. You can also get a status match through having airline status.

  9. JJ Kennedy

    Use Turo. Problem solved.

  10. larry

    Just a word of warning -- there is so much consolidation right now that things are very fluid and you may not be able to use the skip-the-counter feature like you're used to. Double check your reservations. I just read a National reservation closely and noticed that it was sending me to the Alamo counter instead of to the Executive line. Skip the counter is great until your name isn't on the board or the...

    Just a word of warning -- there is so much consolidation right now that things are very fluid and you may not be able to use the skip-the-counter feature like you're used to. Double check your reservations. I just read a National reservation closely and noticed that it was sending me to the Alamo counter instead of to the Executive line. Skip the counter is great until your name isn't on the board or the kiosk doesn't work or whatever and there's a long line. Usually Hertz and Avis have a separate line for this but I understand that everything is a little funky right now, although I don't have personal experience lately.

  11. kenindfw

    Alamo was always easy for us. At LAX they used to have a kiosk you could walk up to and enter your itinerary, select your options and go straight out to the vehicle. But I think now that's all gone. Seems like every time I rent a car I'm in the longest line, the other lines are empty, just not mine. Ugh

  12. Alex

    I like the National Emerald Aisle. The problem is that whenever I'm looking to rent a car, National seems to be significantly more expensive than many other companies...to the point that when you factor in the discount the Chase Sapphire Reserve gives on Silvercar rentals, the Silvercar Audi is only a few dollars more per day than a smaller/less luxurious car from National. In those cases, I've always gone with Silvercar. I love the Audis,...

    I like the National Emerald Aisle. The problem is that whenever I'm looking to rent a car, National seems to be significantly more expensive than many other companies...to the point that when you factor in the discount the Chase Sapphire Reserve gives on Silvercar rentals, the Silvercar Audi is only a few dollars more per day than a smaller/less luxurious car from National. In those cases, I've always gone with Silvercar. I love the Audis, the customer service from their employees was always friendly and exceptional, and I loved that I didn't have to worry about being hit with massive/unexpected charges after I returned the car. It really is a shame that Silvercar has closed down their locations and moved to dealerships - I was consistently pleased and never frustrated when I rented a car from them.

  13. Memento

    I cannot speak to your rental experience in foreign markets but I have not really had your negative experience in the US. Back with my former employer I got a preferred account with Avis which allowed me to book and get priority service at the counter. My keys were usually at the counter waiting for me and I would be good to go. I have also used National on a business trip and they were...

    I cannot speak to your rental experience in foreign markets but I have not really had your negative experience in the US. Back with my former employer I got a preferred account with Avis which allowed me to book and get priority service at the counter. My keys were usually at the counter waiting for me and I would be good to go. I have also used National on a business trip and they were pretty painless. I suppose one can always complain about pricing or selection but I have never had any issues with the cars I book. When I book a midsize car or SUV that is what I get. I suggest getting in a preferred tier and your experience should be smoother, especially if you are a frequent customer.

  14. eric

    USA National. The only one I experience actual service. Europe I would go with sixt. (not cheapest one)

  15. Jon

    I love National Emerald Aisle, but I'm lucky that my employer has a very good pricing deal with National that also applies to personal rentals, which can save me a lot of $$$ in high-cost areas (e.g. popular tourist destinations during busy periods) and on one-way rentals, compared with National's standard pricing or other car rental companies. I typically just book our corporate rate with National plus whatever $-off deal is currently available for weekly/weekend...

    I love National Emerald Aisle, but I'm lucky that my employer has a very good pricing deal with National that also applies to personal rentals, which can save me a lot of $$$ in high-cost areas (e.g. popular tourist destinations during busy periods) and on one-way rentals, compared with National's standard pricing or other car rental companies. I typically just book our corporate rate with National plus whatever $-off deal is currently available for weekly/weekend rentals. Occasionally for weekend rentals I can find rock-bottom pricing from Hertz using my AAA membership that beats National's price.

  16. D3kingg

    No waiting in line at Hertz. Get your Nissan Versa and be on your way.

    You want to save $18 with enterprise and wait on a 25 minute line ? Get your Jeep fully loaded with leather , moon roof that was poorly cleaned and smells of smoke ?

  17. John

    National has fun cars in the executive aisle which are an incredibly value for the money if you book with a company code or other discount code. A Camaro SS, pickup trucks, SUVs or just full size sedans to try out. If I had to point to anything negative with National it is the renting abroad experience where mostly you´re serviced by Enterprise which then cant help themselves and need to upsell or outright scam you. Kind of the typical rental car experience...

  18. Alan S.

    I have had poor experiences on both sides of the Atlantic. I used to use National Emerald Aisle exclusively, but have found for most locations they are pricing themselves out of the market. Avis usually has the best rates, but even then I have had challenges from time-to-time with the quality of car and inconsistent customer service when reporting the problem. In Europe, I have twice had difficulty with returning cars when the rep claimed...

    I have had poor experiences on both sides of the Atlantic. I used to use National Emerald Aisle exclusively, but have found for most locations they are pricing themselves out of the market. Avis usually has the best rates, but even then I have had challenges from time-to-time with the quality of car and inconsistent customer service when reporting the problem. In Europe, I have twice had difficulty with returning cars when the rep claimed there was damage to a portion of the car (in one case, the scratches could only be seen with a a zoom lens at a very short distance in much brighter light than the return sites normally have). Once the rep acknowledged the microscopic “damage” looked very old, but dinged me for it anyway, seemingly knowing the insurance would pay for anything they claimed. It is very frustrating.

  19. DeePeeGrumps

    Hertz President's Circle here via my UA Platinum status. I'll fall no lower than Five Star due to my MM status and lifetime Star Alliance Gold.
    Don't you have MM status with another airline that matches?
    Never had any issues with Hertz Gold even when I was starting out. I'm very happy with the fleet even with the bankruptcy and loss of variety.

  20. stogieguy7

    Gee Ben, you must not have much experience renting cars and that's surprising given how extensively you travel. Those experiences you describe make you sound like a novice (which you are not).

    I will preface this by stating that I haven't traveled during the pandemic, so things can change. However, it's been my experience that the US and Canada are the 2 best places in the world to rent a car. National's Emerald Aisle...

    Gee Ben, you must not have much experience renting cars and that's surprising given how extensively you travel. Those experiences you describe make you sound like a novice (which you are not).

    I will preface this by stating that I haven't traveled during the pandemic, so things can change. However, it's been my experience that the US and Canada are the 2 best places in the world to rent a car. National's Emerald Aisle program is the best. Avis Preferred is also good, but not as good as National. Hertz used to be good but their current condition is fragile. Avoid Enterprise.

    In most countries, the process is ridiculous. Rent a car in Latin America (for example) and you're having to literally make a portrait of your vehicle with every nick, ding or scratch documented before you leave. If not, they'll try to have you pay for the alleged damage, whether you actually did it doesn't matter. And your status doesn't matter either. Not to mention that the paperwork takes longer than it would to buy the damn car!

    Anyhow, hook up with something like Emerald Aisle and be happy.

  21. snic

    @Red: "one time I got a BMW 5 series for the price of an intermediate"

    There's another gotcha here. If you rely on your credit card for collision insurance, it is very likely to explicitly exclude high-end brands like BMW. Luxury-tier credit cards are less likely to have these exclusions, but it pays to read the fine print.

    It's a problem in Europe, where a BMW or Mercedes isn't necessarily a luxury car. You might...

    @Red: "one time I got a BMW 5 series for the price of an intermediate"

    There's another gotcha here. If you rely on your credit card for collision insurance, it is very likely to explicitly exclude high-end brands like BMW. Luxury-tier credit cards are less likely to have these exclusions, but it pays to read the fine print.

    It's a problem in Europe, where a BMW or Mercedes isn't necessarily a luxury car. You might be renting a very middle-of-the-road car (pun intended) yet your credit card excludes the brand you rented from its CDW coverage.

  22. Gregg

    I used to be a Hertz player but now I go with National for just about every rental. The Emerald and Executive aisles make the process simple and easy and I almost always end up with something relatively nice and useful. Skipping the counter in both ends is a real time saver.

    And if you become a VIP member you get access to some REALLY NICE rides!

  23. Red

    Avis preferred has been quite good for me. Go straight to the car (GIVEN that you have the app). Usually the cars that I choose never get sold out, but there was this one time I got a BMW 5 series for the price of an intermediate since it wasn’t available. Not too bad.

  24. RTBones

    I have typically used Avis or National. Stateside, they have been (at least in my experiece) the most consistent and least hassle. Walk to your car, scan when you leave. No desk requried. In Australia, I've used Avis and not had any issues - even when, 1/3 the way through my rental, the service light came on. Swapped the car, no issues. In Europe and the UK, there seems to be this completely different hire...

    I have typically used Avis or National. Stateside, they have been (at least in my experiece) the most consistent and least hassle. Walk to your car, scan when you leave. No desk requried. In Australia, I've used Avis and not had any issues - even when, 1/3 the way through my rental, the service light came on. Swapped the car, no issues. In Europe and the UK, there seems to be this completely different hire culture. While I have generally had good experiences, its largely because I was slow and careful, reading the fine print.

    One thing I think Europe/UK seem to do better (cheaper?) than the US is one way rentals. Might be the simple geographic size of the US, or I just got lucky in my experience.

  25. William

    I too hate this part of travel. Renting cars is the worst. There are NEVER enough agents available on the pick up end/drop off end. Even with your so called “status” with any of the companies, it’s useless. I just resented a car from Hertz at Nashville, I’m Five Star, prepaid, had all of my info, so I should have been able to just go “pick up” my car. Decided to check at the counter...

    I too hate this part of travel. Renting cars is the worst. There are NEVER enough agents available on the pick up end/drop off end. Even with your so called “status” with any of the companies, it’s useless. I just resented a car from Hertz at Nashville, I’m Five Star, prepaid, had all of my info, so I should have been able to just go “pick up” my car. Decided to check at the counter inside the airport, just to be sure and because there was only 1 person at the counter. The guy behind the counter asked me if I had status with Hertz, to which I replied yes. He said no need to wait there, go the garage, look for my name on the board and find my car. Seems simple enough, right? Oh no, of course not....I walk all the way to the garage, look at the board, my names not there, but of course. So then I have to wait in the “elite” line of 10 people with only 1 person working the counter to find out where my name is and what’s going on....flash to 45 minutes later and I finally get to the counter. She tells me it’s because the class/vehicle I booked they didn’t have. I booked a Range Rover, but they could give me a Cadillac XT5 for the same price? I said wait, shouldn’t it be cheaper. She looked it up and said no, actually the Cadillac was about $200.00 more than the Range Rover...I’m sorry, but world am I living in here? Anyway, I took the Cadillac because at that point I’d been waiting longer to get my rental car than it took me to deplane, walk to get my luggage and actually get my luggage.

    Flash to the turn in. Early morning flights! 5:30-6:00 flights, but the rental car doesn’t open until 7? Oh just leave the keys in the car and annotate mileage, date, time and fuel. I hate that, I want to see someone, talk with someone, and get my receipt so I can look it over...because this is how you get charged those crazy fees that you can’t then fight!

    And forget trying to call these companies, you never get to talk to someone without being on hold for over an hour.

  26. niko_jas

    Part of the reason must be it's the only service industry where paying more doesn't come with better service. You go to an expensive restaurant or hotel and you hopefully get better service than some cheap place. In the car rental industry the service is the same whether you book a £100 Toyota or a £600 Mercedes. That's why I look at renting a car as being a step up from taking the bus and...

    Part of the reason must be it's the only service industry where paying more doesn't come with better service. You go to an expensive restaurant or hotel and you hopefully get better service than some cheap place. In the car rental industry the service is the same whether you book a £100 Toyota or a £600 Mercedes. That's why I look at renting a car as being a step up from taking the bus and book the cheapest available car, because then I will be less fed up having spent £100 rather than £600, and 4 wheels is 4 wheels.

  27. Cody Johnson

    Try Turo. I take ski trips frequently and my biggest gripe with the traditional rental car companies is that you cannot reserve an all wheel drive vehicle. Even if you rented a premium SUV, there is zero guarantee that the car you’ll get will have AWD.

    I am currently on a ski trip in Utah right now, and not only was able to select and I will drive the car, the rate was nearly...

    Try Turo. I take ski trips frequently and my biggest gripe with the traditional rental car companies is that you cannot reserve an all wheel drive vehicle. Even if you rented a premium SUV, there is zero guarantee that the car you’ll get will have AWD.

    I am currently on a ski trip in Utah right now, and not only was able to select and I will drive the car, the rate was nearly half the rate from tourist rental car companies. And I cannot overstate how simple it was to walk from the terminal into the short term parking and I got in the car and went on my merry way. Everything is done on the app before you arrive.

  28. Jan

    I practice the rental car thing like you do with flights, so I have much insight to share. I am not sure you will read this though and I don't feel like typing it out for nothing.
    If you are interested, shoot me an email :)

  29. Experienced Traveller

    I have rented in UK for many years and I find the industry has improved a lot . I use a consolidator - Indigo Car Hire , they are excellent and book me with Avis, or Hertz or Europcar , good service from all

  30. Arno

    I have been using AutoEurope recently, if you do not have an Amex Plat you can get an insurance through AutoEurope to cover the excess.

    I have mainly used the National / Alamo branch near Amsterdam CS but booking through AutoEurope. Saying that, they never have the car you ordered though, so we will always get what ever they have, we have twice got something out of the more upmarket segment, hoping to get...

    I have been using AutoEurope recently, if you do not have an Amex Plat you can get an insurance through AutoEurope to cover the excess.

    I have mainly used the National / Alamo branch near Amsterdam CS but booking through AutoEurope. Saying that, they never have the car you ordered though, so we will always get what ever they have, we have twice got something out of the more upmarket segment, hoping to get an audi, but we got a Mercedes and a Volvo. (Both nice cars.. so no complaints.) We wanted a car for our move and went for a Kia Ceed, but got a nice Ford estate. So we really have no complaints.

    I have been lucky in the past where I ordered a mid size car for driving through Nova Scotia, and got a really nice Volvo well outfitted car. So I guess you are just having a lot of badluck.

  31. Christian

    You've omitted that very often, companies try to screw customers for more charges. I've had it in Italy where suddenly I was asked to pay more in extra charges than the original cost, in Oz where they added a one-way fee on a fully paid one-way booking etc etc etc.

    I usually manage to insist they drop those - but they do try and it's a pain and frustrating and takes any joy out of it.

  32. Jan

    Also: Know your categories and don't accept any down/- sidegrades.
    A 5 series BMW is in the category LDAR with Sixt -> never accept a van or similar. The "L" stands for luxury ;)

  33. Alex_77W

    I am with matthew.dabney.boyle. Go with National - I am 20+ years of Executive (currently Executive Elite). My corporate discount makes National the best deal in USA. For international, I use Hertz (Presidents Circle). Experience is quick and painless. With National I was never offered a smaller car. Once when National in Orlando was sold out, I was offered a Hummer as a free upgrade from an intermediate. Last time in Orlando (about 2 years...

    I am with matthew.dabney.boyle. Go with National - I am 20+ years of Executive (currently Executive Elite). My corporate discount makes National the best deal in USA. For international, I use Hertz (Presidents Circle). Experience is quick and painless. With National I was never offered a smaller car. Once when National in Orlando was sold out, I was offered a Hummer as a free upgrade from an intermediate. Last time in Orlando (about 2 years ago) I was given your Audi SUV you were getting with Silvercar (again, for the price of an intermediate rental).

  34. Dave

    So here is the deal. In order for you to see any change in the car rental experience you have to be willing to accept several changes to the industry. Currently they have the most lenient booking policy. I could go online now and reserve 50 cars for tomorrow without leaving a credit card and never show up. Unlike the airlines once you book you have no obligation to cancel and there is not financial...

    So here is the deal. In order for you to see any change in the car rental experience you have to be willing to accept several changes to the industry. Currently they have the most lenient booking policy. I could go online now and reserve 50 cars for tomorrow without leaving a credit card and never show up. Unlike the airlines once you book you have no obligation to cancel and there is not financial penalty. Hotels are getting with the times and some chains now require you to cancel 72 hrs prior or you will be charged. So if you want to have that van you booked ready and waiting for you then you must accept a new policy that once you book you are on the hook financially to pay for that rental with required minimum cancellation times. No more using auto slash because once you reserve the car you are locked in.

  35. [email protected]

    No drama with the emerald aisle. The pricing is high but they also get aggressive with corporate discounts. With my company’s discount it ends up being competitive with the cheapies and no drama ever.

  36. Andrew

    I just want to rent a frigging Tesla or Polestar 2. I hate gas cars.

  37. Brian

    I used to like National. Could pick your own car and they usually had some nice options available.
    Now I work for a company who only lets us rent Avis. Their preferred program is hit or miss. More often than not the car is waiting for me when I land. And I can usually switch in the ap if I want.
    But if the car isn’t assigned to me, it’s usually a mess....

    I used to like National. Could pick your own car and they usually had some nice options available.
    Now I work for a company who only lets us rent Avis. Their preferred program is hit or miss. More often than not the car is waiting for me when I land. And I can usually switch in the ap if I want.
    But if the car isn’t assigned to me, it’s usually a mess. Long lines. It’s shocking how long it takes to process a rental. I was in Miami a month ago, there were two people working, and a line of about five or six people. It was taking about 10 to 15 minutes to process each rental. Part of the problem is the companies try to upsell so many junk features.

  38. Matthew Ballard

    I also exclusively rent from Alamo or National.

    If price is a primary concern, I usually do Alamo via Costco Travel. The prices are usually the cheapest or close to, if you use the kiosk the rental process is easy, you pick your own car from the category (and they're low in that category I've always found the outside agents are excellent and get you a car you're happy with, including using National inventory), and...

    I also exclusively rent from Alamo or National.

    If price is a primary concern, I usually do Alamo via Costco Travel. The prices are usually the cheapest or close to, if you use the kiosk the rental process is easy, you pick your own car from the category (and they're low in that category I've always found the outside agents are excellent and get you a car you're happy with, including using National inventory), and I've never had any issues with them. Using the kiosk and not talking to a sales person is a large part of why I've been happy with them.

    If I want the best experience or the best car selection, I pay the extra for National, and get the Emerald Executive via the Amex Platinum. I've always found excellent choices with the cars in the Executive aisle, and the process of getting the car and getting out is extremely easy and fast. Not for all trips, but I often find them to be worth the extra cost.

    If you can get corporate rates through National, then it's all the better.

  39. Henry

    Yeah I would say to make sure you plan car rental as part of the journey, this only comes with more experiences. If you can travel without a car, that is the best! However, America is a unique thing in the world that you cannot even travel without renting a car... so it is more or less a thing that you have to. But in Germany or any other countries, I always use just public...

    Yeah I would say to make sure you plan car rental as part of the journey, this only comes with more experiences. If you can travel without a car, that is the best! However, America is a unique thing in the world that you cannot even travel without renting a car... so it is more or less a thing that you have to. But in Germany or any other countries, I always use just public transportation. Renting a car need extra plan, you had better return them to the same place (otherwise it is expensive or a lot of problems), you might not arrive at the airport within the time of their business hours, you may also have to pay extra money just because 2-3 hours rental on that day, definitely do not forget that you have to park the car and the hotel could charge you 20-70 dollars per night for that. Also, car crash, what if that happens, you have to deal with that as well. So just having more experiences, plan the entire trip around the best interests of renting a car without any problems, will get you out of a lot of problems.

  40. Ray

    @brizone
    I would imagine most did read the post. People rave about National for a reason and you can see that being repeated quite consistently.

    They are obviously not the cheapest brand, but then OMAAT aren't about staying at Motel 6 or flying on Spirit either.

    Lucky obviously very well understand the travel experience he gets as an AA Exec Plat or Hyatt Globalist does not reflect how life is for non-status pax....

    @brizone
    I would imagine most did read the post. People rave about National for a reason and you can see that being repeated quite consistently.

    They are obviously not the cheapest brand, but then OMAAT aren't about staying at Motel 6 or flying on Spirit either.

    Lucky obviously very well understand the travel experience he gets as an AA Exec Plat or Hyatt Globalist does not reflect how life is for non-status pax. Similarly people are pointing out that as Emerald Executive Elite or Hertz Presidential Circle one will be able to bypass counters, pick their cars from the lot and not deal with the up selling.

    The two one-way rental use cases reflects that car rental locations generally don't like one way rentals (they have the move the car back).

    Frankly, compare with the airline industry, I would contend that the car rental industry is more customer friendly - no cancellation fee being the norm, you get upgrades often, if you miss the pick up time for a few hours no big deal. Up until COVID, non-refundable airfares is the norm, change fees are $200+, upgrades are basically non-existing, esp if you fly from a hub, and if you no show a flight you basically lost your ticket's value in full (Yes there is the flat tire rule, but that is really meant for unforeseen circumstances only and non-US airline are fairly strict about no-shows)
    .

  41. SST

    1. Avis LAX is the slowest rental at that airport, avoid like the plague.
    2. Almost NONE of the “pick your own car” aisles anywhere have anything but mediocre cars.
    3. Make a BACKUP reservation for when your preferred reservation falls thru, because they all screw up.
    4. ALWAYS garden your reservations.
    5. NEVER accept paying them for gas unless you are on a long road trip and will require much...

    1. Avis LAX is the slowest rental at that airport, avoid like the plague.
    2. Almost NONE of the “pick your own car” aisles anywhere have anything but mediocre cars.
    3. Make a BACKUP reservation for when your preferred reservation falls thru, because they all screw up.
    4. ALWAYS garden your reservations.
    5. NEVER accept paying them for gas unless you are on a long road trip and will require much more than a full tank.
    6. ALWAYS do a walk around and photograph any scratches or damage prior to leaving.
    7. If a rental car exceeds 30,000 miles, insist on a newer car.
    8. Avoid Jeeps, Mustangs, Chargers, or any car likely to mean a 70s experience. Been there, done that. Even a Cruze or Hyundai is quieter, more pleasurable and safer.
    9. If it’s not COMPLETELY full of fuel, insist on 7/8 at checkout, or get a new car.
    10. Every convertible is noisy and fatiguing to drive. Don’t accept an “upgrade” without being aware of this.
    11. Plan on accounting for and chasing your FF miles AND bonuses on a significant percentage of your rentals as THe rental car companies mess up continually.
    12. Use a credit card with primary rental car collision coverage, not secondary. You’ll be glad you did, eventually.
    13. Never take a rental off the pavement. Never.
    14. Don’t leave luggage visible in a hatchback, SUV or the back seat. You want a trunk.
    15. Pay your own tolls, aVoid the Agencies’ ripoff charges unless it’s a one day rental.
    16. Join every frequent renter program and secure a discount code before seeking out rentals.
    17. The less interaction with agency employees tHe better. Hertz gold, Avis preferred, budget fast break, etc.....
    18. You will absolutely have to chase miles for any international rentals. Do it.
    19. Always compare airport rentals with local off airport prices where you can get an Uber or shuttle to the non-airport location, especially on long rentals.
    20. Uber and Lyft are your alternatives. Many times you save money.
    21. TAXIs will cheat you if they can, worldwide.
    22. Be thankful to get a decent, well maintained car; only an occasional rental will wow you. Never pay extra for an “experience” or a luxury car..... keep your expectations in check.

  42. Tony

    National is great, just go and pick whatever car you want in the aisle. i find the rates to be competitive, use an amex platinum discount code. im sure you have an amex platinum haha.

    Hertz and Avis both reserve a car for you and you can just head to the stall your car is at either. i haven't stood at a rental car counter in years haha.

  43. Flieger

    I used to absolutely loath the rental car experience. You havent said "Hello" yet and they are already in the middle of telling you all sorts of nonsense, e.g. you cannot have the car if you dont buy insurance or ... the whole nonsense, we´ve all been there.

    Renting cars from National has been such a blessing and I`ve consistently gotten great value out of it. Two years ago I spent 90 days in...

    I used to absolutely loath the rental car experience. You havent said "Hello" yet and they are already in the middle of telling you all sorts of nonsense, e.g. you cannot have the car if you dont buy insurance or ... the whole nonsense, we´ve all been there.

    Renting cars from National has been such a blessing and I`ve consistently gotten great value out of it. Two years ago I spent 90 days in a year in a rental car and I couldnt have done this without this fantasticly easy experience of just throwing my luggage in a car and drive away without even talking more than two sentences with anyone.

    Seriously, if you´re frustrated with rental cars, get yourself a discount code (e.g. from the sapphire reserve) and make yourself an Emerald Elite. It doesnt get any better.

  44. Mike

    @ The Nice Paul is 100% correct. The manufacturers will not sell them more cars with huge rebates if they don't keep them long enough.

    The general rule of the manufacturer is not to resell before 6 months and 6000 miles. Otherwise exporters would buy them and ruin other highly profitable markets like China and Singapore where new vehicles are sold for 100-200% more than in North America.

    Many countries will only allow import of...

    @ The Nice Paul is 100% correct. The manufacturers will not sell them more cars with huge rebates if they don't keep them long enough.

    The general rule of the manufacturer is not to resell before 6 months and 6000 miles. Otherwise exporters would buy them and ruin other highly profitable markets like China and Singapore where new vehicles are sold for 100-200% more than in North America.

    Many countries will only allow import of "new" vehicles, which means they cannot have more than a handful of miles on them. This keeps overseas dealerships happy, and ensures the second hand cars remain in North America.

    @ Richard Wiggans ...Really!? Lol

  45. Santastico

    National in the US. Don't look elsewhere. Good luck in Europe. I could write a book of horror stories I had renting in many Europeans countries. Now, the funniest (better to laugh than cry) experience I ever had was in Florida. I rented a car and drove off. An hour later I get a call from the rental car company asking me to take the car back. What?? Well, they said the car I rented...

    National in the US. Don't look elsewhere. Good luck in Europe. I could write a book of horror stories I had renting in many Europeans countries. Now, the funniest (better to laugh than cry) experience I ever had was in Florida. I rented a car and drove off. An hour later I get a call from the rental car company asking me to take the car back. What?? Well, they said the car I rented had been sold and the new owner was waiting for it. They rented it by mistake. LOL!!!! I asked if that was a joke but apparently was not. Long story short, they agreed to meet me at my hotel to exchange the car to another one. Unreal!!!

  46. Keyser Soze

    I knew this post would be likely generate a lot of responses, and it has. One thing I’m surprised that no one has mentioned yet is American Express “Premium Rental Protection”. The PRP product, for Amex customers with California billing addresses, costs $18.95/rental (*not* per day.) I think it’s $25/rental in other states.

    There is no cost when not renting, i.e. no /monthly/annual fees, etc. Why pay for this?

    I carry a Chase...

    I knew this post would be likely generate a lot of responses, and it has. One thing I’m surprised that no one has mentioned yet is American Express “Premium Rental Protection”. The PRP product, for Amex customers with California billing addresses, costs $18.95/rental (*not* per day.) I think it’s $25/rental in other states.

    There is no cost when not renting, i.e. no /monthly/annual fees, etc. Why pay for this?

    I carry a Chase Sapphire Reserve (VISA) with “free CDW.” However, I rent cars (in the U.S.) with my Amex card specifically to get PRP coverage. I’ve actually had a minor (fender scrape) claim and the “firepower of Amex Customer Support” did what I expected them to; they made the problem Go Away. I didn’t have to do battle with the rental agency over the usual fees (Diminished Value, Loss Of Use, etc.) that they try to impose whenever they see the chance. For the same reason, I’m protected if I pick up a car in the rain or in a dark airport garage and miss a scratch on the bumper. I just hand it to Amex. Interestingly, I’ve noticed that rental agency emloyees never even try to argue or upsell when I mention that I’m using PRP to them.

  47. Nicole S

    I'm someone who is proactively trying to solve these customers for problems, so thank you for this great article and also thanks to all of the contributors of the excellent comments.

    I manage Rental Cars for Air New Zealand. We currently have a partnership with Avis Budget Group (so Avis & Budget being our two global brands plus our main providers for domestic, and Apex our NZ & Australia-based deep-value brand).

    We leverage off of...

    I'm someone who is proactively trying to solve these customers for problems, so thank you for this great article and also thanks to all of the contributors of the excellent comments.

    I manage Rental Cars for Air New Zealand. We currently have a partnership with Avis Budget Group (so Avis & Budget being our two global brands plus our main providers for domestic, and Apex our NZ & Australia-based deep-value brand).

    We leverage off of the Avis Preferred and Budget Fastbreak loyalty programmes to provide "skip-the-queue" service to our customers. Preferred/Fastbreak are both free for our customers to sign-up and also relatively seamless within the booking platform.

    We also work proactively with ABG to attain regular special offers for our customers and we provide a preferred earn rate (20% more) to to customers booking through our website. The normal earn rate is 3 Airpoints Dollars per rental day -- 1 Airpoints Dollar is equivalent to 1 New Zealand Dollar. We frequently feature bonus campaigns with double or triple earn.

    We also frequently hear from our customers that they appreciate the fact that Air NZ "has their back" and that if there are any issues we don't hesitate to jump in and help to sort things out with our partner -- you could say our partnership provides a layer of accountability! The most frustrating thing is that customers definitely have a perception that as we are "the middle man" we must be more expensive but this is not the case, we offer our Price Match Guarantee: we're fully rate matched with the direct supplier pricing.

  48. Elteetrav

    1) you're not doing this right, and 2) you have unrealistic expectations.
    Re #1 -- Reread DGriffs excellent comment re the correct approach. Avoid the counter on domestic rentals. (My biggest rental woes are on international travel, where there always seems to be no way to avoid the line and the duplicate paperwork.)
    Re #2 - It is unrealistic to expect that you can reserve and actually get the exact model of BMW...

    1) you're not doing this right, and 2) you have unrealistic expectations.
    Re #1 -- Reread DGriffs excellent comment re the correct approach. Avoid the counter on domestic rentals. (My biggest rental woes are on international travel, where there always seems to be no way to avoid the line and the duplicate paperwork.)
    Re #2 - It is unrealistic to expect that you can reserve and actually get the exact model of BMW you prefer. THat's why virtually all rental reservation sites say things like "BMW Series 3 or similar" (or more often, Ford Focus or similar).

  49. derek

    Hertz Germany has a problem with accusing you of damage. I've heard of horror stories. My story isn't bad. They accused me on the spot, not after I long returned the car, but I showed them the sticker in the trunk that showed the pre-existing very tiny scratch.

    Hertz in the US is usually fine, at least, a year ago when I rented with the pre-pandemic and many times before that. Since I have Hertz...

    Hertz Germany has a problem with accusing you of damage. I've heard of horror stories. My story isn't bad. They accused me on the spot, not after I long returned the car, but I showed them the sticker in the trunk that showed the pre-existing very tiny scratch.

    Hertz in the US is usually fine, at least, a year ago when I rented with the pre-pandemic and many times before that. Since I have Hertz Gold or something like that, which is really no status, I just get into the car and go. If you want a normal car, like a Chevrolet Malibu or Nissan Altima, they are fine.

  50. e-squared

    I rent cars a dozen or so times per year and have done so for 30 years. I literally have not had any of the problems you describe. But, then again, I always order a very general category and am not too picky on the exact car they give me as long as it's within that category or better. Maybe 10% of the time they give me a car better than what I reserved (ie....

    I rent cars a dozen or so times per year and have done so for 30 years. I literally have not had any of the problems you describe. But, then again, I always order a very general category and am not too picky on the exact car they give me as long as it's within that category or better. Maybe 10% of the time they give me a car better than what I reserved (ie. give me an SUV when I reserve a mid-size). And, I've had no problem with any of the substitutions they have given me. But, long lines at airports, yes. I've had problems with that from time to time. But, I totally agree with your comment that brand loyalty is worthless in car rentals. Go with the cheapest. And, if the rental is domestic, rent from costcotravel.com.

  51. brian kusler

    Big fan of Turo. Went to Palm Springs last week (which i've found often has huge lines at the car rental counters), and the Turo owner picked me up from the airport AND dropped me off!

  52. PeterM

    In 2019 I rented a manual sedan at Avignon TGV station. Cars are in a somewhat dimly lighted underground carpark and it took 15 minutes to find out where reverse gear was and how to get into it in order to reverse out of the parking space.

    In New Zealand I am a fan of GoRentals. Consistently good experiences with them. The time differnce to Australia also means many pickups/drop offs are out of hours...

    In 2019 I rented a manual sedan at Avignon TGV station. Cars are in a somewhat dimly lighted underground carpark and it took 15 minutes to find out where reverse gear was and how to get into it in order to reverse out of the parking space.

    In New Zealand I am a fan of GoRentals. Consistently good experiences with them. The time differnce to Australia also means many pickups/drop offs are out of hours like 1am. Their processes work well and I have never feared being screwed on return damage claims.

    That said, Europacar in Australia has a bad reputation for post return "damage" discovery and billing.

    Firefly in Iceland was great though you'll be asked if you want Paint and Glass insurance. May seem weird, but volcanic sand is highly abrasive and the roads experience extreme wind events at short notice ( it is the only country I know where there is a website of main roads with realtime wind speeds and direction, so be warned).

    For the USA and Canada, just read everyones' comments. I doubt I ever have had the car I booked. One highlight was collecting a car and finding a massive blast of birds**t across the dashboard.

  53. Andrew

    @Richard Wiggins

    I remember spending no less than half an hour trying to read a French manual to figure out to change the car's language to English in France. Once that was finished, then I could use the car's instructions to determine how the cruise control worked (was a two part, involved pressing a button and then selecting the speed on the screen). Was one interesting experience to say the least.

    Sometimes I'm grateful...

    @Richard Wiggins

    I remember spending no less than half an hour trying to read a French manual to figure out to change the car's language to English in France. Once that was finished, then I could use the car's instructions to determine how the cruise control worked (was a two part, involved pressing a button and then selecting the speed on the screen). Was one interesting experience to say the least.

    Sometimes I'm grateful to get a "lame" rental car that's similar / the same to the one I drive at home. It's a nice change to get in the car and immediately know how everything works.

  54. Mary

    I'm baffled based on your mastery of everything else travel related. I can't recall waiting in line in the US for ages. I stick with Hertz and have had some bad experiences in the past, but I like being able to walk out and just take a car with Gold. Waiting to get out of the parking lot is usually the longest part of the process. I have also had great Hertz experiences in Norway, Spain, France, and Australia.

  55. Prins

    My recent experience with Avis Preferred Plus has been horrible - Miami, Las Vegas, San Juan and other airports had no preferred service available when I arrived, 1-2h wait in line to get to the desk. Filthy cars and subpar customer service on top of that.

  56. D3kingg

    Hertz is the best in customer service by far. Just landed in MAF. Midland, Texas last minute trip. The airport consists gates 1-5. I am in the middle of no where and all rental cars are sold out. They have uber /lyft. Fewwww

  57. Alan

    @James S

    Mexico can be a crap shoot when it comes to so-called mandatory third party liability. It is supposed to be included in the rate per government regulations although of course, you can purchase additional liability insurance. I rent cars frequently in Monterrey, Mexico and have found that Avis never charges an additional fee, rather you rent directly or from a third party supplier like Expedia.
    In December 2019 I rented a car...

    @James S

    Mexico can be a crap shoot when it comes to so-called mandatory third party liability. It is supposed to be included in the rate per government regulations although of course, you can purchase additional liability insurance. I rent cars frequently in Monterrey, Mexico and have found that Avis never charges an additional fee, rather you rent directly or from a third party supplier like Expedia.
    In December 2019 I rented a car in Cancun with Alamo and even though the Expedia page stated that the liability insurance was included, they refused to rent me the car unless I paid for the additional liability. In that instance, I contacted Expedia and they actually refunded the cost of the daily insurance but I suspect that they rarely do this.
    In other countries, off the beaten tourist path, I have rarely had to buy mandatory insurance. Recent, pre-pandemic, examples include Armenia and Azerbaijan. In both of those countries I utilized local agencies and apart from being given old vehicles with high mileage, the experience was superb. In Armenia, they brought the car to my hotel and came to pick it up there as well.
    I enjoy the freedom a rental car provides, so I guess I often just ignore the hassles. I almost always choose the smallest car available (in Armenia, I wanted a Lada 4x4) and prefer manual transmissions (last time I found an economy car with one to rent in the US was 1984). My experience in the US is I having been upgraded numerous times simply because they keep a small supply of the cheapest cars. I remember one agency in DC, trying to upsell me to a bigger car at a so called great rate. When I refused I ended up with the exact same car.
    My funniest stories are actually from Nicaragua where I have had to laugh on numerous occasions when an ex-pat Nicaragua, living in Miami, came back to visit and I found them in heated arguments with the rental counter agent simply because they did not know how to drive a manual transmission and of course they had chosen the cheapest car.

  58. Bob

    Why Ben cannot you see being cheap is the root cause of your experiences. Just choose National and Enterprise and save money somewhere else

  59. brizone

    If there's anything I've learned from this comment thread, it's that a majority of people checking out OMAAT have truly terrible reading comprehension skills! (Pro tip: Maybe don't recommend that Lucky try the exact thing/brand that he *just wrote about* as an example of a bad experience.)

  60. bhcompy

    National Emerald Aisle/Hertz Ultimate Choice are the only way to go. Very rarely do I have an issue with car selection, and, if I do, they almost always give me a car I want without an upcharge unless they're out of vehicles

  61. Kyle

    National/Enterprise Rental with a Corporate account is the best option. Rates are locked in and you get all the perks of the emerald aisle for skipping huge queues.

  62. JAlbbbs

    I always always always rent my car through the Costco Travel portal. Renting through the portal gives you a substantial discount and perks like 2nd driver free, even without status.

    When I was under 25, it was a pleasure booking with them and it was always so easy. Now that I'm over 25, I still rent through them. If something were to go wrong, I know that Costco would go to bat for me (my...

    I always always always rent my car through the Costco Travel portal. Renting through the portal gives you a substantial discount and perks like 2nd driver free, even without status.

    When I was under 25, it was a pleasure booking with them and it was always so easy. Now that I'm over 25, I still rent through them. If something were to go wrong, I know that Costco would go to bat for me (my parents had an issue with a rental during a peak-weekend in Orlando and Costco made it right).

  63. Charles

    I echo most things. With Costco I usually choose Alamo so I can use the kiosk instead of the counter. Their kiosks, which work 90% of the time, do the job. You can then walk out and choose a car from the category you selected. Otherwise, I use national . Occasionally i use hertz for the platinum benefit of 4 hour grace period. Can save a whole say of rental cost. Gold/presidents comes as a...

    I echo most things. With Costco I usually choose Alamo so I can use the kiosk instead of the counter. Their kiosks, which work 90% of the time, do the job. You can then walk out and choose a car from the category you selected. Otherwise, I use national . Occasionally i use hertz for the platinum benefit of 4 hour grace period. Can save a whole say of rental cost. Gold/presidents comes as a platinum perk. Not sure why lucky doesn’t know/use this given the obsession with credit cards.

  64. Ed

    The Nice Paul is has it right. Car rental companies are in the depreciation management business. I’ve had a couple of meetings with rental car companies recently where they boasted about how much they made selling cars in the last year. Covid and the chip shortage have lead to used car prices going through the roof in Australia, I priced out a 5 year old Yaris with 250k km on the clock at $12k recently.

  65. Adam

    Completely agree with @DTL. Car rental companies are all really bad, but National is by far the best of the bunch. If it's even remotely in the ballpark, go with National. As an AMEX Plat card holder the executive elite status is VERY handy. Reserve the midsize and take about any car you see. At the midsize price, just was able to take a convertible in Arizona.

    So, no tricks. Just use your National...

    Completely agree with @DTL. Car rental companies are all really bad, but National is by far the best of the bunch. If it's even remotely in the ballpark, go with National. As an AMEX Plat card holder the executive elite status is VERY handy. Reserve the midsize and take about any car you see. At the midsize price, just was able to take a convertible in Arizona.

    So, no tricks. Just use your National status. They have the nicest cars and easiest system with the Emerald Aisle.

  66. Milo

    1) Everyone has said it but it is worth repeating. Avoid the counter like the plague. Do whatever is needed to avoid the counter.

    2) You can go with the cheapest company if you just need a car. If you need something specific, like an SUV, minivan or wagon, book direct with the one company that you do the most business with. Pay a little more if needed. If 2 customers want that last available...

    1) Everyone has said it but it is worth repeating. Avoid the counter like the plague. Do whatever is needed to avoid the counter.

    2) You can go with the cheapest company if you just need a car. If you need something specific, like an SUV, minivan or wagon, book direct with the one company that you do the most business with. Pay a little more if needed. If 2 customers want that last available SUV, do you think they would give it to the one who booked through a third party, or what appears to be a loyal customer? They may have done a p1ss poor job at building customer loyalty, but it doesn't mean they haven't been trying. Give them a reason to value you more than the other customer.

  67. trup

    Beyond the rental car itself, the picking up of a rental car and dropping it off are the things i dread.
    You finally get to your destination vacation and have to stand on the side of a curb for 10 minutes waiting for a bus and then cram into it for 15 minutes to drive 2 miles to a rental car facility. Then you never know how long that process will take coming back...

    Beyond the rental car itself, the picking up of a rental car and dropping it off are the things i dread.
    You finally get to your destination vacation and have to stand on the side of a curb for 10 minutes waiting for a bus and then cram into it for 15 minutes to drive 2 miles to a rental car facility. Then you never know how long that process will take coming back so you probably arrive too early or risk it and then are stressing out you dont have enough time and think if you drive and park in the drive through at the terminal, will you be responsible for the tow expense?

  68. khatl

    I used to do consulting work for one of the big rental car companies. I also extensively traveled on business, renting cars in tons of cities and many countries.

    Often the significant inconsistency in service comes down to whether the rental car company actually owns the location. The majority of Avis locations around the world, for example, are not owned by Avis; they are all franchises. It even happens here in the US. For...

    I used to do consulting work for one of the big rental car companies. I also extensively traveled on business, renting cars in tons of cities and many countries.

    Often the significant inconsistency in service comes down to whether the rental car company actually owns the location. The majority of Avis locations around the world, for example, are not owned by Avis; they are all franchises. It even happens here in the US. For example, the Hertz in Hyannis, Cape Cod and Hilton Head are both franchises. Hertz in most of the world, other than a dozen or so countries in Europe, are also franchises. One way to figure it out, keeping Hertz as an example, is to try and redeem rewards points. Hertz only lets you redeem at corporate owned locations, not franchises.

    When you hit a franchise location, the variability of service is huge. Some are truly great, others are terrible and will try to scam you for everything.

    The US is also a very different market to most around the world. The service is generally much better, and they care much less about damage to the vehicle. The rest of the world, generally, cares about every scratch, ding and mark, and will sometimes aggressively bill you for them.

    So, ALWAYS take pictures of the vehicle before AND after (I had one time with Hertz Germany where they damaged the car after I had dropped it off, but billed me for it). Photos are your only proof that it wasn't you. ALWAYS get a copy of the damage sheet and, if its wrong, mark it up and specifically have the location sign to evidence the changes are authorized.

    Lastly on damage, you're at the mercy of the rental car company. They mostly sub-contract the work out to third parties, and the pricing sheets are basically a bit like the cost of medical care i.e. it costs whatever the particular car company thinks it costs. Worse, the rental car company has NO obligation to get the work actually done at the time.

    So what can happen is that you may get a scratch, and be billed $100, the next renter doesn't check the damage sheet and they get billed for the same scratch, and so on. And, as the cars are all usually on short-term leases from the manufacturer, sometimes the vehicle only gets fixed up before they are sent back (some damage you may get billed for which the manufacturer accepts back without being fixed). So, ALWAYS take pictures and mark up the damage sheet.

    If you are heading to a different country, ALWAYS find out whether there are strange things like mandatory insurances when renting a car in that country. For example, the car rental companies make a killing on renters in Mexico, because no-one realizes you need mandatory insurance beyond what your credit card company may cover you for. Naturally the rental company will sell it to you for a significant mark up. And your time at the counter increases 5-fold

    Finally, the other broad thing to know in many countries, including the US, is that the car rental business itself is not that profitable. The rental companies make all their money on the "insurance" products and other add ons that the customer purchases. The associates at the car rental desks in the US get commissions for selling you any add ons. So, if you decline everything, their incentive to give you great service or an upgrade just went down fast. (You'll also note that they never call it insurance as they're not legally allowed to sell insurance).

  69. David Ourisman

    AutoEurope actually has good rates in the US — and Ford can get commissioned on them at a far better % than a direct rental. The downside is that AutoEurope rentals are prepaid, but you can still cancel for a refund.

  70. MM

    @ Juan and Lucky, I'm Hertz Presidents Circle whatever...due to my frequent work rentals. I have been fighting with PlatePass & Hertz for months now concerning tolls that were billed to me in error. I've written to Hertz many times explaining how they must have mixed up the toll devices and assigned the wrong device to my car. Not only do I have my own EZ Pass tag, but I was 60 miles away and...

    @ Juan and Lucky, I'm Hertz Presidents Circle whatever...due to my frequent work rentals. I have been fighting with PlatePass & Hertz for months now concerning tolls that were billed to me in error. I've written to Hertz many times explaining how they must have mixed up the toll devices and assigned the wrong device to my car. Not only do I have my own EZ Pass tag, but I was 60 miles away and swiped my credit card at three different stores when some of these tolls took place. Hertz has been absolutely useless and stated they can't help and I need to take it up with PlatePass. I've spent a good six hours trying to rectify the situation and Hertz refuses to help me. Despicable.

  71. Richard Wiggins

    The pain I find when renting cars is there are never any user manuals. I often ask why do the companies do not leave a summary sheet of the basic controls lights, fuel release etc and how to tune the radio etc, particularly as I usually rent in a foreign country.

  72. KW

    I use Hertz Gold Rewards whenever possible. The biggest benefit is simply skipping the counter and walking right out to grab a car. I typically reserve the cheapest thing possible, because you’re right - inventory is unreliable and you’re gonna get what you get, so might as well book the lowest price. Sometimes the only thing left is a big upgrade. If you need something large, always book the large SUV and never the small...

    I use Hertz Gold Rewards whenever possible. The biggest benefit is simply skipping the counter and walking right out to grab a car. I typically reserve the cheapest thing possible, because you’re right - inventory is unreliable and you’re gonna get what you get, so might as well book the lowest price. Sometimes the only thing left is a big upgrade. If you need something large, always book the large SUV and never the small or mid-size. That’s the only thing I’ve found reliably available for when we need it (like renting bikes we need to put in the back). Whenever I try to shop around it always turns out to be a nightmare, so I just stick with Hertz. It’s worth the peace of mind.

  73. Carson Gaspar

    I agree that all rental car companies are terrible. I tend to use Avis as they have the best rates IFF you know which codes to use. Generally I find the best rate is the AARP rate (you can join AARP at birth, no need to be any particular age). There are even lower rates if you're willing to be slightly shady and use corporate / government rates you aren't entitled to, but that they never verify eligibility for.

  74. James

    Sixt is an awful rental car company. In Croatia, they said they were going to put a $3000 hold on my credit card in case of damages because I rented a luxury car. In reality they charged my credit card $3000. They finally refunded it 2 weeks after I returned the car. However, the exchange had changed and I did not get the full $3000 back. Thankfully I used a credit card with no foreign...

    Sixt is an awful rental car company. In Croatia, they said they were going to put a $3000 hold on my credit card in case of damages because I rented a luxury car. In reality they charged my credit card $3000. They finally refunded it 2 weeks after I returned the car. However, the exchange had changed and I did not get the full $3000 back. Thankfully I used a credit card with no foreign transaction fee or it would have been even worse. I emailed them several times but never a response about the $30+ dollars they owed me.

  75. Raj

    The main reason I prefer using Turo, the airbnb for cars. Everything is done in the app, cars are way cheaper and better quality (ie Hybrid or luxury suv for the same price as normal economy car rental), and typically they have them at either the airport or in the city.

  76. Todd

    ++++ Costco Travel. I maintain my Coscto membership level solely to use Coscto Travel.

    Autoslash is sooo 2-3 years ago. They are a shadow of their former selves. I was an avid user in its early days, but they totally changed over and now do not offer any decent discounts.

    I'd love to know what happened. Did they get bought out?

  77. ptahcha

    Umm.. why don't you sign up for the frequent renter program? You bypass the line, go straight to either your assigned car or area where you can make your selection, and drive off.

  78. neil

    I'm surprised no one has mentioned the exorbitant daily charge for using the toll transponder (eg EZPAss, Fastrak, etc) that comes with the car. You may use it once a twice at the beginning and end of a week long rental but it's a daily fee. And with more and more automated tolling you no longer have a cash lane.
    BTW the workaround is to acquire and use your own transponder. I have an EZPass that I take with me on trips back east.

  79. IndyDavid

    I agree with bgriff. Who waits in line?! Avis Preferred Plus and Hertz President's Circle are amazing. I always walk straight off the plane, get in my car, and drive away. At smaller stations, I stop at a booth in the garage. My rental agreement is pre-printed and the key is hanging there. They hand them to me, and I'm off. 60 seconds or less.

    Status routinely gets me upgrades -- I reserve a...

    I agree with bgriff. Who waits in line?! Avis Preferred Plus and Hertz President's Circle are amazing. I always walk straight off the plane, get in my car, and drive away. At smaller stations, I stop at a booth in the garage. My rental agreement is pre-printed and the key is hanging there. They hand them to me, and I'm off. 60 seconds or less.

    Status routinely gets me upgrades -- I reserve a compact and get a full size -- and coupons for free rental days or $$ off. But the real advantage of status is when they're completely sold out. Last October, I had to go to Norfolk during a military family week. Every on-airport car rental company was completely sold out, turning people away. But when the supervisor saw my Hertz President's Circle card, he made a car available for me. Same thing happened in Orlando during Spring Break once, when I had forgotten to make a reservation. Life saving.

  80. Michael Klein

    I really get a lot of value from National. They usually have the newest cars, best customer service, and have gotten me out of a few jams in the past when other agencies have failed.

    All the car rental agencies are very similar, but on average, renting a midsize and getting any car on the lot is a huge plus. I rent 20 cars a year, and it's only been once or twice a year...

    I really get a lot of value from National. They usually have the newest cars, best customer service, and have gotten me out of a few jams in the past when other agencies have failed.

    All the car rental agencies are very similar, but on average, renting a midsize and getting any car on the lot is a huge plus. I rent 20 cars a year, and it's only been once or twice a year I've been stuck without an upgraded car.

    It's too bad that enterprise is hit or miss. I have had good luck with commercial enterprise. If you need a truck, it's usually better to rent from an off-airport commercial enterprise lot. I would typically rent a Dodge F250 for $50 per day all in. If you need a truck, nothing is better. Usually cheaper than renting a compact SUV from the airport locations!

  81. eponymous coward

    I rent a lot of cars because I don't own one (live in city, reasonably close walking distance to car rental agencies, also my city has car share options).

    So, basically...

    - Yep, the experience blows compared to Silvercar or a carshare/rideshare app.
    - National Emerald Aisle is nice if you have a corporate account or are using other people's money for the rental, but I don't, and their daily rates make make my...

    I rent a lot of cars because I don't own one (live in city, reasonably close walking distance to car rental agencies, also my city has car share options).

    So, basically...

    - Yep, the experience blows compared to Silvercar or a carshare/rideshare app.
    - National Emerald Aisle is nice if you have a corporate account or are using other people's money for the rental, but I don't, and their daily rates make make my eyes bleed.
    - As mentioned, rental car firms sold a lot of their fleets in 2020 and haven't bulked them back up yet, plus Hertz/Thrifty/Dollar are in Chapter 11, so prices are super high.
    - I do have a corporate code for Avis through a past Fortune 500 employer as an alumnus (we're still allowed to use it in the alumni association, which is kind of a way to encourage us to boomerang), which I guard jealously as an option when rates go through the roof. In past years I used occasionally, but now it's almost always the best rate available.
    - I'm also an Autoslash user/aggressive shopper. In past years (before coronavirus) this has often meant I used Alamo/Budget/Dollar/Thrifty.
    - Avis's experience isn't terrible (you can often pick cars in the app) but I don't think their prices are very good either, unless you're using a corporate code.
    - I was an intermittent Hertz/Dollar/Thrifty user (at times holding Hertz Five Star status through rentals) but the Chapter 11 really nuked them hard. Often they are sharing counter staff and car fleets. One time I had a reservation and by the time I got to the rental car center they were both out of cars and closed (all three firms). This was in a 24 hour location, with a prepaid reservation with Autoslash. Autoslash made it right, and I could make a reservation on the spot with Avis, but nothing like showing up at 11 pm without access to the car you need that you've already paid for... and that experience has basically sworn me off of Hertz/Dollar/Thrifty.

  82. The nice Paul

    The mistake you’re making is assuming that these companies are in the car rental business.

    They’re not: financially speaking, they’re in the business of bulk-buying from manufacturers of mass-market cars, at massive discounts, which they then sell 2nd hand for profit at the earliest opportunity (so the fewer miles on them the better).

    Unfortunately they can’t sell them immediately after they’ve bought them, which is what they’d prefer to do, because the car companies would...

    The mistake you’re making is assuming that these companies are in the car rental business.

    They’re not: financially speaking, they’re in the business of bulk-buying from manufacturers of mass-market cars, at massive discounts, which they then sell 2nd hand for profit at the earliest opportunity (so the fewer miles on them the better).

    Unfortunately they can’t sell them immediately after they’ve bought them, which is what they’d prefer to do, because the car companies would stop selling them. So in the meantime they have to go through the tiresome business of renting them out to poor suckers in need.

    They make a terrible job of it because their heart isn’t in it — it’s not where they make the money. And they get the franchisees to turn up by letting them grab “extras” fees from customers — hence we always get grafted.

    It’s a miserable business.

  83. NK3

    I will echo what several others have said here. Most of the time I use Costco Travel. I know Ben has said he doesn't have a Costco membership, but honestly, it may be time to get one. Usually their rental rates are competitive, and they add a second driver for free, which is huge. My parents never shop at Costco but keep their membership simply for the ability to access Costco Travel.

    I also signed...

    I will echo what several others have said here. Most of the time I use Costco Travel. I know Ben has said he doesn't have a Costco membership, but honestly, it may be time to get one. Usually their rental rates are competitive, and they add a second driver for free, which is huge. My parents never shop at Costco but keep their membership simply for the ability to access Costco Travel.

    I also signed up for complimentary Hertz status through Delta. On a recent trip to HNL, that worked out well. On that trip Costco gave me options with Alamo (which is off site and requires a shuttle) or Budget (which had a long line). Booking Hertz through Delta (with their discount code) was $20 cheaper, I got 2K miles, and I could walk straight up to the gold desk. It saved me at least 30-45 mins, and I got a better car than I expected.

  84. snic

    I sympathize. The big (inter)national brands seem to be the worst. At some airports, long lines are (or were, pre-covid) the norm, and the only way around them was to sign up for their frequent renter club. And even that wouldn't always work.

    Then there's the time there were awful stains on the car seat when I picked up the car, which I accepted because I didn't have time to hassle with getting them to...

    I sympathize. The big (inter)national brands seem to be the worst. At some airports, long lines are (or were, pre-covid) the norm, and the only way around them was to sign up for their frequent renter club. And even that wouldn't always work.

    Then there's the time there were awful stains on the car seat when I picked up the car, which I accepted because I didn't have time to hassle with getting them to give me a different car. Then, after I returned the car, I got a letter from Avis saying they were going to charge me a $200 cleaning fee for the stains. The very F*ing nerve! I responded with time-stamped pictures of the stains and told them to cancel my Avid Preferred membership because I refuse to do business with a company as dishonest as they obviously are.

    But, I have to grudgingly admit there were times when their utter disorganization worked in my favor. For instance, I picked up what was supposed to be a mid-size car at a neighborhood rental location - but all they had was large SUVs. Which turned out to be great as we were traveling with friends, and we could all travel together rather than in two different cars.

  85. SS_flyer

    I read through and nobody emitiendo Budget Fast Break! I travel for work and rent a car nearly 100% of the time, and I find budget fast break to mostly work seamlessly with rarely having to even speak to a person, and their rates are often very competitive. There’s been issues here and there but 90% of the time the car is ready, and your name is listed on a screen with a space number,...

    I read through and nobody emitiendo Budget Fast Break! I travel for work and rent a car nearly 100% of the time, and I find budget fast break to mostly work seamlessly with rarely having to even speak to a person, and their rates are often very competitive. There’s been issues here and there but 90% of the time the car is ready, and your name is listed on a screen with a space number, or in a slip on a rack with said number on the slip. They have a pretty crappy loyalty program but the ease of use is my main concern.

  86. The Original Donna

    I can’t offer any advice as my experience echoes yours in Europe. Always a nightmare in France and Italy where I typically rent. No matter what you reserve, they either try to upsell you or downgrade you. I hold out and usually get upgraded for free and that’s the only nice part of the entire experience. The cars usually stink, literally, the check in process impossibly long and the turn in is always wrought with...

    I can’t offer any advice as my experience echoes yours in Europe. Always a nightmare in France and Italy where I typically rent. No matter what you reserve, they either try to upsell you or downgrade you. I hold out and usually get upgraded for free and that’s the only nice part of the entire experience. The cars usually stink, literally, the check in process impossibly long and the turn in is always wrought with suspicious charges and unpleasant surprises. And the cost is ridiculously high. So high in fact, that I have considered buying a klunker, insuring it and leaving it with friends in Italy to be available for me when I need a car and to be at their disposal if they need backup. It has to be cheaper than what I pay for rentals each year. I do everything possible to avoid renting cars and am convinced the rental car industry is worse today than ever before.

  87. swag

    Most of the issues with reserved cars being unavailable comes from the fact that there's no penalty at all for no-showing most reservations, nor is there a cost to keeping a car beyond the scheduled return except extra day charges. So that's got to make it impossible to accurately manage a fleet.

  88. Jesse C

    I have a system set up (I used to rent weekly for work, and now mostly rent 10-12 times a year for leisure):
    1) Make multiple reservations. I usually reserve a car from Hertz (where I have President's Circle and can go directly to the aisle and see if there's anything interesting there) and then something from the least expensive provider on Costco Travel. I never prepay, always check weekly for price changes.

    ...

    I have a system set up (I used to rent weekly for work, and now mostly rent 10-12 times a year for leisure):
    1) Make multiple reservations. I usually reserve a car from Hertz (where I have President's Circle and can go directly to the aisle and see if there's anything interesting there) and then something from the least expensive provider on Costco Travel. I never prepay, always check weekly for price changes.

    2) When I show up, I proceed immediately to Prez Circle and see if there's anything good. If not, I go to my cheaper reservation from Costco Travel (or if Hertz was cheapest, I take the least worst option).

    3) The least expensive Costco Travel option for me usually winds up being Alamo. If I'm not using Hertz, I'm usually at Alamo. At most airports, Alamo has self-service kiosks where you can do all the paperwork electronically on your own without an agent. Most people don't use these kiosks and want to talk to a human, but I'd rather avoid the human when I can.

    Alamo also lets you pick out of the aisle for your class if you book a popular class (e.g., Compact SUV), so I usually then go out to the aisle with my Alamo paperwork.

    4) Sign up for every single one of the loyalty programs and pre-load your DL and Credit Card. For Budget and Avis, I'm a Fastbreak / Wizard member and can usually go immediately to an assigned car and skip the line if I wind up renting from them.

    5) I know everyone raves about National and the Emerald Aisle, but pricing wise they've never been close to Hertz / Alamo / Avis for me, so I haven't rented from Emerald a lot.

    6) The key is to hold several cars to minimize the risk of driving off with nothing; one time I was at an airport (pre pandemic) with super high demand and I had reserved: 1) a midsize car at Hertz, 2) an 8 passenger SUV at Alamo, and 3) an 8 passenger SUV at Avis. I walked up to Avis and they ran out of cars. Ok, no problem. I go to Hertz, and they tell me as Presidents Circle, they've allocated a Mustang GT for me. I ask if I can swap for anything else (I was transporting people) and they offer a Chrysler Pacifica, which I took. I no-showed for my Alamo reservation.

    It's a game, and it sucks to have to make 2-3 bookings on a regular basis, but I have 0 qualms about doing what I do (multiple reservations and no show) just due to the nature of a hot mess that is renting a car in general.

  89. Weymar M Osborne

    This doesn't really help for long-term rentals or if you want to return a car somewhere other than where you got it but I used Zipcar for the first time over the past week and was really impressed by it. Renting a car can be expensive since you usually have to pay for the full day and you'll probably have parking and valet fees at hotels but for me when I'm in a city I...

    This doesn't really help for long-term rentals or if you want to return a car somewhere other than where you got it but I used Zipcar for the first time over the past week and was really impressed by it. Renting a car can be expensive since you usually have to pay for the full day and you'll probably have parking and valet fees at hotels but for me when I'm in a city I usually walk or take public transport and if there's a place I need to go that just can be reached by either then I can rent a car for just an hour or two. Their process is entirely app-based, you'll never have to interact with a person. Highly recommended

  90. Omar

    Try to get your hands on Hertz Platinum status. They bring the car up to the curb at most locations (suspended in some places since covid but hopefully will return) and when you return the car, they will take you back to the terminal with your luggage (sometimes in the same car). It has drastically improved the rental experience for me.

    No paperwork ever and they barely glance at your ID.

    If you know someone...

    Try to get your hands on Hertz Platinum status. They bring the car up to the curb at most locations (suspended in some places since covid but hopefully will return) and when you return the car, they will take you back to the terminal with your luggage (sometimes in the same car). It has drastically improved the rental experience for me.

    No paperwork ever and they barely glance at your ID.

    If you know someone who has Hertz Plat, you can piggy back on their status and rent cars through them and still get the same treatment.

  91. Chicagotrvlr

    So we just rented a Silvercar in Phoenix-yes they did away with the airport locations, but the dealership brought the car to the airport, parked it in the hourly lot, left a QR code inside to scan to get out and we went on our merry business. Dropped it off in a spot, texted them the location and went home. In the end, the cost was the same as if we rented from one of the rental companies at the airport and a million times less frustrating.

  92. Will

    I'm pretty loyal to National in locations with an Emerald Aisle -- their prices are consistently higher, but the experience is better enough that it's worthwhile. Built-in Emerald Executive status with cards like the CSR makes the (real-life) selection better and more reliable. And there's sometimes a luxury car among the Aisle options, so I get a meaningful upgrade at the inconsistent-but-occasional frequency I'd expect with mid-tier status.

    In locations without an Emerald Aisle, I...

    I'm pretty loyal to National in locations with an Emerald Aisle -- their prices are consistently higher, but the experience is better enough that it's worthwhile. Built-in Emerald Executive status with cards like the CSR makes the (real-life) selection better and more reliable. And there's sometimes a luxury car among the Aisle options, so I get a meaningful upgrade at the inconsistent-but-occasional frequency I'd expect with mid-tier status.

    In locations without an Emerald Aisle, I agree: renting cars is kind of frustrating no matter whom you choose.

  93. Trup

    I use AVIS 95% of the time and am usually happy. I am President's club and get disappointed when I get a standard vehicle- kind of like when I don't get upgraded at a Marriott as a Titanium member.... I use coupons and codes and they are usually competitively priced. the 5% i dont use them i always get mad with whoever i went with and swear i will always use AVIS. (then i try...

    I use AVIS 95% of the time and am usually happy. I am President's club and get disappointed when I get a standard vehicle- kind of like when I don't get upgraded at a Marriott as a Titanium member.... I use coupons and codes and they are usually competitively priced. the 5% i dont use them i always get mad with whoever i went with and swear i will always use AVIS. (then i try to switch a few months later and rinse and repeat)

    Also, often they send out a survey with a managers email from that location. I always save those so the next time i can contact them the day before picking up the car and can get a nicer car.

    Now renting outside of the US has always been a pain, even with AVIS. Some places are just scams and know where the door ding is on your car before you even return it. (and have probably charged the10 previous drivers for that ding as well)

  94. Robert D

    Wait, you stopped at the COUNTER??? I always go directly to the lot and select a car from the appropriate row and off I go!

  95. CR Frost

    You can avoid the paperwork for the most part by signing up as a member of the major car rental programs. After that most transactions are paper-free and you don't get the heavy-handed insurance sales pitch either. Like others have said I find the National Emerald Aisle to often be the better option.

  96. Greg

    There's absolutely no need to stand in any car rental lines as long as you have your loyalty program in the booking. This is true for Avis, hertz, budget, alamo, thrifty, dollar, national, enterprise etc.

    I'm a free agent when booking cars, pick whichever is cheapest, then make sure to add loyalty number to skip the lines. Have a backup rental with different company 1 hour later always just in case (has helped 3-4 times...

    There's absolutely no need to stand in any car rental lines as long as you have your loyalty program in the booking. This is true for Avis, hertz, budget, alamo, thrifty, dollar, national, enterprise etc.

    I'm a free agent when booking cars, pick whichever is cheapest, then make sure to add loyalty number to skip the lines. Have a backup rental with different company 1 hour later always just in case (has helped 3-4 times over last 5 years). Easy peasy works every time

  97. James S

    You dont even go into what annoys me the most - insurance laws when renting international. It can be very difficult to figure out what insurance products are required in some countries vs what theyre trying to scam you into. In Mexico, for example, expect to pay twice the quoted rate after mandatory insurance. If its required by law, why isnt it in the quote? Its a hassle to try and navigate a bunch of...

    You dont even go into what annoys me the most - insurance laws when renting international. It can be very difficult to figure out what insurance products are required in some countries vs what theyre trying to scam you into. In Mexico, for example, expect to pay twice the quoted rate after mandatory insurance. If its required by law, why isnt it in the quote? Its a hassle to try and navigate a bunch of trip advisory threads to see whats needed in x country because its never clear.

    Its also not easy in the US. People love to say "decline the rental insurance and use your Chase card" which ONLY applies if you own a personal car and pay insurance on it. Those of us in cities without cars are left with very little guidance on what we need to add (liability is the answer Ive found).

    The other thing that really annoys me is that city locations tend to be closed Sundays and are barely open Saturdays. So any weekend rental adds a full day because you cant return it. IE, if I rent at 7pm on Friday, Im forced to keep it into Monday.

    Zipcar used to be the answer to some of the issues, but then Avis bought the company and destroyed it.

    Oh and for everyone pushing National? Last time I rented from them, it was a city location, so no emerald aisle. i rented a compact because I wanted the smallest possible car to make parking in the city easier. I get there, and all they have is a mid size. And then they insisted I had to pay extra because the mid size was worth more. So why was my compact reservation confirmed? Getting the extra charges refunded was a huge hassle.

  98. Buzz

    I agree renting cars can be very frustrating and I rent a lot. I primarily use Costco travel as others have stated. Costco automatically applies whatever discounts are currently available. Also, I try to not rent from airports whenever possible. The tourism taxes are very high in most large cities.

    The problem these days is the neighborhood locations are often out of cars since the pandemic sell off.

  99. David H

    I'd mostly agree. I've been quite loyal to Enterprise for around 10 years now. My employer had a special deal with them. Insurance covered and a corporate discount which I could use on personal travel. I've always had good service with them, and always had the category of car I needed. Over Christmas when I'd rent at SLC, I would always have the 7-8 passenger SUV, due to bags and family. And always got one....

    I'd mostly agree. I've been quite loyal to Enterprise for around 10 years now. My employer had a special deal with them. Insurance covered and a corporate discount which I could use on personal travel. I've always had good service with them, and always had the category of car I needed. Over Christmas when I'd rent at SLC, I would always have the 7-8 passenger SUV, due to bags and family. And always got one. Sometimes even an upgrade to a Lincoln or Cadillac. At LAX you can check in via a kiosk and then show the paperwork to an agent on the lot and you're walked to the car. Others have also mentioned Costco, and I've used them as well. The worst Ive ever had was Budget where I'd rented a big SUV and then told all they had were pickup trucks or a 10 passenger van. Walked over to Enterprise and they got me taken care of.

  100. Doug

    Everything you need to know about how the care rental industry works you can find by looking at the way their loyalty programs work. While other modes of travel (airlines and hotels) emphasize more personal attention and staff interaction (concierge service, butlers, etc.) with rental cars, higher tier means you don't have to interact with their staff at all. I use my National status from the Amex platinum to walk by any staff member and...

    Everything you need to know about how the care rental industry works you can find by looking at the way their loyalty programs work. While other modes of travel (airlines and hotels) emphasize more personal attention and staff interaction (concierge service, butlers, etc.) with rental cars, higher tier means you don't have to interact with their staff at all. I use my National status from the Amex platinum to walk by any staff member and go straight to the Emerald Aisle and pick out a car. It's not always the cheapest, but it is the most painless. Granted I haven't rented since the pandemic started and I know the environment has changed with huge car shortages, but when I resume I'll stick to having as little interaction with staff as possible.

  101. James

    Try to get status with one firm. We have had the maximum status with Europcar for many years here in Europe. The service varies hugely on the branch, but at some branches you can choose the car and they'll give you an upgrade up two categories. At the Heathrow branch for instance you are upgraded 2 categories above even when booking an entry level car (e.g. VW Polo), ending up with an SUV or estate...

    Try to get status with one firm. We have had the maximum status with Europcar for many years here in Europe. The service varies hugely on the branch, but at some branches you can choose the car and they'll give you an upgrade up two categories. At the Heathrow branch for instance you are upgraded 2 categories above even when booking an entry level car (e.g. VW Polo), ending up with an SUV or estate instead. It's not that hard to get this upgrade. Every time you visit you get a bag of snacks and personal welcome, etc. So if you're using it a lot it's really worth looking into it from your preferred company. In Europe we have never had car availability issues like you had with Sixt so maybe it's worth looking at another brand, or try renting from a large branch, like an airport station.

    Also remember that depending on the contracts with the manufacturer the cars will be different. E.g. Europcar/National lease cars from manufacturer only so you're likely to get a low-spec but potentially much newer car, usually from a cheaper brand. Whereas with the companies that actually buy the cars outright, like Hertz, you will get a higher-spec, nicer car that's maybe a bit older, as they are going to sell it on. It all depends on what you prefer!

    Never take the insurance they offer you, just use your own if you already have it.

  102. S

    I've never had issues with Hertz, either myself or when I was with my dad when I was younger. I quite like them. I did rent twice with them during the pandemic, but I will admit it was a mid-sized Midwestern US city where, let's be honest, there probably wasn't much demand. I got the type of car I wanted both times. I echo Bjam though, it is likely much easier when you don't have...

    I've never had issues with Hertz, either myself or when I was with my dad when I was younger. I quite like them. I did rent twice with them during the pandemic, but I will admit it was a mid-sized Midwestern US city where, let's be honest, there probably wasn't much demand. I got the type of car I wanted both times. I echo Bjam though, it is likely much easier when you don't have much and are by yourself or with just one other person. You don't need anything bigger than a sedan in those cases.

    When I can, I'm going internationally somewhere I have to rent a car and I'll see how that goes :D

  103. John

    I haven't rented post-covid. But before, I had okay experiences with Hertz.

    I'm President's Circle via Delta status. You fill out your data online once and then you don't need to see a counter during pickup. Just choose a car from the PC aisle and go. Key is inside. It takes like 1 min when you drive out (they look at your license and hand out the rental agreement to you or send the full...

    I haven't rented post-covid. But before, I had okay experiences with Hertz.

    I'm President's Circle via Delta status. You fill out your data online once and then you don't need to see a counter during pickup. Just choose a car from the PC aisle and go. Key is inside. It takes like 1 min when you drive out (they look at your license and hand out the rental agreement to you or send the full agreement digitally).

    I always reserve the lowest category which yields access to the PC aisle (you may also choose from the 5 star aisle). You can check the FT thread to get an idea about what cars might be available at what airport.

  104. Jerry

    You just need to go with National. To me it's a near seamless experience every time. When they haven't delivered, their twitter team is quick to respond and usually offers compensation.

  105. Peter

    I do agree with your position on rental car company loyalty programs not really being anything of value, but I actually have had good experiences with Hertz Gold. I have the status through the Platinum car and it's really nice not having to deal with going inside/check-in/out etc. I have had issues twice where my car wasn't there and because I was a gold member, they upgraded me both times at no additional charge.

    ...

    I do agree with your position on rental car company loyalty programs not really being anything of value, but I actually have had good experiences with Hertz Gold. I have the status through the Platinum car and it's really nice not having to deal with going inside/check-in/out etc. I have had issues twice where my car wasn't there and because I was a gold member, they upgraded me both times at no additional charge.

    I totally agree with you about National's pricing. I always check when I'm initially shopping around for an option, but they are always substantially more expensive. That kills the Emerald Aisle for me. Avis is usually the cheapest and they are fairly reliable, but I've had wildly different experiences with them, especially outside of the US. I also had the same exact experience as you with Sixt (in Switzerland). Hertz is by far the most reliable in my eyes. They'll also deliver/pick up if you're willing to spend the $$.

  106. Jack

    I've been renting with Avis since my consulting days. With the exception of small airports you just walk right to the car and drive out of the parking lot. During peak hours there is sometimes a line to get out of the lot.

  107. Ali

    Am I lucky that I’ve never encounter any car reservation problem for the last 15 years? Most of my car rentals were in Europe: Spain, Italy, Germany, France, etc. I think probably because I ALWAYS rent a stick shift in European countries just to save a huge amount of money and the cars I’ve reserved were always available. I’ve rented before automatic car in LA and Las Vegas and was always available too, in fact plenty in the car park for me to choose.

  108. Margaret Koppen

    Surprised you didn't mention the ridiculous paperwork - pages and pages of tiny print, carbons, initialing, etc for most rentals - vs the occasional "just pick your car out of the row and show your driver's license at the gate" option with ZERO paperwork. Also, my Barclaycard Mastercard car insurance does not cover certain vehicles (ie: all trucks) which I've been given at the airport despite my request for a normal car - so I...

    Surprised you didn't mention the ridiculous paperwork - pages and pages of tiny print, carbons, initialing, etc for most rentals - vs the occasional "just pick your car out of the row and show your driver's license at the gate" option with ZERO paperwork. Also, my Barclaycard Mastercard car insurance does not cover certain vehicles (ie: all trucks) which I've been given at the airport despite my request for a normal car - so I can't just live with their vehicle-swap.

  109. Bgriff

    Your rental car habits ... do not sound like the seasoned traveler I otherwise know you to be? This kind of rental car behavior is equivalent to trying to bring a quart-sized shampoo bottle through TSA.

    I have never waited at a rental car counter in the US, thanks to the "bypass the counter" elite programs from Hertz, Avis, and National, which as you note you can join for free via various credit cards. And...

    Your rental car habits ... do not sound like the seasoned traveler I otherwise know you to be? This kind of rental car behavior is equivalent to trying to bring a quart-sized shampoo bottle through TSA.

    I have never waited at a rental car counter in the US, thanks to the "bypass the counter" elite programs from Hertz, Avis, and National, which as you note you can join for free via various credit cards. And then you just ... book direct through those companies, maybe using a discount code if you can find one, and ... it's fine! Occasionally at smaller airports you still have to go to the counter, but certainly not at places like Miami and Denver, where you either select your car or there is a screen that tells you where your car is.

    Typically if you have elite status and there's an issue, you can also go to the booth on the lot, rather than the main counter, which will have much shorter lines.

    I don't have much experience booking specific car types so I can't really say either way, although I usually get upgraded to an SUV anyway based on the credit card statuses, and if by chance I don't and need one for some reason, I go to the booth on the lot and ask politely if they have any upgrades, and usually they do (for free).

    I don't know what Autoslash is, but, are you booking through them? If you are, obviously you're getting shitty service, because you're sending the message that you're a cheap, inexperienced customer. Just like how if you book a hotel via Priceline you're going to get the 2nd floor room next to the ice machine overlooking the air conditioning equipment. You have to book direct if you want travel companies to think you're a valuable customer.

  110. Texas Skiier

    Domestically in the US48 + Hawaii, National mostly does it right. There are going to be problems with availability due to the inventory sell offs mentioned by others, but its very rare that I don’t end up with a vehicle I am happy with. Usually something with four doors, leather seats and CarPlay/Android Auto.

    In STX - I recently had a lousy experience with Hertz. I don’t understand why a 6 year old wrangler...

    Domestically in the US48 + Hawaii, National mostly does it right. There are going to be problems with availability due to the inventory sell offs mentioned by others, but its very rare that I don’t end up with a vehicle I am happy with. Usually something with four doors, leather seats and CarPlay/Android Auto.

    In STX - I recently had a lousy experience with Hertz. I don’t understand why a 6 year old wrangler in STX costs more than a brand new Wrangler in Hawaii.

    Also in DEN - remember that people frequently want large vehicles to go outdoors and or to the ski resorts, I’ve been twice and had to rent an SUV one of the times. The other time, I arrived and was able to find a new SUV (Mazda CX-5) in the Emerald aisle. I made an Emerald aisle booking while sitting in the SUV of my choice and canceled the SUV rental saving $200.

    In Europe, the selection of vehicles is not as simple or cheap as it is in the Americas and services like the Emerald aisle, with Europcar or whatever national’s affiliate is is not available. Upgrades seem rare or impossible and there are too many classes of car piling on the fact that many folks cannot drive manual transmission and proper American-sized pickups and large SUV’s don’t exist.

  111. Vapor.24.7

    I also have had great luck with Costco Travel getting competitive if not spectacular rates on vehicles. You do have to be vigilant and be prepared to make new reservation after reservation (cancelling the old ones of course!) as rates jump around and have dropped by almost 50% on some instances.

    This of course doesn’t speak to the other frustrations, but from a price perspective it works and you get to see multiple options...

    I also have had great luck with Costco Travel getting competitive if not spectacular rates on vehicles. You do have to be vigilant and be prepared to make new reservation after reservation (cancelling the old ones of course!) as rates jump around and have dropped by almost 50% on some instances.

    This of course doesn’t speak to the other frustrations, but from a price perspective it works and you get to see multiple options if there is one company you prefer more than others.

  112. Bjam

    Pre-pandemic and bankruptcy, Hertz was always my go-to, especially in the US. President's Circle usually just means picking out the least worst car in the various aisles and the car geek in my enjoyed the hunt of finding the diamond in the rough (there often weren't many, but you'd be surprised) on the whole I found the process extremely easy, mainly in not having to deal with any actual people other than the gate agent...

    Pre-pandemic and bankruptcy, Hertz was always my go-to, especially in the US. President's Circle usually just means picking out the least worst car in the various aisles and the car geek in my enjoyed the hunt of finding the diamond in the rough (there often weren't many, but you'd be surprised) on the whole I found the process extremely easy, mainly in not having to deal with any actual people other than the gate agent at the exit. I've never had an issue with billing, extending rentals or anything else. As it currently stands though, I feel Hertz will go back to the bad old days of tired old sedans with tens of thousands of miles but we'll see. I have my first rental in a year coming up this weekend so we'll see if its gotten worse

  113. Andrew

    I've found President's Club status with Avis to be incredible useful. I've used the President's Club line available for guaranteed availability and getting in touch with busy stations to bypass the line (Avis Preferred desk in DFW was closed). I think having status definitely helps with getting a decent car, or having a car held for you in the case of a oversell.

    I can't speak to dealing with car reservations, normally I just pay...

    I've found President's Club status with Avis to be incredible useful. I've used the President's Club line available for guaranteed availability and getting in touch with busy stations to bypass the line (Avis Preferred desk in DFW was closed). I think having status definitely helps with getting a decent car, or having a car held for you in the case of a oversell.

    I can't speak to dealing with car reservations, normally I just pay for a full size on a corp code (since it's $5 more than a Economy/Compact/Standard sized car), apply a free upgrade coupon and then take whatever the rental desk has lying around. Fleets are definitely more constrained than pre-covid, as one agent told me, demand is up right now but they haven't grown their fleet to replace what was sold off.

  114. Willem

    As a solo traveler I've only ever needed a regular ol' car, and have been fine with whatever is given to me.

    My gripe is the "you're liable for everything" stance, where you pay a bunch per day for "just in case" coverage and it feels like wasted money, 'til you get burned once by having to shell out hundreds for some scratch on the car that you didn't take a picture of beforehand.

  115. Juan

    I haven't had many issues yet with rental cars. The times I've had issues are when I rent out of smaller locations where the rental stock is kept at a bare minimum and I've had to wait an hour just to get a car. It's generally easier for me at airports, but I also stick with large companies, like Enterprise, as they're well-stocked there. If I know it's going to be a busy time (like...

    I haven't had many issues yet with rental cars. The times I've had issues are when I rent out of smaller locations where the rental stock is kept at a bare minimum and I've had to wait an hour just to get a car. It's generally easier for me at airports, but I also stick with large companies, like Enterprise, as they're well-stocked there. If I know it's going to be a busy time (like when I went to Nashville for the solar eclipse), I try to arrive early in the day as they won't be overbooked by then. I also only book compact cars, as they're usually the cheapest and if they're out of stock, I get a free upgrade.

    I also try to book with the rental car companies directly. The only exception would be when I book through Costco as it just adds on a few more discounts, but then your reservation is directly with the company. But in general, most horror stories I hear result in people booking and paying for their rental car through a 3rd party.

    I have found that my status with Hertz is practically pointless. Only once I could go straight to the lot, every other time I've had to go to the counter because they couldn't "verify" my status, even when I've called ahead of time. And even then, they won't let me go into the lot and pick a car I want, I have to use a pre-selected car even if it isn't good. That was honestly the only benefit of using Hertz, especially now with COVID. Their website is super buggy too whenever I book, which leads to some of these issues, probably. Now I only go with them when they're much cheaper, but that is pretty rare.

  116. Anthony

    I think the main issue is that the business is historically a poor business, so companies don't feel they can make money by investing in a nice product. Plus, it is a hard business to control. Let's say a car rental location plans to have 20 of the "nice" cars you covet. What happens if prior renters simply keep the cars for a day or two more than expected? Person returns the car late? Car is stolen? Inventory management seems like it would be a nightmare.

  117. Rico

    I can see your situation where you had too much luggage to fit in a small car being an issue, but in almost all other cases I just don't care what car I drive for a couple days so I'm not disappointed as long as there is a car for me. An hour plus wait I do care about, but that's usually only at LAX where I've already taken the shuttle out to the lot so it's not that easy to switch companies.

  118. MDA

    Hire cars are ludicrously expensive in Australia right now. Apparently the companies sold their fleet.
    Not related to your question, but in foreign countries that have bad reputations when cars are returned, I always video the car in front of a person handing it over to me (as some countries still do that). I make it really obvious. Never had an issue when I return it!
    I used to hire a car in...

    Hire cars are ludicrously expensive in Australia right now. Apparently the companies sold their fleet.
    Not related to your question, but in foreign countries that have bad reputations when cars are returned, I always video the car in front of a person handing it over to me (as some countries still do that). I make it really obvious. Never had an issue when I return it!
    I used to hire a car in Canberra weekly with hertz. Every week that hertz would try to upgrade me to an SUV for free. Every week I would decline it and ask for a small car as our office car parks were small.
    Even pre Covid the industry was not great.

  119. Abey

    Avis also lets you go directly to the vehicle if you have the app. I do think we also try to get a good “deal” and then ending up paying for it in frustration. I try to stick with Avis and they mostly manage to live up to my expectations in terms of not overbooking and always received the car I booked or bigger

  120. JD

    I too have found National to be the best so far out of all the rental car companies. Smoothest transactions during pickup and drop-off. I had a good experience with Silver Car as well, but they seem to always be sold out.

  121. Sean

    Right now is especially tough to judge rental car companies as the demand has perked up but the supply has not. During the pandemic, car rental companies liquidated inventory to reduce their liability.

  122. NAUgrad05

    I tend to get the best deals through Costco Travel, and check prices again about once a week since they fluctuate so much. It's annoying and I've also had many instances that the car offered was completely different. My last rental at LAX was through Avis and it was a nightmare. We waited in line for 2 hours and got to the counter to be offered either a tiny economy car or a Ford F150...

    I tend to get the best deals through Costco Travel, and check prices again about once a week since they fluctuate so much. It's annoying and I've also had many instances that the car offered was completely different. My last rental at LAX was through Avis and it was a nightmare. We waited in line for 2 hours and got to the counter to be offered either a tiny economy car or a Ford F150 truck...definitely not the intermediate I paid for. We took the truck and while it was nice to be in a larger car in LA traffic, it was terrible for parking and the amount we paid for gas.

  123. Stan P

    It’s not only National , most if not all of the big in USA has the same process and picking up your choice car . Then you stop at the exit to get scanned. Very happy with Alamo !

  124. Raksiam

    Not sure if things have changed but Hertz had a program similar to Emerald Aisle. Reserve an intermediate and go directly to the lot and pick any car from a certain area or selection of spaces. I think most of them have similar programs. You just join the loyalty program and enter all of your details

  125. PRG

    I totally agree with you. Car rental in Europe has not evolved in the past 20 years. I rented a car last week and checked in online with all the necessary information to pick up the car as quickly as possible (it was late at night). When I show up to the desk, they ask for the same information another time and it takes about 15 minutes. I asked why and the answer was that...

    I totally agree with you. Car rental in Europe has not evolved in the past 20 years. I rented a car last week and checked in online with all the necessary information to pick up the car as quickly as possible (it was late at night). When I show up to the desk, they ask for the same information another time and it takes about 15 minutes. I asked why and the answer was that they are a franchise and are not able to access the check in information I filled in the day prior!

  126. Raksiam

    Hertz went bankrupt and had to sell off a big chunk of their fleet. Other companies sold off cars last year because there was no one to rent them. So now there are just much fewer cars out there in the rental fleets. Somehow these companies can't seem to make money even in good times.

  127. DTL

    You need to look into National and Emerald Aisle! Sorry did not read all of your discussion but straight away I knew you need to look into it. It is free to join the loyalty program and you can sign up for Emerald Aisle. You pay the intermediate price and when you turn up, you choose any vehicle from the aisle. You will get at least an intermediate. This also means you do not need...

    You need to look into National and Emerald Aisle! Sorry did not read all of your discussion but straight away I knew you need to look into it. It is free to join the loyalty program and you can sign up for Emerald Aisle. You pay the intermediate price and when you turn up, you choose any vehicle from the aisle. You will get at least an intermediate. This also means you do not need to stop at the counter, you go straight to the vehicles.

    You can also download the app and complete all the items on it, this way you do not need to speak to anyone until you leave the lot.

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iamhere

There are a few points I was surprised that you did not mention: 1. If you book a more expensive car like Seinfield did and you are given a cheaper car, they do not give you a discount. 2. Tolls. This is a big problem now that many places do not accept cash (or credit) for tolls. They convince you to buy the toll package with them which is expensive or you can have the license plate billed which they charge you a processing fee. They package the former as a "optional request", but in reality you don't have much of a choice. There are few people that would spend as much as they charge on tolls daily. Most of these have online systems where the transactions can be seen real-time, so there is no way that they have to charge so much. They could check the toll pass transaction history and charge a processing fee. 3. Many premium credit cards are great for the insurance coverage so you are only out of pocket for part of the insurance. I have used this type of insurance before with a claim before. Consider if renting a car is really needed not only with cost, but also time and aggravation.

Morris

I only ever rent outside the United States and actually have a day and a half trip to Cyprus coming up (currently based in TLV, only a 45 minute flight), so this post was very good timing. I rent quite infrequently, so I strive to extensively research each rental, specific to the particular pickup location (reviews of the difference providers, both chains and locals). Many benefits of status are less prominent outside America, so it's less of a factor in picking. I also tend to go with the company's total 0 deductible coverage and not my card's. Less parties in the mix, less hassle and headache. This strategy has resulted in zero issues and actually a good record for excellent upgrades. My last rental in Belgrade via Hertz in October (booked via Aegean's Hertz portal, so earned good Aegean miles) was by far the best. I booked the cheapest automatic (Peugeot 200 series) and was given a beautiful black Mercedes full-size sedan thanks to my "lowly" 5 star status and offering to pay the extra 30 euros for comprehensive coverage (perhaps the previous comment about employees having an incentive to upgrade people that buy addons is accurate). The whole 6 days including the extra insurance came to about $120! My upcoming rental will be via Sixt. Free Platinum status was obtained via the Mastercard World Elite concierge promotion, and they have a promotion on SUVs that ended up being cheaper than the tiniest Kia Picanto type cars. Perhaps the Platinum will get me upgraded to a luxury SUV? But for non-U.S. rentals, research is definitely critical. There are many local rental companies that do not appear on the search engines and offer better rates or service that goes above and beyond even what high status offers (personal meet and greet at the airport and escort to your waiting car, etc.). They also have smaller fleets, so your chance of a massive upgrade when booking a commonly booked class is much higher (I was upgraded on a previous Cyprus trip from a compact car to a full-size Chevy SUV via a local Cypriot company as they ran out of compact cars). The Autoslash/Costco/BJs offerings are not that great for non-U.S.

Andy

I've been an Avis Preferred for many years, but I now actively avoid using my Avis Preferred profile. My experience is that they use the profile as an excuse to change rental terms against you favor, even if it's not true. I had always selected as a preference NOT to take out PAI insurance, since I have a PAI insurance which also covers accidents with a rented car. But they keep adding it, telling me this was the preference in my profile - which is factually incorrect. Also I have selected that I want to pay in the currency of the rental location, but they keep converting into my home currency at an awful exchange rate. Same response.

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