Car Rental Tips From A Pro

Reader P. works for one of those big national car rental companies, on the customer service front lines. She has some insights for how to get on the good side of car rental employees, how to make sure the car you ordered ends up where you need it, and the potential hazards of online reservation systems.

1. If you make your reservation online, PLEASE GIVE A PHONE NUMBER AND/OR EMAIL ADDRESS!!! We would love to confirm your reservation with you, but we’re not mind readers. The reservation/rental system I am forced to use is DOS-based (oh! the shame!) and leaves a lot to be desired as far as being user-friendly.

2. If you make your reservation online, be proactive and call the station where you’ll be picking up your vehicle to verify that the reservation went through and that your desired car will be on the lot. Should you have to do this? No, you shouldn’t. But what’s the harm in giving a heads up so that potential difficulties can be headed off at the pass?

3. We don’t grow cars on our lot. Our cars are constantly moving to and from location depending on demand. “Specialty” vehicles ñ things like 15-passenger vans, minivans, or high-end cars like sports cars, Infinitis, Lincoln Navigators and Town Cars, etc. need at least one week lead time to ensure you can reserve one.

Additionally, just because the online system allows you to reserve a certain type of car, it does NOT mean we actually have that car at the station you want to use. Please ñ call us and confirm.

4. Regarding availability ñ right now, a lot of car rental places are very tight on inventory because of the credit crunch, the general state of auto manufacturers, etc., so finding that “perfect” rental car might be even more difficult.

During peak times ñ holiday weekends, vacation months, special event days ñ”specialty” vehicles like minivans, 15-passenger vans and high-end vehicles may be very scarce or even impossible to obtain.

5. Be a pal and let us know when you aren’t going to honor your reservation. This isn’t such a big deal on a one day rental, but if you have a reservation for a week or for a specialty vehicle, please do the Christ-like thing and call and release the vehicle so we can possibly rent to someone else.

6. Regarding minivans and 15-passenger vans ñ a lot of rental franchises require a minimum rental period ñ especially during the summer months when people are taking vacations. Do not take this out on your local station; they have rules they have to abide by and are not doing this just to ruin your day.

7. Regarding truck rentals ñ I’m sorry that you have to rent a big old truck to move that big old widget you got for free on Craigslist. Yes, I realize the truck rental is costing you more than the widget. Yes, I recognize the cruel irony of this, but life is like that sometimes.

8. Speaking for my station, you must be at least 21 to rent a car. Renters 25 and younger are subject to an additional $25 per day surcharge. Again ñ I’m not doing this to cramp your youthful style, dude ñ it’s a rule of my boss. This also means that no, you can’t rent that fancy car for your senior prom, but your mom can (you still can’t drive it, though ñ sorry)

9. Regarding coupons/discounts ñ you generally have to bring the specific coupon with you when you pick up your card. Saying “I work for AT&T” doesn’t cut it ñ sorry. If that were the case, ALL of my customers would work for AT&T. If you *do* work for a company that has a discount with a rental agency, it is best that you make your reservation through your company, not in person, if you want that discount. If you’re using a coupon, please read it carefully. Some require a minimum rental period. Others require a certain class of car. I can’t give you what your coupon doesn’t provide for.

10. Regarding insurance on rental vehicles. I am required to advise you that insurance is available (loss damage waiver, additional liability policy, etc.). You are NOT required to take the insurance. HOWEVER ñ you must be aware of what your credit card or personal auto insurance does or does not cover. I cannot tell you this ñ don’t say “I have Allstate ñ what do they cover?” I haven’t a clue ñ sorry. I can say that, generally speaking, your auto policy/credit card does NOT cover rental trucks, and in a lot of cases, this includes SUVs and minivans. It’s your responsibility to find out ñ not mine.

11. When you do make a reservation online, whatever rate you requested is the rate that my system processes. I do not choose the rate – you did when you asked for unlimited mileage or a car seat or a GPS or asked to take the insurances available on a rental. Sometimes I can amend these items, but it can possibly affect your rate for the negative.

12. At my station, if you want to rent a car for someone and you aren’t here in person, you will have to fax me front and back of your credit card, front and back of your driver’s license and a signed statement authorizing the use of your card for this rental. Additionally, the person for whom you’re renting will be considered a secondary driver and a $25/day fee will apply.

13. Regarding debit cards: when you rent, depending on the type/length of rental, our system is going to get anywhere from a $200 to a $400 authorization on your card. This means $200 – $400 is going to be *frozen* on your debit card until you return the vehicle and your transaction is closed out. At least 2 times a week, this conversation transpires:

Customer: Can I rent a car with a debit card?
Me: Sure. We’ll take a $200 – $400 authorization/freeze on the card.
Customer: Oh. I only have like $23.47 in that account.
Me: (head asplodes)

Translation: The customer wants me to let him drive off my lot in a $45,000 car with absolutely no guarantee or deposit on his part. And no, we don’t rent on a cash deposit or a check.

Any questions for P.? Leave them in comments and we’ll pass them along.

RELATED: Uhaul Dealer’s Tips For Happier Renting

(Photo: Osbournes Life)

Comments

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  1. 31y/oToday_GitEmSteveDave says:

    See, you know how to take the reservation. You just don’t know how to hold the reservation.

  2. Rectilinear Propagation says:

    Number 1 explains why they ask for my phone number. Every time they ask for it I’m thinking, “Didn’t I give it to you online? Why does it ask for it if they don’t send it to the employees?”

    • calquist says:

      @Rectilinear Propagation: Numbers change all the time and nobody ever bothers to let companies know. I always ask for the phone number at my work because most times if I read it to them and ask them to confirm, they don’t listen and say yes before I even finish.

    • Maria De Vita-Krug says:

      They also ask for it to confirm that you are you. Just like the Gas Company asks for it when you call them. It’s a way of securing ID without having to ask for more personal information..

  3. Blackadar says:

    Some of the above tips are fine, but some just come off like whining or are misleading.

    I’m an insurance adjuster and I’ve never seen an auto policy not cover a minivan or a SUV in rental coverage. So unless someone got their auto insurance from “Joe’s Cheapie Auto Insurance”, that’s bunk.

    Also, if I rent a vehice online, it’s not my job to call you to check up to make sure your company has done its job. This reminds me of the old “you can take the reservation, but you don’t know how to hold the reservation” bit from Seinfeld. Expecting you to do your job isn’t an unreasonable expectation.

    • SushmitaAlectrona says:

      @Blackadar: @Blackadar:

      Blackadar – some credit card coverages DO explicitly exclude minivans, SUVs, cars over a certain dollar value, etc. I don’t think he was referring to primary auto coverage, just the credit card coverage (which would be all that someone that didn’t own a car would likely have).

    • CompyPaq says:

      @Blackadar: Unfortunately, that Seinfeld incident is probably the least exaggerated bit on the shows history.

    • Julia789 says:

      @Blackadar: I’m involved in a rental car insurance nightmare after an accident two weeks ago. A Budget Rental Car slammed into me.

      I guess Budget has their own insurance division because they are so large as a company? Their insurance company has not so much even phoned me or my claims handler, two weeks later. When my claims handler calls them she gets voicemails over and over again. A receptionist gave her a case number and that’s it. They have not reimbursed me my $500 deductible or paid my out of pocket rental car cost. My insurance company cut me a check for the $10,000 repairs to my car (minus my deductible, which the other party should pay) and will then go after them to reimburse the $10K, because otherwise I could not even start the repairs and it’s been two freakin’ weeks.

      When my husband was hit by someone with a regular (non-rental) car two years ago, the other driver’s insurance had a check to him in two days. I cannot believe it’s been two weeks and they won’t even call us back.

      • Snarkysnake says:

        @Julia789:

        Call an attorney. If you have a real case , you would be amazed at how fast they will make you whole.

        Flamers – If Budget had taken care of this case with a little personal service ,(according to her , just a phone call) – you wouldn’t be reading this.

        • LawyerontheDL says:

          @Snarkysnake: Actually, calling an attorney for a property damage accident can be a big mistake unless you negotiate a flat fee up front. I’ve seen people lose 30% of their property damage settlement that they would have gotten anyway.

          • Snarkysnake says:

            @LawyerontheDL:

            Okay . Reasonable. But here’s my math.

            Right now , she has 100% of nothing.
            If she gets wise counsel , she will most likely get 70% of something larger than…The nothing that she has now.

          • Julia789 says:

            @LawyerontheDL:
            @Snarkysnake:

            I compromised! Yesterday I left a message with a secretary at Budget’s insurance division that I *would* be calling an attorney shortly. Mysteriously, I got a phone call 15 minutes later from a claims handler for the first time in two weeks. She said she “just got the claim on her desk” and would be happy to help.

            Funny how my insurance handled everything within 48 hours but theirs takes two weeks to even get the paperwork on their desk? They said there was some problem with the driver of the rental car being evasive in providing information to them, however, a phone call to me or at least my insurance company to let them know they were working on it would have been nice!

            Looks like the lady who hit me declined Budget’s rental insurance, but had no insurance of her own. At least it appears that way because she refuses to fax or mail anyone her insurance info and it’s two weeks later, and she is being evasive. Budget said their uninsured motorist insurance would cover the damage if she had none of her own. What an idiot that woman is, driving with no insurance! It would have cost her five bucks to get the rental insurance!

    • Mary Marsala with Fries says:

      @Blackadar: Not to state the obvious, and not to interfere with an insurance adjuster being a dickhead (which is surely the natural order of things), but I believe the OP’s suggestion to call and confirm an online reservation was intended to help customers make sure they’re getting what they ask for, not to put the onus on them — it’s not your *fault* if they didn’t do their job (“they” being the chain and not the OP, contrary to your dickheadedness), but if you NEED the reservation it makes more sense to call and check than hold your breath and hope.

      This is what we call “useful practical advice”, not the excuse-making or offensive snark you seem to think you’re responding to. While many companies in this world often don’t do their jobs correctly (*coughINSURANCEADJUSTERScough*), I for one am grateful when a front-line, low-level employee of one of those companies is willing to give me, as a potential customer, tips for making sure I get the service I need in spite of them.

      • Bumpy says:

        @Mary Marsala with Fries:
        Wow, Really??? Not sure that was dickheadedness at all. The state of ‘customer care’ has gone to hell. For what fucking reason would you book online then call in to confirm that what you just confirmed online is in fact true? Don’t get me wrong, I’m no insurance adjuster fan boy, most insurance works out to organized crime as far as I’m concerned, but scheduling and then calling to check again is INSANE.

    • Rachacha says:

      @Blackadar: It is worth noting that most auto insurance plans that you have (or rental insurance that you may get with your personal Credit Card) do NOT cover accidents on rental cars that you may rent for work.

      I used to work for a small company, and to save money, they had us deny the insurance coverage on a rental car because the credit cards picked up any insurance issues. Infrequent travelers would get a cash advance and use their personal credit card to cover hotel and rental car. I had a co worker who was traveling, parked the car in the hotel lot, and someone ran into it in the parking lot. Neither the credit card company, nor his personal insurance would pick up the cost of the damage, and it was apparently a nightmare to get the corporate insurance policy to pick up the charges after the fact because the policy was soon changed to ALWAYS accept the insurance unless you were using a company issued Credit Card.

      • Blaaaah says:

        @Rachacha: Not necessarily so.

        Depending on the state you’re in, coverage of rental cars is dependent on which coverages you have selected to carry.

        For instance, in NC, for your personal auto policy to cover a rental car, you need to carry Collision and Comprehensive. In other states, all you need is liability coverage.

        Best advice is to check your policy.

        • Powerlurker says:

          @Blaaaah:

          If I’ve read my (Texas) policy correctly, I’m not covered for any rental cars unless it’s a loaner while my car is undergoing repairs. So the moral of the story is, READ YOUR INSURANCE POLICY. Also, as far as know, no credit card coverage covers pickup trucks.

    • Shadowman615 says:

      @Blackadar: I completely agree with your last paragraph. Hey OP, if you want to know why customers act so pissed off, it’s probably because your company’s reservation system is complete bunk.

      If I can make a reservation online, I expect it to be correct. End of story.

      • Wombatish says:

        @Shadowman615:@Blackadar: 3 minutes on the phone, and you can make sure it’s correct, since, you know, we’re all human and mistakes do happen.

        And then, when they -do- screw up later, you can say “I called and checked” and act that much smugger and snarky about it!

        • Shadowman615 says:

          @Wombatish: Even better, you can get the person’s name when you call so you can later say, “But Sheila told me the reservation was here!”

          “What do you mean there’s no Sheila here?”

      • JamieSueAustin says:

        @Shadowman615: And the agent is reponsible for the programming end of the reservation system, thus giving you the right to have a hissy fit at the desk when a 1 or 0 goes astray and your reservation doesn’t make it to their office entirely intact? An online system is only as reliable as the individuals who programmed it, and sometimes not even that reliable. The OP’s advice to call and double check that your reservation was recieved and understood was a bit of practical insight to help ease the process for you. Always remember to direct your distain towards the appropriate parties. The OP has no more control over the back end programming of the rental place’s website than you do over the weather.

        • Shadowman615 says:

          @JamieSueAustin: The agent absolutely is responsible for renting out a car to someone else when I had one reserved. Don’t tell me that stuff’s not happening.

          BTW, I’m not advocating having a hissy fit at the agent. I’m just saying it’s OK to firmly expect them to give you what they promised you. In a professional, polite, and calm way.

          • henwy says:

            @Shadowman615:

            If you read the agreement, they didn’t promise it to you. So when they screw up and don’t have the specific car you reserved, remember, you agreed to it.

        • floraposte says:

          @JamieSueAustin: Yes and no. The agent is the representative of the company, whether s/he was responsible for the specific error or not. Customers shouldn’t be an asshole because it’s bad to be an asshole, but if the person who is actively responsible for the problem isn’t produced for the customer, it’s perfectly appropriate to complain to the company representative who is there.

          That’s a tough thing to teach young staff sometimes, because they tend to think of it as a personal situation when it’s not.

      • Focus-Man-Focus says:

        @Shadowman615: I work in auto rental as well, for one of the major players, and I have news for you: online systems work through computers, and computers (often) screw up. The simple fact is that a computer cannot tell if the minivan it sees as on the lot is going to have a safety recall, or come back missing half a bumper, or not come back at the exact date/time specified on the previous renter’s contract. The computer system depends on everything being “perfect,” which we all know it never is. If you expect your reservation to be right, don’t depend on a computer. Call and speak to the living, breathing person at that rental branch that will be able to tell you these things. END OF STORY.

  4. RStui says:

    Not to the OP, but other commentors. How do you know if your insurance or credit card covers rentals? Where do you get this information?

    • chrisdag says:

      @RStui: It’s in the card agreement and usually in easier-to-read text when they first send you the card and promo stuff. After that you can find the details online or simply by calling in. My personal experience is with Gold and Platinum amex cards and they generally have a decent amount of rental coverage. Your own personal auto insurance can also help.

      Since every person’s situation is different it’s worth researching for yourself. The answer is often different when you are traveling for business vs. personal as well.

    • rpm773 says:

      @RStui: Or you can just call your credit card company and ask. Even my plain-jane green AMEX covers my rentals. Or at least it covers why my insurance won’t, absolving me from having to buy the rental company’s insurance.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      @RStui: Almost all insurance agencies have the option to cover rentals, but you have to pay for the insurance…so check your policy.

    • Julia789 says:

      @RStui: I’m renting a car right now because I was in an accident where someone hit me two weeks ago. I used my Amex for the extra coverage, but was told that since my insurance company is reimbursing part of the daily rental fee, the Amex coverage no longer applies. The Amex insurance coverage only works if you charge the full amount of the rental car on the card. Which is fine for vacations, etc. But after an accident your insurance may cover part of the rental, a certain amount per day.

      Best to call your personal insurance agent/company to ask before renting. Turned out my personal auto insurance carries over to a rental, due to state law, so I was luckily covered anyway.

      • englishman says:

        @Julia789: This is actually pretty standard practice amongst insurers. It doesn’t even necessarily require them to cover rentals in a normal situation too. One thing to be aware of… You crash that rental… You could well end up paying Loss of use fees to the rental company equivelant to the standard daily rate for that class (not the rate you paid) unless you take their insurance. Another thing, it’s not generally a good idea to rent a car and drive the regular car on the same insurance. Most of the time, you’ll be just fine, but how are you going to explain rearending the rental with your vehicle, or both vehicles being in an accident on the same day?

  5. doctor_cos wants you to remain calm says:

    How about a tip for the rental companies?

    When I give you my cell phone number because I have one of your cars
    AND you know which day and when I am planning on returning the car
    AND you feel the need to close the location because of weather (an ice storm, not an imminent hurricane)
    = CALL and tell me the location will be closed, and what I should do with the car.

    Wouldn’t that be @#%!!ing human?

    This is why I don’t EVER rent from a certain company that rhymes with Benterprise :)
    Yes this is one of my favorite rants, thanks.

    On the plus side, I’ve never been disappointed with National, and have been pleasantly surprised several times.

    • NeverLetMeDown says:

      @doctor_cos:

      That’s really ironic, since the same company owns National and Enterprise.

      [en.wikipedia.org]

      • maddypilar says:

        @NeverLetMeDown: That’s funny. I would never have guessed that they were related at all. At Enterprise they give you the hard sell on insurance and I have pretty much always had a bad experience there (like the time there was no wind shield wiper fluid in the car and I didn’t find out until I needed it and the compensation they offered me for filling it up myself was an upgrade on my next rental even though I made it clear I wouldn’t be renting from there again.) While at National I am always treated well and there isn’t much of a price difference ($5 a day maybe). I’ve never had a hassle and I’ve always been pleased. It’s hard to explain because it’s mostly a feeling but the feelings are worlds apart.

        • NeverLetMeDown says:

          @maddypilar:

          They’re different brands, with different targets. Enterprise does a LOT of local rentals and rentals for while your car is in the shop, while National is a full-service rental company, kind of #3 to Hertz and Avis.

        • Wombatish says:

          @maddypilar: That really happens a lot. The same parent company will own three different service divisions (save on overhead, since they’re all providing the same service), and one is tailored to the lowest denominator, then mid and high, with prices to match.

          The most accessible example I can think of is a man/parent company who owns three car dealerships: a used car lot, a Ford dealership, and a Lexus/BMW/Jaguar/Ferrari dealership.

      • Anonymous says:

        @NeverLetMeDown:

        Actually, Enterprise Rent-A-Car IS the parent company of Vanguard, which operates National & Alamo. Though the fact they are related is true.

        Also true is the fact that they are separate brands with separate purposes. National is aimed mostly at business travelers; Alamo targets families traveling; Enterprise aims for local businesses and individuals.

      • Anonymous says:

        @NeverLetMeDown: Actually Enterprise only recently acquired Vanguard, which owns both National and Alamo. So they haven’t yet fully integrated their systems (if they ever plan to do so) so any service you receive from National was there before Enterprise took over. Hopefully Enterprise doesn’t completely try to change the brand.

  6. rpm773 says:

    please do the Christ-like thing and call and release the vehicle so we can possibly rent to someone else

    WWJR?

    • wgrune says:

      @rpm773:

      WWJR?

      An H2.

      • ptkdude says:

        @wgrune: How is placing a phone call a “Christ-like” thing? They didn’t have phones when he was (supposedly) alive.

        • rpm773 says:

          @ptkdude: Yeah, really. And the word on the street is that Christ had a reservation at for 13 at a nice place in Jerusalem for Easter brunch, but he never called to cancel them when he got nailed down to other commitments.

        • Rachacha says:

          @ptkdude: Divine Intervention. You don’t need to call, just think really hard about the fact that you no longer need the rental any more, and I am sure that the Rental company will get the message.

      • doctor_cos wants you to remain calm says:

        @wgrune: No, an Oldsmobile Silhouette… It’s the Cadillac of minivans.

    • ColoradoShark says:

      @rpm773: He means, if you don’t do this they’d like to nail you to a cross.

  7. Tim says:

    These don’t really look like tips. They’re more like “this is how it works, so deal with it,” with a little bit of “customers are stupid and make me mad, so please don’t be stupid, because it will make me mad.”

    I guess it’s good to know these things, but “tips” are usually things that would benefit the customer. I see very few of these above, not including the “this is how to make sure I do my job correctly, even though … it’s my job.”

    Does P. have any advice that would benefit the customer? Money-saving tips? Time-saving?

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      @TCama: I think this actually does benefit the customer…I’ve rented two cars in my entire life. I wouldn’t know the ins and outs of renting a vehicle and it’s helpful to know how these places actually work, so I know what to do when I do need to rent a car.

    • korybing says:

      @TCama: This advice helps me a lot. I’ve never rented a car before in my life (mostly because I’m not legally allowed to for another half a year) and the whole process is a giant mystery to me. This article helped shed the light on the more confusing elements of car-renting for me.

    • subtlefrog says:

      @TCama: I don’t see them as “this is how it works, so deal with it.” Or maybe they are, and I’m cranky this morning…but each one I read, I checked off like, yes, as a good consumerist, I would, in fact, check the fine print on the coupon and make sure it is valid for what I am trying to rent. I would look into how much that truck would cost to rent the thing I bought on Craigslist.

      And some were interesting, yes, as insights into how the industry works. Calling to check on the reservation – that IS a good piece of advice. We know now how the system works, and why things fall through the cracks. Not our fault, but we might as well save ourselves some headaches and call to confirm, no? Or better, just make a phone reservation? Are those better?

      • Wombatish says:

        @subtlefrog: While I realize these tips were presented on Consumerist, so they’re only really doing to get to Consumerist readers, I read them as presented to the renting public en mass.

        But I agree, most are helpful, and some good insight into how terrible the system is on both sides of the table.

        Just remember… while the minimum wage employee on the other side of the counter (any counter) may be screwing you a little, corporate not only made the rule forcing the employee to screw you, but is screwing you and the employee twice as hard as the employee is screwing you.

      • Kimaroo - 100% Pure Natural Kitteh says:

        @subtlefrog: Yeah.. I use online forms to do things because I don’t want to have to call and speak to someone who can’t understand how to spell my last name.. If I have to call them anyway, why bother?

      • freelunch says:

        @subtlefrog: Calling to confirm seems to be the ONLY good piece of advice in this article.

        I have rented more cars that I can count, and I feel that I could do better than this list.

        Great advice (that wasn’t listed): If you are renting in a city you just flew to, take a cab to a non-airport rental location, and save yourself the “airport convenience” or “tourism” tax charges that tend to go along with renting from the airport. Many corporate contracts allow you to return to any location without penalty, and you can just drive the car to the airport rental location without a problem, and save yourself $50 or more in ‘tourism’ fees by picking up the car somewhere else.

        • Focus-Man-Focus says:

          @freelunch: Good advice, you should note, however, that these fees (more often than not) go directly into the pockets of the airport authority or municipal/state/provincial/local government. What little bit doesn’t go directly to them covers the astronomically high rents and operating fees charged by said authorities to the rental agency to operate on their premises.

  8. bagumpity says:

    Sounds to me like somebody working at the whahmbulance rental counter has her knickers in a bind. That reads like “stuff all you stupid customers who I hate so much could do to make MY life easier.” She left off “die horrible deaths and leave me alone so I can watch Oprah on the portable TV I have hidden under my desk.”

    Seriously, employees like this are why there are places I’ll rent from and places I’ll NEVER rent from. Thankfully they’re easy to spot (even without Oprah playing in the background). They’re the ones who act like they’re doing YOU a favor by reluctantly accepting your business. Luckily, the Avis employees at the local rental office are the exact opposite of this person. I’ve never had a problem with them in the four years I’ve been renting there.

    • greenunicorns says:

      @bagumpity:

      While I agree that the ‘tips’ came off more as ‘rants’, I would like to point out that renters treat the clerks at rental places like crap. Before I married/moved in with my wife, she had a roommate who was a drone at carmax. Oh the stories I have heard…

      I know that my wife’s roommate worked his ass off trying to placate all the obnoxious customers he dealt with, and the rant that the OP gave is pretty consistent with that.

      Just because OP sounds pissed right now, it doesn’t mean she acts that way toward the customers.

      Just sayin.

      • Wombatish says:

        @bagumpity: The limitations of the systems and rules and simply poor business practices that the parent company does/makes don’t help make the rental employees job any easier.

        It’s not her fault that the company chooses to move cars around endlessly and mess up reservations. What is she going to do, spend all day in the parking lot blocking the exit?

        While I agree she was ranting somewhat, there are plenty of rants any of us would like to pass off to our stupider customers, or even our smart customers who have stupid moments/habits.

    • ALL GLORY TO THE HYPNO-TOAD says:

      @bagumpity: Because at avis, they only hire people who work hard? Here’s a tip: they all hire the same kind of people. You just had a bad experience with one employee and are unfairly judging a company.

      • bwcbwc says:

        @darkstar: I don’t think she calls the customers stupid because she hates them. She hates them when they do stupid stuff. These tips are to keep customers out of falling into the stupid category.

        So the only real benefit of these tips is to make the rental transaction a less-stressful experience for both the renter and the agent. Which at the end of a long flight (or a long shift) can be very important to have.

  9. Riff Raff says:

    I concur with Blackadar. A certain car rental “enterprise” seems to find it impossible to have my car on the lot when I pick it up, and I’ll be damned if I have to be the one to confirm it will be there. That is what the employees of the stores are paid to do, not me.

    The car I rented in early 2008 had to be retrieved when I picked it up. Keep in mind that I was on-time, maybe even late, for the pickup. They had the nerve to deliver it with a nearly empty tank of gas, and ask if I wanted it filled. You’re damn right I did!

    Then, in December of last year, I had to drive, in a near blizzard, to pick up the car; it was at some kind of staging depot and not at the rental office. Yes, I should have said “YOU bring the car here” but I was in a hurry. I had to fill out the paperwork and inspect the car. Oh, did I mention the conditions outside were nearly a blizzard?

    So, P., don’t give me any of that ignorant bullshit about it being my responsibility to make sure your company’s employees fulfill the most basic of their jobs: making sure there are cars on the lot to give the customers with reservations. If the car is rented out to a “walk-in”, then you better make damn sure that there is another, equal car that can be there by the time of its intended reservation.

    • pop top says:

      @Riff-Raff: “So, P., don’t give me any of that ignorant bullshit about it being my responsibility to make sure your company’s employees fulfill the most basic of their jobs: making sure there are cars on the lot to give the customers with reservations.”

      I don’t think a lot of people understand how car rental places work. They don’t have a standing inventory at each location. Cars are driven all over whatever state every day to try and make reservations from place to place. So if they don’t have the car you reserved on the lot, it’s not the fault of anyone at the location. It’s the company’s fault for not hiring enough drivers or planning their routes poorly or not giving anyone enough time to get anywhere.

      Something I infer from P’s post is that the website doesn’t check to see what’s available at each location or any locations nearby for that matter.

    • HiPwr says:

      @Riff-Raff: I rented from Enterprise at the Orlando airport one time. Waited 45 minutes for their van to pick me up and transport me to their offsite location while witnessing the other rental agencies’ vans coming and going multiple times. The agent didn’t even try to make an excuse when I finally arrived.

      • calquist says:

        @HiPwr: Enterprise just moved their Orlando location to the actual airport last month. No more shuttle!

      • bwcbwc says:

        @HiPwr: The shuttle bus issue varies depending on the airport, traffic, the time of day and all sorts of other factors. Sometimes I’ve had to wait for Avis while dozens of National and Alamo vans have gone by. Other times it’s been the other way around. Hertz tends to have more shuttles than anyone, but then you pay a premium for that service.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Hmmm, some useful tips in there, but nothing I’d have thought was rocket science.

    A couple of things though:

    - I’ve no issue with you being required to offer insurance. But I do have an issue with being given the hard sell for it, especially when I already declined it on your website, and when you called me to confirm my reservantion.

    - Like the other commenter said, I should not have to call you to check a car is available. I’ve booked the damn thing on your site. If it’s not there, you should call me and go out of your way to offer an alternative.

  11. rpm773 says:

    Here’s a tip: When renting a Jeep in Hawaii, take some pictures of it before leaving the lot with the car. Or at least compare it to a similar Jeep.

    One time when renting from Thrifty, they tried to nail me on some missing rubber bumpers on a Wrangler. I checked over the car before taking possession of it, but since it was a missing part (as opposed to damaged) and I was unfamiliar with the vehicle, I didn’t catch it.

    Thrifty had me fill out a damage slip upon returning, but I didn’t put any insurance information on it and just left. Never heard anything about it after that.

    • TrueBlue63 says:

      @rpm773: This is a very common scam. Also, cars are often provided washed and in a dimly lit location, and returned to a brightly lit location. Imagine the difference in finding defects.

    • johnfrombrooklyn says:

      @rpm773: I rent cars about 60 days of the year; I now always whip out my phone or digital camera and take 4-6 pics of the car as a “safety”.

    • Wombatish says:

      @rpm773: UHaul gives you a little slip of paper with a picture of the truck on it, and tells you to circle anything not “like new”.

      I’ve only rented a Uhaul twice, but each time I turned to the clerk and said “This is a used truck, right?” They give me the ‘duh’ look, and then I promptly circle the entire truck and initial. They give me a chuckle, but they’ve signed off each time.

      And honestly, those trucks are so banged up sometimes it’s not that far from what I would actually circle D:.

      • spinfire says:

        @Wombatish:

        I have rented 26 foot trucks from Penske twice, and in each case they do the walkaround themselves, with you, and mark off any damaged locations on the truck. Then you both sign off on it.

  12. ospreyguy says:

    I was expecting some “tips.” Not just “don’t be a jackass.”

    Try this, ask for an upgrade when you get there. You may get one at no cost. I have had several at Dollar. Not much but the little extra’s are nice.

    • woot says:

      @ospreyguy: Absolutely. Having worked in that industry, it’s very common for me to have, say, 10 B-class cars with 15 reservations for the day, but 20 C-class cars with 10 reservations for the day. I know I’m going to run out of B-class cars at some point and *have* to do upgrades, so doing one early because you’re a nice, polite person is no big deal. In fact, I’d *rather* do it.

      Sometimes, the general policy is to upgrade short-rentals first or to favor business customers, but there’s flexibility in there. Personally, I always liked to give them to private renters who were nice because I knew they’d get much more enjoyment and satisfaction out of it. Having said that, understand that sometimes it just might be impossible based on cars we have vs. reservations.

      As for the point on insurance – call your credit card company and insurer before you go and know what’s covered. A lot of the extra insurance we sell is completely unnecessary, but we have no way of knowing that and if you don’t either then you’ll be buying something you don’t need.

    • korybing says:

      @ospreyguy: I was expecting some “tips.” Not just “don’t be a jackass.”

      You’d be surprised how many people DON’T follow that “tip” and need to be reminded often.

    • narf says:

      @ospreyguy: Yep – the key thing is being nice, and sometimes just having more patience than the clerk.

      On one rental, we reserved a regular Caravan. They said it would be another 15 minutes before it was ready. No problem, I’ll wait. Counter clerk checked 10 minutes later … still not ready yet. She gave up and just upgraded to the Grand Caravan, which was otherwise $20 more a day. The other option, a Durango, was no upgrade when gas was over $4/gallon.

  13. Cornelius047 says:

    People who say “It’s not my job to call you,” are the whiny ones in my opinion. I don’t mean to say that it’s incorrect. It isn’t your job, but a 2 minute phone call to the rental counter can save you a 2 hour headache when you get there.

    • johnfrombrooklyn says:

      Hear hear. Most large comnpanies have a central reservation system completely detached from the local counter. It’s hardly the local person’s “job” to call you if they never know about the reservation in the first place. @Cornelius047:

    • korybing says:

      @Cornelius047: Agreed. I don’t understand why you wouldn’t want to just call and check to make sure everything is set up correctly, especially if the rental car is crucial for whatever you need it for. It doesn’t take long at all to just make sure everything is shiny, and it’s worth the peace of mind.

    • calquist says:

      @Cornelius047: Agreed. It takes 2 minutes and is the same as confirming your flight 24 hours in advance.

    • Rachacha says:

      @Cornelius047: So if I call in advance to confirm the reservation, will it guarantee that the car will be ready and available, filled with fuel and paperwork ready to go when I arrive? Probably not, so you are simply confirming that they received your reservation, not that they will actually be ready to handle you

      • Cornelius047 says:

        @Rachacha: You’re right… waste of time.

      • sponica says:

        @Rachacha: for the most part I’ve only dealt with smallish lots, no lines, no waiting…and it’s been a godsend. Now I’m not sure if it’s the location, the chain, or the fact I’m using a corporate discount code when I book. But I’ve NEVER had a problem with a rental pickup or rental return.

        So everyone who needs a car in CT, use the Avis @ New Haven Union Station. I’m sure I’m paying a premium by renting onsite, but it’s been a hassle free experience the 10 or so times the past year.

  14. opticnrv says:

    I agree with Blackadar…these aren’t ‘tips’ from a pro…maybe it’s the way she has worded them, but most of these ‘tips’ come off as complaints about working in a job that deals with the general public. You take the job…you take the pain. You don’t get paid for the ‘easy’ part of your job that anyone can do, you get paid for handling those daily problems that would send most people running. Study and/or work to become a white collar professional and you’ll find the great unwashed don’t show up in your workspace anymore.

  15. lewisb says:

    The customer wants me to let him drive off my lot in a $45,000 car with absolutely no guarantee or deposit on his part. And no, we don’t rent on a cash deposit or a check.

    Sigh. I learned this one the hard way, back in college. I flew into Atlanta for a co-op interview in LaGrange, GA (appr. 1 hr. from ATL). The company with which I was interviewing had supposedly arranged a rental car for me at the airport, but something got screwed up. My contact at the company is gone for the evening (I probably landed around 7 or 8 pm) so calling them is fruitless. So here I am, a 19-year-old greenhorn with no credit card, trying to rent a car with cash from the ATM. Not my finest hour.

    I took out my first (and only) credit card not long after that debacle.

    • Snakeophelia says:

      @lewisb: Debacle, yes, but not on your part. Assuming the company knew you’d be getting there at night AND that you were too young to rent your own car, it was very short-sighted on their part to not have someone there in person to ensure the car rental went smoothly, or at least to have an evening contact number. If I was left on my own in a strange city in that sort of situation, I’d be PISSED at the company I was interviewing with.

      • Oddfool says:

        @Snakeophelia: Same thing happened with one of my technicians where I work, before I began working there. Company had sent him across the country and did not have any arrangements set up for car rental or hotel. I think the reservations had been made, but nothing about arranging payment, or even letting him know to have his credit card handy.

        I’ve sent a few people for business trips similar to his for training, and had everything all set up (Reservations and payments) and provided all their details to them in a binder to take along. I’ve even called them at different stages to check up on them, even when it was after hours for me.

  16. tkozikow says:

    Car availability at Enterprise is an interesting process. They have at least 6 rental locations within 15 minutes of my house and I figured that if the location I made the reservation with was out of the vehicle I needed they would transfer a car from another nearby location. Not necessarily true, as I learned a few weeks ago. It seems that rental locations are attached to a regional management hierarchy and proximity does not mean that all locations are part of the same group.

    When no cars were available I was driven to a location nearly 45 minutes from where I live which totally screwed my travel plans since it was in the opposite direction from where I needed to be. When I asked about getting a car from ‘x’ location down the street I was told that they did not share cars with that location and I later learned that this was part of Enterprise’s performance monitoring process. I considered getting the car from the other location, but the walk-up rate was 2x the online rate I already confirmed.

    Overall, I think that Enterprise runs a good operation and I continue to rent from them, but have started to make ‘backup’ reservations at multiple locations so that I do not encounter this problem again.

    • edwardso says:

      @tkozikow: same thing happened to me. I rented a car and they drove me 25 minutes in the opposite direction to get the car. Still, I got the car for $10/day and they didn’t push the insurance on me so I was happy

    • Focus-Man-Focus says:

      @tkozikow: I work for Enterprise, and every time I hear of this is mystifies me. Let me assure you that that’s not how we do things here… we go to the closest location or give an alternative vehicle, even if we need to give someone who’s in a rush a compact car for the hour or so it takes to get the Impala driven over from the next closest branch (in my case half an hour each way), then switch vehicles. We always try to have the vehicle on hand of course, and only accept walk-ups that don’t conflict with reservations, but sometimes unforseen circumstances leave us scrambling. In those cases we always work with the renter to find the best possible solution for them. I will say that we are a smallish group, and we are fiercely competitive amongst ourselves for the best customer satisfaction scores… in fact, our region is being taken out to dinner this month by another region’s staff because we beat them for the month of May :)

      With 8000+ offices in North America, there will be some offices that aren’t quite up to standards, unfortunately, and I’m sorry to hear that you’ve gotten stuck with one of them. I suggest reaching out to the area manager (the branch manager’s boss) and telling him/her exactly what you said here… I’m pretty certain your concerns will be taken to heart.

  17. mistifi says:

    Don’t forget to check all the information on the car before driving it off the lot! I would argue that it’s not the customer’s job to make sure everything is up-to-date, but Dollar proved me wrong when just 2 months ago, they rented a car to my mom. The car’s registration had expired and she got pulled over by the cops. Dollar wanted her to drive the unregistered car all the way back to the rental place (about an hour) to trade it in, putting her at risk for getting pulled over again.

    • Anonymous says:

      @mistifi: Avis rented me a car with expired plates – when the police stopped me I gave them the rental agreement, which was for a completely different car, and the agent had lined through the information and hand-written the information about the car I was driving. To top it off, they had had several vehicles of the same model and color stolen from a nearby airport location a few weeks before. After an hour in a holding cell and a lot of explaining, the cops impounded the vehicle and let me call Avis for another car. At least they got there in 30 minutes with another car for me. Needless to say, I’ve never rented from Avis again (and that happened in the 80s).

    • RandomMutterings says:

      @mistifi: That’s a shame about your mom. Still, the only thing she was risking was the stop, not a fine — it’s not the driver who is breaking the law by driving with expired tags/registration — it’s the owner of the vehicle. Oh, yes IAAL.

      • mistifi says:

        @RandomMutterings: We were aware of this at the time, but all the same, it was a very humiliating process. Additionally, Dollar initially refused to come pick up the car and drop another one off at our house. They finally came and swapped it, but they made us wait a day and a half. The reason we’d been renting a car was that we were in the process of moving out of state. We were trying to pick up boxes and packing supplies and get everything done. Having a car we couldn’t drive put a bit of a crimp in our plans.

  18. shibainu33 says:

    Yeah, no tips at all. Very disappointing actually. I’ve been renting cars quite a bit lately and I generally don’t have a problem if I follow procedures, which for the most part, are the same for each car rental company. “Getting on the good side” is not something I want to do. I am all about the new kiosks that eliminate the CSR altogether. I’ve used them a few times now and it’s great.

  19. John Morgan says:

    Wow! This is about the bitchiest piece of passive aggressiveness I’ve seen in quite some time. Sorry you hate your job lady.

  20. Daisuke Matsuzaka says:

    Yeah, Seinfeld nailed it. After reading these so-called “tips,” they wonder why we get annoyed at these yahoos? My goodness!

    • johnfrombrooklyn says:

      Hopefully this poster learned a very valuable lesson. Do not – under any circumstances – attempt to be helpful on a blog to strangers.@Daisuke Matsuzaka:

    • Anonymous says:

      Tips??? All it sounds like to me is: “This is the way it is so don’t get mad at the poor terminal buys because of what their boss says to do. Oh…and bend over backwards and give us your information 3 or 4 times because we may not get it and if you don’t then too bad we aren’t mind readers”….great tips…

  21. Trencher93 says:

    Reservation doesn’t mean what it means in the dictionary, that they have reserved a car for you in the class you requested. It just means they’ll give you whatever they have left on the lot (a light truck, bicycle, etc).

  22. Xerloq says:

    Another article from the “Make My Job Easier” series. Complaints aside, I see only one or two tips out of the thirteen.

    I think the best tips are 1) to read the rental agreement for the company you’re working with, 2) to understand what your auto/credit card insurance covers, 3) shop around for the best rates.

    I’ve got a couple of responses… ok a lot of responses for the tip-poster.

    1. PC Terminal format is not DOS. Most likely you’re running XP with a terminal emulator for a mainframe. If you’ve got a better system, pitch it to your CIO/CTO. You’ll make millions.

    2. Why should I call to confirm something that has been confirmed the webiste and via email? Will you cancel if I don’t?

    3/4. What agency do you work for? The one I use regularly consistently has “specialty” vehicles available with little to no notice.

    5. If you can’t hold my reservation for me, why should I cancel it?

    6. Again, which agency do you work for? Mine requires no minimum rental period.

    7. So? Don’t like to talk to people? Can’t commiserate? Aren’t you ranting here?

    8. Pretty well understood, especially here at Consumerist.

    9. It never hurts to ask. People asks because it works. It has for me (I don’t work for AT&T).

    10. Then don’t sell your insurance by telling me what my insurance doesn’t cover, especially since I’ve checked.

    11. You are the face of the company. If you don’t want to discuss rates and reservations…

    12. Again, what agency? Mine requires no fee for a secondary driver.

    13. The amount held on a debit is the first useful bit of info, from my perspective.

    • Xerloq says:

      @Xerloq: For disclosure, I usually use National and sometimes their sister companies.

    • korybing says:

      @Xerloq: 2. Why wouldn’t you want to call and just double check to make sure everything has gone through correctly? Things mess up every once in awhile, especially when computers are involved, so why not just give yourself the peace of mind and make sure everything is peachy?

      Not trying to be a dick or anything, but this seems to be the biggest complaint of the post here in the comments, and I’m just curious to why it’s such a big deal to just double-check, even if it’s not your job to do so.

      • opticnrv says:

        @korybing: And so when preparing for a trip, I should set aside 2 or more hours simply to call and (re)confirm:
        1) Car Rental Reservations
        2) Hotel Reservations
        3) Plane/Train/Bus Reservations
        4) Restaurant Reservations (for client dinners)
        5) A/V equipment Reservations (for sales presentations)

        times the number of legs of your trip?

        C’mon…I’m not a travel agent…isn’t this what confirmation reference numbers are for? Get ‘em…Write ‘em down…then hold the agent’s feet to the fire when they don’t have your resource reserved…after all…they had no problem ‘reserving’ the funds by placing a hold on your credit card…if they can do that, they owe you your reserved resource.

        Seriously…in this day and age…call and attempt to get a human on the line to confirm your reservation, hoping that they are somehow personally involved in fullfilling said reservation? What added garauntee does that provide? Will they be there when you arrive and your reservation can’t be fullfilled?

    • econobiker says:

      @Xerloq:

      #13- Reserve the rental on a low limit credit card and then pay with a debit card. You have to plan time to pay it on drop off though and tell them that so they don’t run the credit card in their little human carried remote transaction printer…

      • Xerloq says:

        @econobiker: Always do. I thought this tip was helpful for those who don’t like the safety of credit cards in this situation.

        @Rectilinear Propagation: 7) I don’t know many people who cite cruel irony when having a complete melt down. Civility goes a long way on both sides.

        It’s no help when a CSR parrots “I can’t do that, I have no control of that,” over and over. If I have a problem, tell me what you can do. The CSR is the representative of the company. If they have no interest in helping me, should I assume the company has no interest in helping or that I need a different CSR? If I need a different CSR, who is it?

        11) I read this as “I have no control, except to raise your rate, so don’t ask.” Perhaps I misread.

        @korybing: Ditto opticnrv. How do I know the agent I call will take the message properly or be the one I pick the car up from?

        Things go wrong less often than you think. Problems can and should be resolved easily at the rental counter, especially when I have a reservation confirmation printout in my hand. That piece of paper has solved more problems than a phone call all cases, in my experience.

    • Rectilinear Propagation says:

      @Xerloq:

      7) There’s a difference between commiserating and having a complete meltdown and blaming the CSR for something you know they have no control over.

      11) Saying that they can’t always change items for online reservations and that some changes can increase your rate is hardly the same thing as saying they don’t want to discuss it at all.

  23. Anonymous says:

    How about adjusting your silly draconian policies? Your a rental car company. Letting your customers drive your cars is a risk. Trying to protect yourself from every risk by screwing your customers is crummy. If your afraid of risk get out of this risky business model.

    One of my favorite scummy rental car companies is Enterprise. They are the bottom feeders that deal with the insurance industry and provider rental cars for car dealerships. I have been asked to provide them information about my personal insurance while renting because their insurance did not cover collision damage. I also have been told at their rental counters that while they do “direct bill” the dealerships my personal car was “too old” for them to do this even though my car (a Mercedes S class) used was worth 3 times what their cheap piece of crap rental car was worth. The dealership I bring my car to got so tired of dealing with customers that were ripped off by Enterprise that they no longer provide service loaners through them and advise owners of older cars NOT to rent from Enterprise.

    I avoid these idiots like the plague as well as many of the other rental car agencies. Rental car companies are a classic example of companies that get away with whatever they like because idiots are willing to lay down and put up with all of their stupidity.

    I feel truly sorry for anybody who has to deal with the “travel industry” on a regular basis for work.

  24. flyromeo3 says:

    How about if I schedule to rent a vehicle through your website 6 weeks in advance. Only to find out when I arrive at my scheduled time that the car I’ve selected has been rented out.

    HELLO, if i state im picking it up on [date] at 6:00pm and I get there at 530. I expect my vehicle to be on the lot. If not, a simple phone call even 6 hours prior to my pick up would be appreciated.

  25. Megan Squier says:

    When I was a teenager my mom went to Avis to rent a full size sedan (she’d already reserved it online weeks before) for a trip to New York to see the relatives and what do you know Avis didn’t have ANY full size, run of the mill sedans for us. Yet they DID have 2 Dodge Caravans and 1 small SUV sitting un-reserved on their lot for some odd reason. Because they didn’t have our reserved rental or an equivalent and couldn’t get one by the time the office closed, the manager got corporate to authorize a free upgrade to the minivan, plus gave my mom a coupon for a free day rental. For a family of 4 traveling from southern (podunk) Delaware to Long Island for a week, the minivan was much appreciated.

    The thing I don’t get is why they had 3 “premium” vehicles NOT due to canceled reservations sitting on a tiny lot in Dover, DE anyway but couldn’t scare up an Impala or Park Avenue? Oh well, it was to their disadvantage anyway. That particular Avis location went downhill soon after that. My mom tried to redeem the free rental coupon 6 months later and the clerk acted like a total crackhead. Some weird stuff went down there to the point where my parents stopped using Avis in Dover all together. They now use Enterprise when they need to rent a car because the Avis franchise was so bad for so long.

    • Xerloq says:

      @Megan Squier: Most likely the “premium” vehicles were from cancellations and they hadn’t been reserved. “Standard” vehicles are more popular, which is why they ran out.

      The upgrade is also the way the system is supposed to work. Every time I’ve rented I get at least the class vehicle I reserved. Usually I get a better one because all the standard vehicles were gone. The rental agencies don’t make money on cars that just sit on the lot, so it’s better for them to rent out the cars as free upgrades.

      • econobiker says:

        @Xerloq: Yeah, for a couple of years I was getting bumped up during holidays when I reserved the standard level car with the frequent renter program. I figured that the location I was dealing with was reaming walk-up renters so it was better to bump me up and then rake it in from those poor souls without reservations. Nothing better than getting Lincoln Town Car for the Taurus price (happened twice).

        • Xerloq says:

          @econobiker: I once got a convertible Mustang for the Focus price. I should have taken the Town car. =)

        • Megan Squier says:

          @econobiker: In 23 years of life, I’ve never rented a car so I’m not familiar with the “bump” procedures. My jalopy holds up pretty well during interstate trips and I’ve got a mechanic riding shotgun most of the time so I figure its a complete waste to rent a car.

          I know more about buying than I do renting in the cases of housing and vehicles.

  26. humphrmi says:

    Sounds more like a bitch list than a list of tips.

  27. Joe Reilly says:

    Unlike just about every other commenter, I’d like to say thank you. I didn’t find the article to be whiny or bitchy at all.

    I took the comments to be like “this is why sometimes we seem inefficient”. I even sensed an apologetic undertone to many of the statements, sort of like “we’re doing our best with what we have, here are some tips to help both of us”.

    I noticed how many of the comments ended with how a phone call would help. Many are quick to say that we shouldn’t have to make a phone call if we use the website, but I agree with the OP- would it really hurt? Would a 5 minute phone call be worse than a 7 day trip damaged by the wrong rental car? Or a huge battle royale at the rental counter when your car isn’t there?

    I can honestly say that I had no idea your systems were behind in the times. Knowing this, I will try to be more helpful when I rent a car. Based on this post, it looks more like a team effort, and honestly, I’m ok with that. It doesn’t hurt to smile once in a while, even if “I shouldn’t have to”.

    • shanoaravendare says:

      @Joe Reilly: Hear Hear! I, too, found the article to be a helpful insight into what goes on behind the counter.

      And you know, it’s so much easier to prevent a problem from occurring by calling ahead of time than it is to deal with a problem once you’re on the lot and they don’t have what you reserved.

      • JamieSueAustin says:

        @shanoaravendare: Another Hear Hear! for the OP. I don’t rent cars often (like maybe once, but I made my friend handle the paperwork and I just paid) so these tips do a bit for comforting my nervousness over the process. I’m just amazed how so many of the commentors are reacting so nastily to the post.

    • MissChevious says:

      @Joe Reilly:

      I also agree with you, Joe. While it’s true that a phone call to confirm my reservation isn’t “my job,” I’ve found that if I call to confirm with the local office and am nice on the phone, I get the car I want (or a better one) when I go in to the office.

      In fact, on Memorial Day weekend, I went to pick up my car and they didn’t have the one I wanted. But because I was nice and they had a note that I had called ahead, they had a brand new (different model) more expensive car that they were happy to let me have at the cheaper price.

      I absolutely understand why people get annoyed with rental companies (and I am not immune), but the “it’s not MY JOB, you are all IDIOTS and WHINERS” attitude never got me better service. A confirmation phone call did.

    • bagumpity says:

      @Joe Reilly: I’d agree, except that I’ve been to many different rental agencies (my job requires full-time travel), and there ARE employees who can do their jobs efficiently, cordially, and carefully with the resources they are given. Some of them even go above and beyond. The folks at my local Avis rental counter know me by sight, know my preferences (w/o checking a database), and care enough to ask a little bit about my travel plans. Because of that, they have set aside 4WD vehicles for me when the weather looks bad and they know I have to navigate the mountain passes to get to work. They’ve set aside vehicles with sun roofs too, when it’s nice and sunny and my drive will be that much better. They’ve checked my reservations against deals and steals they know about and hooked me up with better rates. They’ve called me and said “we booked your car in tonight. just bring it in tomorrow morning” so I didn’t have to schlep out to the airport when I got home late at night. And they do this with the same crappy “DOS” based system and dot-matrix printer as any other Avis counter. Hell, sometimes they make sure I am well taken care of even when their ancient equipment is out of order and they have to do it all by hand with forms and carbon paper.

      My point is that good employees make the difference for their customers, not the other way around. The person in TFA sounds like someone whose only concern for her customers is how they can make HER life easier. And obviously, the best way to do that is to not be her customer.

  28. johnfrombrooklyn says:

    I believe that credit card car rental insurance is only secondary insurance so your policy is going to get dinged first. Credit card car rental insurance is pretty worthless unless you don’t own a car. Then it’s pretty good. At least I hope so, because I don’t own a car and I always decline the insurance and rely upon my credit card. I’ve also taken the time to actually read the entire credit card auto rental policy and even called the credit card company with very specific questions. There is one big gap and that is liability insurance. I don’t believe credit card insurance covers liability; so if you run over a baby you have no liability insurance. As much as I hate paying the extra $12-$15 a day for liability insurance, it’s better than being sued and losing everything. But if I’m wrong here please point me in the right direction since I do rent cars quite often.

    • Landru says:

      @johnfrombrooklyn: I have an Amex card and they have a program that is not secondary to any other insurance. It costs about $16 each time you rent a car (once per rental, not per day) and fully covers everything. I buy it but have not had to use it. The only time I needed insurance on a rental, I had bought the full insurance from the rental company. I didn’t even know the damage was there until they pointed it out (I blame the valet parking in L.A.). I just shrugged and said “Who cares?” I had to initial something on the drop off sheet, but it was sure easy. Amex swears to me the process would be just as easy with them.

  29. GildaKorn says:

    “Additionally, just because the online system allows you to reserve a certain type of car, it does NOT mean we actually have that car at the station you want to use. Please ‚Äì call us and confirm.”

    Nah. When that happens, I write an angry letter to the rental company, and if it happens enough, I switch companies. Eventually they’ll get the message that they need to modernize their computer system. I mean, hell, if a taxi company has a system that can automatically call me when the taxi is about to arrive, why can’t a rental company automatically call me if the car I reserved is not available?

    • dantsea says:

      @GildaKorn: That’s nice, but overlooks the goal of the piece you’re commenting on which is to make sure that you get the vehicle you wanted. You can write all the angry letters to corporate you want, but it won’t change the fact that (a) they don’t care (if they did, why would it keep happening?) and (b) you’re standing at the counter without the car you wanted.

  30. Foneguy says:

    Here’s my tip for you…. Join the National Car Rental Emerald club. Yes, you have to give some personal info., and they want your CC number to keep on file. I suggest an AMEX since most of their cards have car rental insurance included. Make your reservation on line. When you get to the rental area, walk past the counter, to the lot, get in a car you like, (of the class you reserved) and drive directly to the exit with your drivers license, CC and Emerald card in hand. Out in 2 minutes, with no waiting or BS from the counter people. This “may” cost a little more, but it’s damn well worth it. Never had a bad experience with this system. On the other hand, recently rented from Hertz in Jacksonville, FLA, because National had no cars when I needed one. Worst experience ever. Total Oprah clueless counter people, long lines, dumba** Mgr. that stood and watched all this BS go down. Total FAILURE Hertz. Never again.

    • RussTheConsumerist says:

      @Foneguy: Actually, Amex is secondary as well unless you opt-in for the paid stuff. The paid stuff is much cheaper than the rental place stuff in the long run (rentals longer than 1 or 2 days). Oh yeah, and you have to pay for all of your reservation on your Amex.

      • dmuth says:

        @RussTheConsumerist: Or, if you’re like me and don’t have car insurance due to using public transportion, the Amex CDW insurance becomes the primary insurance on the vehicle. :-)

        As a side note, CDW only covers the car, not what you *hit* with the car. You’ll still need to purchase LLW (around $12/day) even if you rent with an American Express card.

    • sarahq says:

      @Foneguy: No need to join National’s Emerald club, depending on your rental location. I rented a car from National over the Memorial Day weekend from their McCarran airport location. I reserved online, checked in via kiosk in a couple minutes, picked out the car of my choice (in my car class), and didn’t need to speak to a human being until I exited the lot.

  31. UnicornMaster says:

    Does anyone have any suggestions for renting a car in other countries? Namely Germany?

    • econobiker says:

      @UnicornMaster: Join AAA in the US (even just for one year) as they have alot resources for renting in other countries.

      They even issue free international drivers license credientials and give free passport photos for some membership levels.

  32. colinjay says:

    As someone who worked in the rental industry as a location manager for a few years, let me give some insights into the OP’s “hints”

    1. You would be surprised how many people make reservations online that do not give any contact information. They were especially thrilling when they were for some specialty vehicle which we could not obtain. Yes, please make sure you leave contact information!

    2. Just call. Don’t assume that just because you got an email, that you are getting a car. If you are spending thousands of dollars on a family vacation and counting on that rented minivan to do so, check up on it. You check your flight status when you buy an airline ticket, right? It’s really the same thing with a rental car. The difference is that at an airline, a computer can tell you where planes are and what the ETA and ETD is. In the rental biz, humans run all of that. Not to mention, this is your time to let us know of a specific preference for a make/mark of vehicle and ask us nicely if we can try to find it for you.

    3. Computer reservation systems in the rental business DO NOT MEAN THAT THE CAR IS ON THE LOT. They mean that that “class” vehicle SHOULD be IN THE FLEET. That means that someone is going to have to make sure that your vehicle gets to your assigned lot either the day before or the morning of. I understand that often times reservations systems let you make a reservation for a Navigator the day of, but how many do you think rental companies have in their fleet? Just be patient and call the branch as soon as you can. They will have a pretty good idea how long it is going to take to locate that vehicle for you. One week lead time is a bit excessive as no branch is going to have one of those things sit for a week waiting for you, but the more notice on what someone is going to have to hunt for, the better.

    4. You’d be surprised how sh**ty renters can be to front-line employees when they don’t have a specific car for them. Almost all rental places rent classes of cars, not specific cars. I always tried my best to get a customer what they wanted, but it’s not like I could just make your Blue Camry appear! If the system won’t let you reserve a minivan or pickup truck during the summer peak vacation times, it’s for your own good. We are overbooked. Sure, we could take a reservation, but we are just going to break it and stick your family in a Hyundai Accent. We overbook to a certain extent (tons of people no-show for reservations, including specialty vehicles) but that’s already factored in by our reservation system.

    5. Yeah, don’t be a douche, just call and let us know. Nobody is going to be upset at you unless you fail to cancel a reservation. You take a car away from someone who needs it and you cost the company money. Plans change, we all know that, don’t let other renters pay for your lack of consideration.

    6. A lot of companies have minimum rental periods for larger vehicles such as minivans and SUVs during holiday periods. Why? Because they have a limited supply and they want to cherry-pick the best renters out of the bunch. Can you blame them? It’s a lot more work to rent one vehicle 7 times for one day each than it is to rent to one person for a week. Front-line employees have little or no control over this. Again, I would recommend calling the branch and see if they can work something out for you.

    7. This one is especially frustrating as employees, again, have little or no control over rates you agree to online. If you don’t like the price, move along. Don’t take it out or whine to people once you get there. Would you do that at the airport? Nobody cares, honestly. You agreed to a price, and made a reservation based on that price. Call the local branch and ask if they can find something better for you, but do this in advance. Once you show up the day of, you are screwed.

    8. A lot of renters think that counter agents are there to be buzzkills with additional fees for this and that. It is all company mandated stuff that they have no control over. If you don’t like the underage surcharges, complain to corporate. The person at the counter can’t override stuff like this. It is automatically entered in when your DOB is entered. Asking an employee to change this is potentially illegal and asking the employee to get canned over your rental.

    9. I disagree with this one. This is all about discretion. If you suspect that someone is lying to get a huge discount, that’s one thing. Shaking everyone down just for kicks is another. 99% of people are affiliated to SOME company or organization! Why would you be surprised that people walk in expecting their company discount? Usually they are not as great as people think, and most often the benefits are different for leisure rentals vs. business but don’t be afraid to ask for your discount. As for coupons, yes, read the coupon. It’s not 10% off ANY rental, its 10% off a weekly rental and there’s noting anyone can do to change that, sorry.

    10. I could (and should) write a whole post for the Consumerist about this one. I’ll be as short as I can here. Call your insurance agent/Credit Card BEFORE you rent the vehicle. Ask them how much you will be on the hook for if you get in an accident, especially if you hit/injure someone else and how much your deductible will be in any/all cases. Insurance agents always say “your covered” but they never say how much you are covered for. In my state, the only thing the insurance company is required to do is to cover you in a rental up to the limits of your liability policy under property damage. The state minimum is $15k. How many rental cars will that buy? What happens if you have $50k but you hit someone else, damage something on or near the roadside? Every policy is different even from the same insurer or credit card and so are the requirements and law in every state. Do your homework and save yourself a huge headache. Ask your agent the hard questions since they just want your premium $ and the rental company wants your Damage Waiver $. Most people assume that since they are covered in their own car that they are covered in a rental. This is not always the case. Not to mention that nobody considers causing an accident that involves a third party. What I can guarantee is that if you wreck the rental, you will pay for the damages or loss of the vehicle plus an amount to cover the rental companies loss-of-use until they can return the vehicle back into service. Read the fine print on your rental contract/rental jacket. The last thing goes for all the people who think they will never have an accident in a rental car. Remember, you are driving an unfamiliar vehicle usually in unfamiliar places. You wouldn’t believe the amount of cars that come back with everything from minor damage (dents, scrapes, cracked windshields) to completely totaled cars on flatbeds. It happens, every day.

    11. The important part here is that when agents make changes at the branch it can often make your rate worse. Either make all the necessary arrangements when you reserve online or make the reservations with the branch. Don’t wait until you show up to get the car. If you want to change the terms you reserved under (length of rental, etc) be prepared to have terms change on their end too.

    12. Be prepared for other companies to simply tell you “no”. I wasn’t aware that any rental company added additional drivers without having them sign there in person but apparently some do. Don’t assume that either are the case until you call to ask.

    13. The company I worked for went by a different system entirely. They took the estimated rental amount and added $150 to tat to determine how much they held on your card. This can screw you on credit cards as well if you are pushing close to your limit. Make sure to ask how much they are authorizing ESPECIALLY if you are adding on additional services to the rental. I can’t tell you how many people I had to drive home because they simply couldn’t afford the rental or their card decline multiple times.

    I’d like to add my own here at the end of this long winded list:

    14. If you decide to keep the rental past the agreed to return date, call the rental company as soon as you can BEFORE the return date. If you don’t, the computers usually take over the rental, adjust terms and take huge additional deposits off your card without letting you know. You might be pumping gas to get back home when your card declines. Calling the rental location ahead of time ensures that at the very least you will know up front the amended terms of the rental so there are no surprises and usually an agent can tell you the amount of the additional hold. DO NOT ASSUME anything until you call to confirm.

    Sorry for the long post, but I hope it helps to clarify.

    • floraposte says:

      @colinjay: Thanks for the feedback. I do think there’s useful stuff in these tips. I’m not clear on a couple of things, though–maybe you can help. If I’m calling to verify the online reservation, does that have the power to change the situation if you don’t have a car scheduled for me? If so, great, that’s a good reason for me to do it; if not, it seems pretty pointless. I’m also not clear about 11–are you and the OP saying that agents won’t actually know what the rate is until the customer is locked into it? That seems shady, but otherwise I don’t see why checking it would be worthy of the kind of warning you seem to be giving it. If it’s nonbinding, hey, let’s check to see if it’s cheaper.

      • Powerlurker says:

        @floraposte:

        What number 11 is saying is that when you book your car online, you get a particular rate for your rental with a particular set of options and whatnot (GPS, mileage limits, size class, etc.) If you decide you want to change that stuff after the fact, like when you show up at the rental counter for example, it will change the rate you will have to pay for that rental, possible for the worse. Also, keep in mind that there are a number of reasons why they may not be able to get you your car for the time you’ve reserved it beyond simple misallocation. People sometimes decide to keep their car and extra day or two, sometimes they drop it off at the downtown location instead of the airport they originally rented it from, sometimes they damage the car and it has to be sent in for maintenance. Combine with this with the large number of no-shows and it can be difficult to accurately predict the availability of a specific car at a specific time.

    • John Morgan says:

      @colinjay: Your point 8 is complete horsehockey. Car rental “agents” always try to add on as much as they can, because they get paid commission for each and every little thing they can add on to your bill.

    • sponica says:

      @colinjay: I once had the misfortune of returning a rental from southern NH to New Haven CT during on a day a winter storm decided to attack southern NH, so the rental was going to be late. I called the location, and the woman was like, yeah whatever. She didn’t even take my name. I managed to get it back less than an hour late, with no additional fees, aside from the extra hour.

  33. Anonymous says:

    My advice is not to rent on the airport. Renting off airport (such as a city location) can save lots of money. For example, I recently rented a car in the SF Bay area. Instead of picking it up at the Oakland Airpot, I picked it up in San Francisco and the rental went from $263 to $201. I was able to return the car to the airport without paying any more than returning to the pickup location. The taxes charged for picking it up in the airport often add 20 to 40% of the basic fee,

    • sponica says:

      @LeolaSparrows: it might depend on the airport and what you’re used to paying in your home market…I rented a car from Dulles for 3 days, and it was SUBSTANTIALLY less than what I pay to rent a car the same amount of time in CT.
      Also, when my grandparents rented offsite in Orlando, it was a 2 hour wait whereas my aunt who rented at the airport had a substantially shorter wait. Was saving a 30 bucks worth the 2 hours less at the land of Mickey and Minnie?

  34. donovanr says:

    Whine whine whine. A list of tips would include things like: Get you insurance from almost anywhere else; your car policy, your credit card, anyone; as you will save a bundle. If you do get the insurance; just get the insurance on the car as asking for insurance at a rental place will also include things like contents/life insurance that you probably don’t want. If you only insure the vehicle for accidents, theft, etc, then you can save up to $10 per day on the insurance.

  35. econobiker says:

    And you will always be able to get a Sebring…

    (Jalopnik based joke)

  36. minsky says:

    “If you make your reservation online, be proactive and call the station where you’ll be picking up your vehicle to verify that the reservation went through and that your desired car will be on the lot. Should you have to do this? No, you shouldn’t. But what’s the harm in giving a heads up so that potential difficulties can be headed off at the pass?”

    WTF? Why even bother to make a reservation on-line then? The entire reason to do stuff on-line is convenience. Having to call and confirm something you just did on-line negates the entire reason for doing it on-line in the first place!

    Maybe this is a reason I don’t rent cars!

  37. sirwired says:

    In NC, the standard auto policy DOES include trucks, as long as they are not trucks that would require a CDL to operate. Your standard U-Haul or Budget truck will be just fine and fully covered.

    • econobiker says:

      @sirwired: Different states have different deals with the moving truck/car insurance deal. Luckily I have USAA car insurance which is apparently one of the few car insurances that covers moving trucks without any issue…

  38. shanoaravendare says:

    I don’t understand why everyone seems to have such an issue with calling the rental location to confirm their reservation for a car. If you have a reservation at a fine dining establishment it is usually required that you call ahead of the date the reservation is set for to confirm the details to make sure both the restaurant and patron have everything arranged correctly. The same goes for hotel reservations. Why would you take any less care with transportation arrangements than with those for dining or shelter?

    People and computers make mistakes, it’s just a fact of life. Calling ahead to confirm reservations of any type is just good common sense in my book.

    • econobiker says:

      @shanoaravendare:
      Some people try to automate their lives so they don’t HAVE to call and confirm. They make reservations at 11pm on-line because they are working all day long and then on the company tab with customers in the evening or spending time with the family in the evening. People have gotten an expectation NOT to have to spend 1/2 hour 10 minutes on the phone tree and then 20 minutes with a CSR (possibly in another country) renting a car because the rental companies don’t want to spend the money for 20 minutes of CSR phone time. Companies have trained people to expect that online reservations “work”.

      Another problem is that you still may call the location one week before and have “Bill” look up your info and confirm the reservation only to show up and have “Mary” tell you “Sorry, no cars like that available.” And she won’t give a $h*t that you reserved online and still called and talked to “Bill” who confirmed it.

    • dantsea says:

      @shanoaravendare: Hell, there’s even someone a few posts upthread who hinted that she’d rather have the inconvenience and pitch a fit after the fact then spend five minutes being proactive to get what she wants.

      A lot of people seem to be writing BUT IT SHOULDN’T BE THAT WAY IT SHOULD BE THIS WAY in the comments here, and I agree with them. However, it doesn’t change the fact that, for right now and the forseeable future, things won’t be the way they want them and here’s some helpful hints so you’ll get what you want with the way things are right now.

      And yes, if you have common sense, perhaps most of these tips won’t be helpful to you. Here’s what I want all you smart fellers to do: Go down to the airport this weekend, stand by the nearest car rental counter, and see how much practical application of common sense originates from either side of the counter. Believe me, these tips are needed.

  39. mrsultana can't get a password to work says:

    Hey, how ’bout rental car companies start doing the “christ” like thing and stop screwing us over. Cars that aren’t actually there, fine print that would make a credit card exec giggle, and getting charged for damage that happened on someone else’s watch all are things that make me think the OP can take this article and insert it in her overnight deposit slot.

  40. mzs says:

    How do I avoid a bait and switch on the LDW? Often I cannot tack that on while reserving online and then when I go to rent the car the price is higher on the LDW than what they told me on the phone or online, so much so that it changes the least expensive option. This has been a constant struggle for me in touristy locations. The last time I called to confirm, then when I got there the price was different for the LDW. The excuse they used was that the LDW was higher at the on airport location. When I drove away three blocks down was the larger off airport location, it would have taken me 6 minutes to walk there had I known (the on airport location was serviced by a shuttle bus).

    So please does anyone have any good advice for avoiding this that they can share?

  41. jwinston2 says:

    Time saving tip? No
    Money saving tip? No
    Tip to guarantee the company actually does what they are suppose to? …Yes

    I suppose if you think this is advice, common sense would say if you make a reservation and want to guarantee that the company has it, call them. However what is the point of making a reservation if you have to call them to verify it? Why not just call them and make the reservation over the phone then?

    I would agree none of these are really tips and more just how renting a car works or how an employee is annoyed with customers.

  42. deadandy says:

    In the order of real tips, one of the best things I’ve ever done is start using Priceline for car rentals. I can usually get something for under $20/day, although it works best when you are renting out of an airport and don’t have any additional hassle to walk among the different agencies represented.

    The only caveat is that Priceline has a one-time $5 service charge. So, it’s not usually worth it to do a one-day rental on Priceline unless you KNOW you are bidding well under $5 under the going rate.

  43. benbell says:

    I would like to respond to what some people have commented about availability of cars as well as the reservation system.

    These comments apply only to Enterprise as I don’t know about the other companies. Enterprise is the largest rental car company in the US. They also have a fairly unique system that each branch owns the cars that they have on their lot.

    Also, keep in mind all of the employees at the enterprise branch locations who you are renting from have a college degree, and not some vo-tech or community college. Many of them have degrees from well known colleges but can not find a better job in this economy.

    What most of you don’t understand is that these rental locations try to rent their cars as close to 100% capacity as possible, this means at any given time on any given day they usually only have 5%-10% of their cars available, if it is a smaller branch then that wont be many cars.

    In addition, when you make a reservation online, they are depending on others returning cars when they say they do. They can’t project when people will and will not return cars, they can just have a best guess.

    Also, if you are a regular person renting a car you are at the bottom of the priority ladder. The dealerships, body shops and insurance companies who have contracts with the branch or national contracts will get your car because they provide much more business than you do.

    Last, the employees offer CDW so much because that is how they are promoted. If they don’t sell a certain % of CDW then they won’t ever be promoted. The funny thing is that branched in poor areas get higher % CDW than in wealthy areas because many of the less wealthy people do not have their own car or insurance so they take the rental companies insurance.

    • floraposte says:

      @benbell: I get some of what you’re saying, but why, for instance, would an online reservation depend more on what cars people return than any other kind of reservation? I’m still trying to figure out if the advice to call is genuinely going to make my getting a car likelier or just make it likelier that I’ll be ticked off on the phone rather than in person.

  44. smang12345 says:

    Can you explain why I can’t rent a vehicle if I am under 25? I owned my own business when I was 23 (fortunately I am now 34) and went to trade shows in Vegas and Orlando promoting my own products but was not allowed to rent a car while there. I could legally drink, smoke, buy porn, kill for my country, start a business that employs 10 people but not allowed to rent a car to go to trade shows to promote my business. Seems discriminatory to me.

    • morlo says:

      @smang12345: They have to set some minimum age. Since the entitlements of 18 have been eroded (can’t even get a credit card now), be thankful that the insurance statistics don’t lead them to increase the age to 38.

    • sponica says:

      @smang12345: it’s the magic frontal lobe age…who knows? although USAA members 21+ can rent from Avis without a surcharge.

      Some number cruncher probably looked at statistics and was like, mmmm, when can we trust someone to use property that is not theirs and return it in the same condition as borrowed?

  45. opticnrv says:

    I revisited the poster’s content, and found none of it helpful to the car rental customer. “attempts to be helpful” wrapped up like a line drawn in the shifting sands of customer service are no help at all. I suggest the poster learned the very valuable lesson only its about posting gripes on a blog to strangers, not being helpful.

  46. xkevin108x says:

    In other words, renting a car still sucks just as bad as you thought it did.

  47. MumblesFumbles says:

    Actually event that occurred in Honolulu

    Me: The car you gave me smells. So bad my wife is nauseous just standing next to it with the door open.

    Hertz agent: We don’t rent clean cars.

  48. sponica says:

    Here are tips I’ve gleaned from my past year or so as a renter.

    I got sick of using mass transit to get from Brooklyn, NY to Southern NH…because a trip that would take 5 hours via car would take an entire day. So I started taking advantage of my USAA discount and picking up a rental at the small Avis lot at the New Haven train station.

    1. I have alumni deals with Avis and professional membership deals with Avis. USAA routinely gets me the best discount and coupon codes, so I use those. So double check your discount rates to make sure the rate you’re using is the best rate possible. And if you’re booking with the USAA rate, book through the Avis link on USAA.com.
    2. Seeing as I routinely rented from the same location, I noticed that my “Intermediate” class has gotten better and better. My last rental was a 2009 Hyundai Elantra, which had more gizmos and gadgets than any car I’ve ever seen. And who would have thought that a Ford Mustang qualified as an intermediate car…

  49. Don Woodrow says:

    “12. At my station, if you want to rent a car for someone and you aren’t here in person, you will have to fax me front and back of your credit card, front and back of your driver’s license and a signed statement authorizing the use of your card for this rental.”

    By law, companies are not allowed to keep hard copies of the back of a credit card as this contains the CCV. It is also clearly stated in the agreement that companies sign with the credit card companies.

    DO NOT under any circumstances give a hard copy of the back of your card to ANYONE apart from being illegal, it also increases the risk of indentity theft.

    • dantsea says:

      @Don Woodrow: While I agree with your advice (“don’t do it”) I just wanted to point out to others the absolute futility of trying to argue points of law or merchant agreements at the counter, you will not get your way no matter how right you are. Simply end the conversation and try to seek a company with a more reasonable policy.

  50. el-brazo-onofre says:

    “you will have to fax me front and back of your credit card”

    Schweet. You get a hardcopy of my card’s CVV, I get confirmation of your company’s non-compliance with PCI.

  51. uhohagain says:

    I work for a rental car company. Some of these tips are merely facts. I apparently don’t work for the same company as the author, but the rules tend to be the same across the board.

    While calling to ensure you’re getting the car you want might sound like a good idea, if you’re booked in anything besides a luxury, hybrid, or specialty, there is no need to call. My company cannot guarantee you’ll get that 2009 Nissan Versa you had your heart on. You might get a Hyundai Accent, who knows!

    But I would add something to the list: We have to ask the questions we ask. It’s not that when we offer you a bigger car we think the one you’re booked in is crap, we just have to ask. With all the downsizing going on everywhere, even a silly thing like not trying to upgrade a customer could eventually cost us our jobs. So please be kind to us. I am not offended or upset when you say no. I just have to do my job.

  52. Anonymous says:

    Wow, when the customer is less than stellar on our part of the rental experience, the worst that happens is that she (rental worker) is on the phone an extra 10 minutes. When the rental company doesn’t come through, we’re 1) stranded with no car, 2) accused of damage, 3) left waiting for hours, 4) out money… so I wonder who should be giving out the “tips” in this article?

    My finest rental moment came when I lost the key to my rental car down a storm drain when trying to unlock the door. I was only issued one key and the “enterprise” from which I rented had no extra key to my car. I was stranded. I called and asked what I should do – the worker said she didn’t know! Tell me this is the first time in history that a customer lost their key. Surely there is a protocol to follow? Nope.

    Rental main office had no ideas, either. They said they’d call the magic home office key farm and find out if they had a spare – they’d call me back in 72 hours! huh, if I didn’t need my stuff or a car for 72 hours I guess that would work out just fine. How funny that this was a never-to-be-anticipated problem for the rental car company to be faced with.

  53. BernadetteDenter says:

    I have never come close to getting a car even resembling what I ask for when making a reservation. Last summer I reserved a 4-door sedan to move people around, and all Enterprise had was a 2-door coupe. Once I reserved a compact, but instead got a 6-wheeled diesel pickup, 16 ft long that was impossible to park. The low point was when my mother became fatally ill in a distant city, all Enterprise had for me was a rickety 4 cyl Korean model with hand-cranked windows and so little power I was almost killed on the freeway. I see other people driving off the lots in cool cars: HOW DO I GET ONE OF THOSE?? Reserving in advance DOES NOT WORK.

  54. Anonymous says:

    Another tip is to go over the car with a fine toothed comb. just rented a car over the weekend and when I brought it back they discovered a previously undetected scratch. This is a rental car with 40k miles on it and scuffed up body work. I signed the waiver when I picked it up because I was in a rush and they are trying to ding my Amex now for damages. Total BS, but they may get away with it because of the waiver I signed.

  55. mizmoose says:

    Debit card? Really? The last few times I tried renting with a debit card they treated me like I was obviously trying to steal the car. They ran a credit check on me, and since it wasn’t 100% stellar, turned me down. Then when I pointed out that my account contained twice the amount they wanted to hold they told me, “But it’s a *debit* card, you could just go withdraw all that money from the bank and the hold would be useless!”

    Uh. Right.

  56. Anonymous says:

    Some random observations (from a guy who rents cars 30+ times a year):

    1. car rental is the only business where the quoted “per day” rate is ~30-50% of what you will actually pay. Cities all over North America have added “screw out-of-towners with hotel and car rental taxes because they don’t live or vote here”. If you are quoted $20 a day on priceline, expect to pay $40-60 when all is said and done. It’s a little better in Europe, not much.
    2. Recently I have noticed that the “hourly” rate is almost the same as an extra day – so after spending 45 minutes getting lost in Newark trying to buy gas, I was hit with $67 for an extra hour on a rental that was $80 /day. So don’t stress, 31 minutes is about the same as 23 hours if you are late, may as well have the extra 22.5 hours.
    3. I’m convinced rental agencies have an “a**hole” button on their systems. I you are never getting upgraded you must have been mean to someone once. I had a boss who could be a jerk – we would alsways get upgraded to convertibles, SUVs, etc. and even though he travelled 45 weeks a year, he was *always* given the beige Taurus.

    And by the way, don’t bother ever renting in Manhattan – every single location of every company I have ever used is awful. Take a train to one of the airports.

  57. Righteous says:

    1. If you make your reservation online, PLEASE GIVE A PHONE NUMBER AND/OR EMAIL ADDRESS!!! We would love to confirm your reservation with you, but we’re not mind readers. The reservation/rental system I am forced to use is DOS-based (oh! the shame!) and leaves a lot to be desired as far as being user-friendly.

    Translation: We (the “company”) are too damn cheap to update our systems to provide excellent customer service and a superior rental experience. DOS based systems in a business environment where agents have to interact directly (i.e. face-to-face) with the customer. Are you kidding? That’s shameful.

    2. If you make your reservation online, be proactive and call the station where you’ll be picking up your vehicle to verify that the reservation went through and that your desired car will be on the lot. Should you have to do this? No, you shouldn’t. But what’s the harm in giving a heads up so that potential difficulties can be headed off at the pass?

    Translation: Your DOS based systems and shoddy business processes are deficient and can’t support your business and the level of customer service you SHOULD be providing. If the “company” had a freakin’ clue what they hell they were doing and weren’t so damn cheap, they would have appropriate business processes and systems in place. The harm in me calling is that I lose 10 or more minutes of my life dealing with your incompetent rental representative to do something that I’m paying your piss-poor company to do in the first place. Also, don’t tell me what to do! I’ll call if I please. Perhaps I don’t want to expend more of my resources to “head things off at the pass” and would rather deal with it “when we cross that bridge”.

    3. We don’t grow cars on our lot. Our cars are constantly moving to and from location depending on demand. “Specialty” vehicles – things like 15-passenger vans, minivans, or high-end cars like sports cars, Infinitis, Lincoln Navigators and Town Cars, etc. need at least one week lead time to ensure you can reserve one.

    Additionally, just because the online system allows you to reserve a certain type of car, it does NOT mean we actually have that car at the station you want to use. Please – call us and confirm.

    Translation: We haven’t a clue how to run our business and will make promises we can’t keep because our front end system interface (i.e. online reservations) is nothing but smoke and mirrors enticing you, paying customer, into a hellish car rental experience. Again, don’t tell me what to do! I’m tired of you suggesting that I need to do your job for you while I pay you for it!

    4. Regarding availability – right now, a lot of car rental places are very tight on inventory because of the credit crunch, the general state of auto manufacturers, etc., so finding that “perfect” rental car might be even more difficult.

    During peak times – holiday weekends, vacation months, special event days -“specialty” vehicles like minivans, 15-passenger vans and high-end vehicles may be very scarce or even impossible to obtain.

    Translation: We’ll seize any opportunity (e.g. credit-crunch) to justify the lousy customer service we provide and deflect any customer service complaints. General state of the auto manufacturers? If you’d of bought more of their vehicles to ensure that you actually could provide the vehicles you promise, the auto manufacturers may not be half as bad off as they currently are.

    This is pathetic and now I regret wasting my time typing this response.

  58. Major-General says:

    Sounds like P. works for Enterprise.

  59. binaryspiral says:

    Better yet – skip the car rental when you stay in bigger cities and use pub trans. Or, get a hotel within walking distance of your destination.

    Car rental sucks – the business model runs on luck. You’re lucky if they have a car for you, you’re lucky if you get service, and you’re lucky if they don’t bend you over a barrel for a scratch, miles, or fuel.

  60. parrotuya says:

    Makes me not want to rent a car at all. We can’t guarantee anything so the customer needs to verify. What a crock! I hope their kidneys fail!

    DOWn, baby, DOWn!

  61. Anonymous says:

    didn’t stop Hertz in downtown Manhattan failing to get me a car for over 5 hours despite having made the reservation online earlier that week.

    in the end I had to catch a train. It was very good of them to not only offer no compensation, but not to apologize either.

    What’s more, there were at least half-a dozen other people in the same boat as me.

    nice work

  62. Bizzy says:

    One tip I abide by that seems to always get me great service at the rental counter is to sign up for whatever “Frequent Renter” program that they have. Hertz has upgraded me a ton of times just because of this, and even if I’m a first time renter with other companies, they’ll go the extra if you’re with the rewards program. Nothing like a free upgrade to make your day! Plus no questions about insurance, etc since it’s all ready on record with them.

    Also, and I know that this is a stretch for a lot of you, but being nice to the person who is working the counter gets you a long ways. Like you, they have a role to play in this journey we call life, and everyone’s role is as important as the next (well, I withhold judgment on some in the financial industry but that’s for another thread). Sorry, losing one’s job makes you a tad contemplative.

  63. Bender says:

    I used to go to Las Vegas fairly regularly for work and pleasure. My favorite trick whenever I was traveling alone was to always reserve the cheapest class of car available and to make sure my flight arrived in the afternoon.

    Didn’t matter what company I booked with, by about Noon, they were always out of the cheap cars and I would score a free upgrade of at least 1 class level.

  64. Anonymous says:

    Another reason to call to confirm your online reservation? To make sure you, the customer, actually made the reservation correctly. I’ve had countless customers come up to my counter getting upset when I don’t see their reservation on my list and they haven’t bothered to bring their print out. Come to find out they either made it for the wrong day, the wrong location, or even the wrong city! I even had one guy who couldn’t even spell his name right on the reservation so I couldn’t find it.

    Next, please do not make a reservation through an online discount site and not read the fine print. They will tell you online the rules and regulations for the company you wish to rent with. Such as whether they take debit cards at all (some still don’t) or whether a credit check is required if they do. (And yes you still need a credit card to pick up the car even if you already paid for it. We need verification that you can pay if you decide to keep the car longer than your reserved time or if you decide not to bring it back full.) They will also let you know whether a hold on your credit card is required. Or they will just tell you to call that location to verify their requirements. So don’t come up to my counter, shove your reservation page in my face and claim that no where on that page does it say that we don’t take prepaid debits cards. Because all I will do is silently take my highlighter and highlight that specific sentence on your paper and hand it right back to you.

    And yes, maybe it’s not the ‘right’ thing to do but if you come up to my counter with an attitude and act bitchy with me before I even have the chance to help you, I will not be inclined to give you the nicest car or best service or be willing to help you in any way if there is a problem. I’m just human that way. Sorry if that upsets you, but just being nice and polite can really take you a long way. It’s a nice relief from the rest of our customers.

  65. deeter says:

    My favorite rental story… Milwaukee in December, reserved a compact, got a PT Cruiser convertible. It was ten degrees outside, but we thought it would be good for a laugh and a few pictures, so we went with it without bitching. It was all fun and games until we got on the freeway going towards Green Bay, and discovered in the worst possible way that the washer reservoir was filled with good ol’ pure, un-de-ice-inated water. After a few near misses, lots of foul language, and some Ace Ventura style driving, we managed to get to a gas station and rectify the situation. To the company’s credit, when we returned it and I explained what had happened (in only semi-colorful language), we wound up paying roughly half price. It could have been a lot worse.