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mongo_jones

car rentals in the u.s

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i don't rent cars very often, because usually i don't go to places where i don't have friends or relatives willing to loan me a car or drive me. so i'm quite confused by how pricing seems to work. i'm trying to rent a car for a house-hunting trip in minnesota in a couple of weeks. the lowest price i could find was $35 a day for a tiny economy car (from thrifty); i've locked that up. that's not my problem. what i can't figure out is why every other agency is so expensive even for economy cars. there are places charging more than $50/day for an economy car; some charging more for an economy car than for a suv. what gives? are these just the vagaries of internet reservations? do prices fluctuate wildly? should i check again closer to time?

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Agreed. But you have to be careful with Thrifty. They know how to build a check. There's different sorts of insurance. They've got the "Oh if you have an accident you'll have to pay now while we wait to see if your insurance will cover, and what is your deductible--you'll have to front that" story down. There's the airport tax. There's the incredible gas price premium if you don't return full. Possibly there's mileage. Somehow they always manage to come up with a way to make their price equal or exceed their competitors' regardless of what they quote. I think they even soak you if you go over 24 hours by just a little.

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the thrifty price is inclusive of all taxes and fees etc..

 

so, on the enterprise website, if i rent an economy car from the monday the 14th to wednesday the 16th it is $40/day. if i rent it for 3 days starting sunday the 13th, it is $15/day. so, i call and ask if i can rent it on sunday but pick it up on monday (since it would be $30 cheaper, with taxes etc, to rent from them for these 3 days than to rent from thrifty for 2 days). no, they say, you cannot. say i, well it is the same thing isn't it? if i picked it up sunday you wouldn't have the car, so let's pretend i picked it up and it comes to the same thing. no, apparently it doesn't. ah, capitalism.

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the thrifty price is inclusive of all taxes and fees etc..

 

so, on the enterprise website, if i rent an economy car from the monday the 14th to wednesday the 16th it is $40/day. if i rent it for 3 days starting sunday the 13th, it is $15/day. so, i call and ask if i can rent it on sunday but pick it up on monday (since it would be $30 cheaper, with taxes etc, to rent from them for these 3 days than to rent from thrifty for 2 days). no, they say, you cannot. say i, well it is the same thing isn't it? if i picked it up sunday you wouldn't have the car, so let's pretend i picked it up and it comes to the same thing. no, apparently it doesn't. ah, capitalism.

I had a window smashed on a car and had to rent from Enterprise once. They overbilled my credit card by about 40% pretending that I hadn't brought the car back until a day or 2 later (I did an after hours drop off). Several calls and a letter needed to make them honest. Wonder how often they can pull that off?

 

As for Thrifty, pardon me for being dubious about all inclusive. And wait till you see/smell the car!

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I worked for Hertz for four years (two years in Corporate Accounts and two years in Travel Industry Sales in their Los Angeles corporate office) and even now, I can't answer your questions.

 

The whole weekday thing is that most car rentals are done for business reasons and most car rentals commence on Mondays and end on Fridays, hence the higher price on weekdays. It is also why you keep seeing cheap offers for weekend rentals -- they don't want the cars sitting around all weekend and not making them money!

 

I'm still convinced the additional insurance thing is a scam. Never bought it - never will. Watch your bills carefully - basically they have high-school drop-outs working the check-in areas and reservation desks and these folks do not know how to add. Half of my job was fixing mistakes that the teenagers at the rental counters were making in customer's bills.

 

Waiting does not change prices (versus the airline industry where booking in advance can make a huge difference or buying within a window). At most rental companies, the prices are set and only change with coupons or code-related promotions. Lately, I rent from Enterprise but that is because I belong to City Car Share and there is a 10% discount with an affiliation membership.

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I worked for Hertz for four years (two years in Corporate Accounts and two years in Travel Industry Sales in their Los Angeles corporate office) and even now, I can't answer your questions.

 

The whole weekday thing is that most car rentals are done for business reasons and most car rentals commence on Mondays and end on Fridays, hence the higher price on weekdays. It is also why you keep seeing cheap offers for weekend rentals -- they don't want the cars sitting around all weekend and not making them money!

 

but it isn't a higher price on weekdays. if i rent on sunday that $15/day rate applies to monday and tuesday as well. that's what's wacky. so if i start the rental on sunday i get the car from sunday 10 pm to wednesday 10 pm for a total of $64, including taxes and fees. but if i begin on monday at 10 pm (which is around when we get in) i'd have to pay $102 all told for 2/3 of that time. crazy, huh? if they have so much business on weekdays they'd be better off keeping the car in the garage on sunday.

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Car rental prices are second only to airline prices for complete insanity.

 

If you're covered by one of your credit cards or your personal auto policy. the insurance is pointless unless you have low cash flow.

 

As to who's cheapest, it fluctuates wildly depending on location & season. The only constant is that Avis is always the most expensive. Hertz undersells Budget/National/Alamo about half of the time, I didn't expect that but it's true.

 

As for business rentals (& airline tix), I suspect there's a vast amount of corruption underlying the whole thing. Back when I had a corporate job, my company hired a new travel agent & instituted a policy that all travel had to be booked thru them. (Formerly you could book your own & get reimbursed, a situation obviously open to abuse.) I did my own comparison shopping & found that I could always get cheaper air fares on my own for the exact same route. Didn't make sense.

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I just made a rental reservation with Enterprise as well. It's the first time I've ever done it, so I'm guessing it'll be an experience. I had to get mine for a Monday-Thursday, so no discounts for Matt.

 

Oh well, maybe I can get a GPS to play with.

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Use Priceline for car rentals. I usually save $10-$15 per day and all the major rental companies participate.

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Similar to mitchells, I use Hotwire almost always for car rentals for normal situations. By normal, I mean airport pickup/dropoff, no special discounts on my own, no loyalty program, etc.

 

I like Hotwire over priceline only because Hotwire has a bit more transparency. For instance, you would think the taxes and fees charged by the different companies would be the same but sometimes they're not. You can pay a lower base charge from Co. A but the total will be less from Co. B because the taxes and fees are much lower. Hotwire will sometimes show that to you. (example)

 

The only downside booking through Hotwire is the no cancellations/changes policy, but as Carolyn points out there is no price advantage to booking early. I usually just book a couple days in advance and get as low or even lower quotes than I would by doing so weeks in advance.

 

edit: I just checked priceline and they provide est. taxes and fees too.

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Given the horrendous cost of renting cars out of NYC for very short times, I've just joined Zipcar. (Note that it operates in other cities as well -- including Minneapolis) First rental will be this Sunday, for most of the day. Will report back after.

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Given the horrendous cost of renting cars out of NYC for very short times, I've just joined Zipcar. (Note that it operates in other cities as well -- including Minneapolis) First rental will be this Sunday, for most of the day. Will report back after.

 

$60/day in minneapolis, i'm afraid.

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There are some major differences between on-airport and off-airport pricing as the rents and or surcharges at some airports are astronomical. As you need to take a shuttle bus to most on airport locations anyway, might as well take a shuttle bus to an off-airport location.

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There were years in NYC that I refused to own a car and rented frequently. Then there are the countless times that we've rented for vacations, etc. The one thing I've learned is that there is no system and that, as someone's already said, it's total insanity.

 

That being said, I've learned:

 

--get the lowest computer rate for what you want from each company. Then call the 800 # for each and start negotiations from there. You'll do better with a person. My own experience is that Enterprise is lower than even Thrifty (bottom line price, including everything), and that National is next, with Hertz and Avis being very tough to get a good rate from.

 

-- a "weekly rate" rental (which seems to be if you keep the car for 4 days) is usually cheaper than even 3 days. Regardless of which days.

 

-- where you pick it up and where you drop it off changes the rate dramatically. And, although conventional wisdom has it that it's always cheaper from airports and always better to return it where you got it, this is not always true. Experiment with them and go thru the infinite possibilities. Have them look each up. You may find a much cheaper rate &, if nothing else, they may find something for you to get you off the phone. Their computer programs are set daily by folks in the front office who know where car gluts are and where they're needed on which dates. There's no way for you or the sales agent to have that big picture and it's surprising when the computer gives a dirt cheap rate on an inner city pickup but it may be due to limited garage space and a # of already existing drop off reservations at that location. Assume nothing. And dont let them assume anything either.

 

-- larger sized cars add only $3-5/day to the rate & they'll always come up with an upgrade offer or find you some way of getting one for nothing. I'll bet you already have that thru AAA, Mastercard, AmEx, your bank, any professional associations or AARP (just joking Mongo; I know you're way too young)

 

-- hotels and car rental companies have inconsistant "government employee", "military" and/or "teacher" rates. Sometimes huge discounts apply. There's a chance you may qualify as a teacher, isnt there :lol:

 

-- companies dont bid against each other. It wont help to tell Avis that Hertz did better. Dont bother.

 

-- a good agent will "find" you a discount if they like you. I once got 40% off a NYC rental for agreeing that I flew into town for the rental on an obscure airline when we all knew that I was local and just in need of a car. No one ever checked tickets.

 

-- after you locked in to a confirmed deal, remember that there's no cancelation policy and, therefore, nothing prohibiting you from calling 2 days later, not telling them about your confirmed rate, then trying to do better.

 

--I'm sure you have more charm than I do... use it. When people like you, they show off their skills.

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-- where you pick it up and where you drop it off changes the rate dramatically. And, although conventional wisdom has it that it's always cheaper from airports and always better to return it where you got it, this is not always true. Experiment with them and go thru the infinite possibilities. Have them look each up. You may find a much cheaper rate &, if nothing else, they may find something for you to get you off the phone. Their computer programs are set daily by folks in the front office who know where car gluts are and where they're needed on which dates. There's no way for you or the sales agent to have that big picture and it's surprising when the computer gives a dirt cheap rate on an inner city pickup but it may be due to limited garage space and a # of already existing drop off reservations at that location. Assume nothing. And dont let them assume anything either.

 

This is excellent advice.

 

Many airport authorities routinely charge outrageous fees for the rental car company's access to their property. It's not unusual to find $30 to $50 in airport access fees, convention center fees (Atlanta), child safety seat fund account (FL), and excess sales taxes on rental cars taken at the airport.

 

On a 2005 trip to West Palm Beach, picking up and dropping a car in downtown was $40 cheaper for a weekend package than getting it at the airport, even with cab fees. Less convenient, but it was on my dime...

 

Thrifty and Avis rates for cars picked up at Penn Station Newark have always been much cheaper than those at the airport, five miles away

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