Car Rental Semi Scam Practices

Nov 8th, 2006, 12:31 PM
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Car Rental Semi Scam Practices

It may be my imagination, but it seems to me that almost all rental car companies are forever trying various tactics on the customer to squeeze out more money.

For example, just two days ago at the rental center associated with Baltimore-Washington airport, I was offered a larger car that would be more "comfortable" than the smaller car I had ordered. My wife asked, if we take what we ordered, what do we get? The answer was that we would get a PT Cruiser. We decided to stay with the size I had ordered.
(I had no problem with a PT Cruiser.)

When we arrived in the garage, our PT Cruiser turned out to be a Chevvy Impala. As we drove out of the rental garage, there was not a PT Cruiser in sight.

Then there is the gas tank refill question. It seems to me that it is next to impossible to return the car with only a gallon or two of gas left in the thank. Gas guages simply are not that accurate and gas milage varies greatly betweeen highway and bumper to bumper traffic. The end result is that I think most people return the car with 4 or 5 gallons in the tank, which is pure gravy for the rental company.

Then there is the "bigger engine upgrade" scam. Last spring in Phoenix, we were told that the car we had ordered, a Hyundai Sonata, was not powerful enough for the climb to the Grand Canyon. What we needed was a Dodge Charger. I thought that was utter and complete BS of the most egrgious form. We drove the Sonata and found it to be more than adequate for our needs. Nice car actually.

Then there are the charges for a second driver. I never will understand how that cost is justified. It hits me as being a pure scam to extract more rental money from the customer.

Then there was the arm twisting to get us to buy the collision damage insurance. The admonition we received was that we were driving the car out of state, which involved some unknown perils of greater magnitude than if we simply stayed in Arizona.

My son, who is a senior claims rep for his employer, scoffed at the idea, citing it as scare tactics to sell insurance.\

These practices hit me as being at best only semi honest. Unfortunately, they are virtually universal in my somewhat limited experience.

My question is this: Are there any rental companies out there that are straightforward with their rental procedures? Or, do all of them engage in these various practices designed to gouge money out of car renters?
bob_brown is offline  
Nov 8th, 2006, 01:17 PM
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I think that "upselling" is common place everywhere nowadays. I just got back from post office [where we have a PO box, so I am there frequently]. The clerk always asks if I need stamps to take home, mailing supplies, envelopes etc. I smile nicely and say, "no thanks, not today."

I commented to my DH about this and his reply was that it is part of the job to sell as much as they [any one selling anything] can, regardless of need.

DebitNM is offline  
Nov 8th, 2006, 01:21 PM
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These all sound like standard car rental practices - as many of us have warned inexperienced renters.

I think it becomes self-perpetuating. It allows rental companies to quote a lower price for rental. For example, let's say a company figures it wants to rent cars for $300 per week to cover costs and profits. But if they advertise cars for that amount they will be $100 over everyone elses quoted rate of $200 - to which they then add $100 in other fees.

Without getting into a post-election political analogy - isn't this the same as someone saying "no new taxes" and then raising every fee, fine and usage charge on the planet?
gail is offline  
Nov 8th, 2006, 01:33 PM
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It helps to be a member of the company's express rental program where preferences on insurance are stored in your profile. I rarely (maybe never) am upsold when I rent under these programs.
Brian_in_Charlotte is offline  
Nov 8th, 2006, 02:07 PM
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I use Hertz Gold....I just show my license and upselling at all..just like Brian.

bob, you mentioned the gas refill. Did you "buy" the gas in the tank at a reduced rate? If so, that was your mistake. As you is virtually impossible to return the car empty.
If that was the time, go for full tank option ..and then just fill it up before returning the car.
Dick is offline  
Nov 8th, 2006, 02:42 PM
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No. I did not buy the gas. I filled up before return at a station about 1.5 miles from the rental car return. That has been my standard practice everywhere, save one.

That one time was when I had to take a very early flight. I recall putting in 1 gallon after the red low fuel light had been on for about 20 miles. I may have returned the car with 3 gallons in it. I never did it again!!

At the time I did it, gasoline was under $1.00 a gallon, which was more than 12 years ago.
bob_brown is offline  
Nov 8th, 2006, 05:00 PM
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They all do all these things. Just ignore them and stick with what you want. If they become insistent - offer to go elsewhere.

There are other semi-scams too. Hertz gives a 20% discount if you rent and pay with AMEX. But you can't find it on the web site and when you call you usually have to insist they look it up before you get it.

I do understand the second driver though - the more different people driving a car they're not used ot in an area they don;t know the higher the risk of problems.

Just be happy you have a good driving record. The son of a friend of mine is a (now) reformed drinker and had such a bad driving record no one would rent him a car. It got to be a problem since he travled for business and had to cab everywhere.
nytraveler is offline  
Nov 8th, 2006, 06:49 PM
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bob, I've been renting mainly from Dollar for the past several years, and I've never had a single experience like you mention. I have been told I'd HAVE to take a free upgrade as that's all they had -- one time if was from a "Dodge Neon" compact to a 9 passenger mini van. Another time it was from that same compact to a Lincoln Town Car. But no one has ever tried to talk me into a more expensive car than I ordered. And I always pick up and return my car with a full tank -- no extra charge. What's more, I decline all extra insurance, and not one person has ever batted an eye at that or suggested I was making a mistake.

So if all those things you mention are typical of other agencies, I suggest you look at Dollar. But by the way, I have also rented from Avis and National in the past couple of years, and I never ran into any of those tactics there either.
NeoPatrick is offline  
Nov 9th, 2006, 05:23 AM
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Yes, these are all annoying but the customer still has the right to decline. The merchants try things like making the rentor initial a decline box on the contract - all just fear based hooey to coerce (if you are the consumer) or slick marketing (if you are the CEO). It works if the customer doesn't know better, but eventually people wise up. But let's not get into dissecting the election results....
The "lucky you, a free upgrade" thing is another PIA. A couple times I have arrived to pipck up my reserved compact or midsize vehicle (seems to happen most often in San Jose, for some reason) only to be told all that remains is a minivan. Even before fuel costs were this high, I did not want to have to deal with driving and parking a van and just insisted that I would not accept it, and asked what else was available. Only one time did a grumpy agent insist there was absolutely nothing else available. I asked that she call the local manager to discuss, she refused, so I whipped out the cell phone, called the national # and asked for a supervisor. Before the agent could connect me the agent magically found a vehicle.
I should add these things happened when I was using a company other than the one with which I have membership in a frequency program (National). I learned my lesson and now stay with National whenever possible.
Seamus is offline  
Nov 9th, 2006, 05:35 AM
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I agree with you Brian... I am a frequent renter and never get asked to buy anything extra. I pick the car I want from any in the lot without extra cost, too.
I just love National!
TxTravelPro is offline  
Nov 9th, 2006, 06:56 AM
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Once again, the word "scam" is misused.
HowardR is offline  
Nov 9th, 2006, 08:04 AM
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I have had the "free upgrade" work out to my advantage most often. I use Enterprise, and reserve the smallest size car, and more often than not, get a bigger car for the same rate. One time it was from a Kia Rio to a PT Cruiser. And I always stop at the gas station before returning the car. As far as insurance goes, I just show them my State Farm ins card at the counter and they never give me any hassle.
Emucom is offline  
Nov 9th, 2006, 01:52 PM
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I'm surprised so few people in this forum blink an eye at the "forced free upgrade." It has happened to me, literally, every single time I've ever rented a car, in any location, from any company. Not once have I ever reserved an economy car and had one waiting for me. I think I'd have a better chance of winning the lottery than successfully obtaining a compact car for my two week trip.

As I always travel alone, having a bigger car is not something I am overjoyed at. It just means higher gasoline charges during my trip. To me, the bigger cars should actually sell for less than the smaller cars since the fuel is more, but then again I don't set the rates.

The van is ridiculous. That happened to me only once and I refused it and waited until a regular car was returned.

Dollar is a good company. It's the one I generally use.
budget4me is offline  
Nov 9th, 2006, 01:55 PM
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And Dollar does not charge for an extra driver. At least they don't on my upcoming rental at SFO.
Brian_in_Charlotte is offline  
Nov 9th, 2006, 02:23 PM
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I always laugh about the free "upgrades". Since when does bigger mean better? At 4'-10" tall, I really really want the small car. I am not interested in driving an SUV around, esspecially in a city. I might as well drive a tank!
J_Correa is offline  
Nov 10th, 2006, 02:28 PM
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As my regular car is a small car, I enjoy a larger more luxurious car every now and then. But I agree if all they have is a van or SUV and you rented a compact car, I would not take the 'upgrade'.
Emucom is offline  
Nov 11th, 2006, 05:08 AM
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The rental car agencies definitely put the scare tactics on you. I've noticed they've been asking me who I have my insurance with and what my coverage is - this is an obvious ploy to make me think I don't have enough coverage (or that I don't know ENOUGH about my coverage) and that I should add something additional.

I now arm myself with all the info I need about my coverage, politely decline and definitely ask for a full tank when I leave the lot. I've even made them top it off if it's below the full line.

As I pull out of the airport on the way to my destination, I keep my eye open for the nearest gas station so that I can easily fill up just prior to dropping the car off.

Like other posts, I always reserve the smallest car and have often been upgraded. This has sometimes been to my disadvantage. I have no desire to drive an SUV (and even have a hard time with good visibility from a PT Cruiser) and would prefer a smaller gas saving car.
Bethwhitwa is offline  
Nov 11th, 2006, 07:06 AM
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As has been stated before, all of this pressure can be avoided by belonging to the rental car company's club.

I belong to Hertz Gold (previously I belonged to National's Emerald Club). Membership is free. They have my CC info and preferences, including no extra insurance, on file.

I just show my driver's license and go. In most airports I avoid the lines at the rental counter and go straight to my car. It avoids all of the high pressure tactics and I am still able to use any promo or affinity discounts.
Dick is offline  
Nov 11th, 2006, 12:09 PM
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I joined Hertz Gold and was charged $50 for the privelage. When I called to inquire, I was told that it was an annual membership fee. I told the rep to cancel my membership. I have no desire to pay $50/year to belong to a club so that I can get a level of service that should be included in the rental fees.
J_Correa is offline  
Nov 11th, 2006, 04:53 PM
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HowardR said..."once again 'the word scam is misused'....WRONG, it is used correctly. The word means a fraudulent or deceptive rental companies do this all the time.

I was once offered an "upgrade" from my $12 priceline compact car for just $5 more a day to a mustang...I declined, and when I walked out to my was a mustang....not a compact car in sight.

I checked in for my car in Baltimore a 1/2 hour early and they wanted to charge me an extra $15 for that 1/2 hour...(even though I would be returning the car within 24 hours)...they said that they would waive the fee if I took an upgrade...(I declined, and was never charged the extra $15..) I could go on and on...and YES, I'm a memeber of most loyalty programs...

nowadays you just have to stand your ground and not fall for their scams..(deceptive acts) or scare tactics .
milemarker0 is offline  

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