From a small northwestern observatory…

Finance and economics generally focused on real estate

Rental Car Musings

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As a nearly CONSTANT business traveler, I’m constantly renting cars.  I rent almost exclusively through Hertz, but sometimes I’m not sure why.  They can be a real pain-in-the-…..

Anyway, a few observations about renting cars, in no particular order:

1) If you’re going to rent a LOT, then pick one rental company and enroll in their frequent renter program. I use Hertz and I’ve accumulated a zillion points. Now, I’ll admit that the points aren’t all that easy to use, and because the points get used in 1 to 4 day blocks, rarely cover all of your vacation (that’s basically the only reason for the points, right?). However, it’s “free money”, so why turn it down. HOWEVER, the real reason for picking one rental program is the benefits to frequent users — in Hertz, it’s the Gold Counter, which means I almost never stand in line, my car is already ready for me, and (for me, cuz I rent so often) I frequently get free upgrades. It doesn’t work that way 100% of the time, but pretty close.

2) Check your car insurance for rental coverage. I have really spectacular car insurance, so I’m “covered” and can pass on the added insurance from Hertz. I’m convinced that the rental companies give away the cars just to sell the insurance (and gas…. see below). If you rent a LOT, have a conversation with your insurance company.

3) Gas? Oh, don’t get me started…. Ok… I’m started now…. You basically have 3 choices, none of which are fun. First, you can bring the car back full of gas. That means, finding a local gas station. In some places (Baltimore-Washington, for example) there is a GREAT gas station about a mile from the rental car facility and on the same road. However, you kinda have to know where it is — when you drive the normal route to the rental car facility (the route the signs tell you to take), you won’t see it. You then have to drive a mile PAST the facility and it’s on your right. Really nice gas station, by the way. On the other hand, there’s Dallas-Ft. Worth, which has ONE gas station within about 20 miles of the rental car facility, and yes the day I needed to use it, it was closed for renovations. That leads us to choice number 2 — turn the car in with a half-empty tank and pay $10/gallon to get filled. Do the math — a full tank on most cars will cost you about $150, which is huge. Now, I don’t begrudge the rental car company the cost of the gas and the cost of a person filling it up for me, but $10/gallon? Really????? The third option, of course, is to pre-pay for a tank of gas. Now, who uses an entire tank of gas on a rental? Huh? I rented a car for two days in New Orleans last week, drove to Baton Rouge, and then turned it in at the BTR airport. Total fuel? Maybe 1/4 tank. I pre-paid, so Hertz essentially got a free 3/4 tank of gas from me. I’m not a cheapskate, but this is a first-class rip off. Yes, I’ve said that to Hertz. Several times……

4) Hertz has its “NeverLost” GPS system for an extra $10/day. I’ve nicknamed it “EverLost”. ‘Nuff said.

5) Hertz often (not always) has optional Sirius Radio for $10/day. If you’re going to drive a lot in the rental car, like I do (often hundreds of miles, and a couple of times over a thousand over a week’s period) then it’s a must-have.

6) Finally….. for about half of my trips, particularly DC or Manhattan, renting a car is an enormous hassle. Add to the rental fee and gas the cost of parking (sometimes $40/day), and suddenly taxi cabs start looking pretty good. For some trips, we mix-and-match. For example, I go to Charleston, SC, every New Years. I’ll often fly into a different city, visit friends, then drive to Charleston. After checking into the hotel, I’ll return the rental car to the Charleston airport and then just walk/cab/hotel shuttle for the next 5 days. I’ll get back to the airport in a towncar. Saves a bunch of time, money, and hassle.

Written by johnkilpatrick

October 19, 2014 at 5:12 am

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