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A Car Rental Experience
December 12 - 13, 2018


My wife and I spend some of the winter at our vacation house in Southern California where it is warmer and dryer than our home in Vancouver, Washington, when the Pacific Northwest is a bit colder and wetter. Once in a while, however, I have to make a quick trip back to our home to take care of one thing or another. Fortunately there are several low cost non-stop trips from Southern California to Portland, Oregon, a fligh of just 2 hours and 20 minutes.

There was a power outage of many hours at our Vancouver home earlier in the month. Though the computers at our Vancouver home are on backup power supplies, those power supplies are only able to run the desktop computers for 3 or 4 hours. If I power outage lasts longer than that, then the computers will shut down and not be able to be restarted without someone in person manually powering them back up. There are reasons that I won't go into here why I need to keep at least one of the computers in my Vancouver home up and running most of the time. We are on the waiting list to have Tesla Powerwalls installed in our Vancouver home. Once those are installed, the computers should be able to continue running even if a power outage lasted for several days, which is highly unlikely.

Whenever I'm heading up to our Vancouver home and expect to be there for less than 24 hours, I always check to see what the cost would be to rent a car for 24 hours. It often costs less to rent a car for 24 hours than to pay a taxi, Uber, or Lyft round-trip from the airport to my Vancouver home, especially after you add in the cost of tips. It is also more convenient as I just walk to the car rental at the airport and I'm on my way. I don't have to wait for a car to come pick me up in either direction.

I always check with Hertz Car Rental first as I have a Gold Membership with them. With Hertz, I can just walk directly to the car and drive off. No checking in at the rental office, no paperwork, and thus no delays. Unfortunately, Hertz is seldom the least cost rental available. I'll still rent for Hertz just for the convenience as long as the Hertz vehicle is no more than $5 per day more expensive than other rental companies.

For this rental, Hertz didn't come close to the price offered from other rental companies. I saw that Enterprise Car Rental least cost rental was $44 for 24-hours. Uber, Lyft and Taxi fares run about $25 to $30 each way from the airport to my home, especially after tip. So, a $44 24-hour rental would definitely be cheaper than any other way for me to go round-trip. The least cost vehicle that Enterprise Car Rental offered was a minivan, which was a bit of a surprise. I love minivans, have owned one for a couple of decades, and would always select one as a rental vehicle if it weren't that they are usually one of the more expensive rental options. Between the price and the vehicle selection, this was the best of both worlds.

However, when I did go to pick up the vehicle, I would call it sort of a "hostile" car rental pick up experience.

  1. First, the car rental agent tried to talk me into a more expensive vehicle. He tried to convince me that mini-vans are more difficult to maneuver and I should instead go with a smaller MORE EXPENSIVE car if I didn't need the 7 passenger capacity.
  2. Then he tried to sell me on adding insurance. I explained that the credit card I use covers me 100% on rental vehicles and even takes care of all damage without me ever needing to even contact my insurance company. Unfortunately I have first hand experience that this is the way my credit card insurance works. About 20 years ago I was in a rental vehicle and I was rear ended by another driver. The credit card company took care of that damage without me ever needing to contact my insurance company. Then again about 10 years ago I hit a deer on a dark and rainy night while driving a brand new rental vehicle that had less than 500 miles on the odometer. The vehicle was a total loss. Again the credit card company took care of everything without me ever having to contact my insurance company. Don't try to do this yourself! Most credit card companies only stand in second place and will only cover what your own insurance company deductible does not cover. This means you do have to make a claim with your own insurance company which probably will result in an increase in your insurance rates.
  3. After I offered the agent my explanation that my credit card company would cover any damage, he replied with I felt was a threat. He said that Enterprise Car Rental would go against my car insurance company regardless of what coverage the credit card provided and then I would have to personally work with the credit card company to get my insurance company re-imbursed. I did not appreciate his attempts to get me to buy protection from Enterprise Car Rental by using threats. Needless to say, I did not pay any protection money to Enterprise Car Rental.

So, this is why I like to rent from Hertz Car Rental whenever it is an economical option. No facing any pushy and threatening car rental agents. This whole experience really has me questioning if I would rent again from Enterprise Car Rental. They were not the only agency that had a vehicle available for $44 for 24-hours. It is very likely that I will select a different option the next time I rent a car.

I had a similar experience with Thrifty Car Rental many years ago. Their car rental lot was extremely packed with rental cars. They had me try to drive my own rental car out of this extremely crowded lot. At one spot there was a cement post on one side. It was so croweded that they had one of their staff members try to guide me through a narrow spot in the lot using hand signals. I thought it was too narrow for me to drive through at one point, but he signalled me to continue to drive forward. But, I was right, it was too narrow. The rental car slightly scraped against the cement post leaving some small marks on the bumper.

No matter how much we explained and objected Thrifty would not waive the damage to the car. It was only about $200 in damage, but I never would have tried to squeeze through if their own employee hadn't signaled me to drive forward. We did pay the damage (the rental wasn't on the above mentioned credit card), but we never again rented from Thrifty. Up until that time we had almost always rented from Thrifty. Because they would not relent on that one small cost, Thrifty probably lost thousands of dollars in business from us. I guess it no longer matters as Hertz took over Thrifty in November 2012 along with Dollar Rent A Car.

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