I had an interesting experience renting a car last week and I thought it might be worth sharing to others. I’m curious to hear other people’s perspectives. As far as my own thoughts, I guess it depends on your perspective whether I saved money or lost money. It sure FELT like the local Avis / Budget guy was trying to jack me out of $30 just because he could. I don’t know why renting a car feels like such a scam, but it definitely left a bit of a bad taste in my mouth.
Planning A Rental Car
Last week, I had a conference in Nashville. Originally I was going to drive my own car instead of flying, since Nashville is only about a 4.5 hour drive from my house. But then I realized that my family would need to use both of my own cars during the time that I was gone, so that wouldn’t be an option. First I looked at flying, but there are no direct flights between CVG and BNA, and the ones that were there were too expensive, not convenient or both. So I decided to rent a car.
Normally, I use Autoslash to book and monitor my rental car, and they have saved me a ton of money on several different instances.
I booked a compact car (not a standard car!) for $190.57
An Unexpected Surprise
Normally, I submit my reservation to Autoslash and it regularly sends me emails about lower rates that it finds. In this case though, Autoslash was not a lot of help – I think because I was renting from a neighborhood location instead of an airport location. Or maybe I did something wrong? In any case, I never got any emails from Autoslash.
But then, the night before I was supposed to pick up my car, I was double checking my reservation and realized that I HAD MADE IT FOR THE WRONG DATES! I was supposed to pick it up on Tuesday (it was already Monday afternoon) and my reservation was for NEXT Tuesday (i.e. in 8 days).
Initially, I had a bit of a panic attack realizing that it was likely that a next-day reservation was going to be super expensive, and I didn’t really have a lot of other options. But, surprisingly, the reservation was actually quite a bit LESS!
If I wanted to “Pay Now” ( I normally never do but since it was literally for the next day, I considered it), I would save nearly $60 on my 3 day car rental. Now, I have been in situations where being proactive totally screwed me over, so it was nice to have my own incompetence work out in my favor!!!! 😀
(SEE ALSO: I Hate When I Forget To Do This)
Visiting My Local Avis / Budget
One of the reasons for renting from a neighborhood location was that I wanted to get an early start on things and not have to deal with driving down to the airport, which is a bit out of the way for my trip to Nashville. Plus, there is a local Avis / Budget that is very close to my office and home, which would make things a lot more simple for picking up and dropping off the car.
So I went over to the office, explained to the single employee what had gone on and mentioned that I was looking for a car for the next morning. He asked me what kind of car I wanted and I said a compact (never rent a standard car, of course). He said he didn’t have any of those (which I understand to be fairly common at this point), so I asked what kind of cars he DID have. He hemmed and hawed and didn’t really give me an answer. He eventually said that he could give me a reservation for $174.
I was very confused about this (to the point that I even walked away at first then came back). I asked “well what would happen if I just make this reservation for $142 online?” I was expecting that in that case, if they didn’t have any of those cars that they would just give me a complimentary “upgrade” to whatever car they did have. He said that no, they would just tell me that they didn’t have any of those cars and sorry.
Taking A Bad Deal Anyways
In the end, I just took the $174 deal that he offered. Half of me was certainly tempted to just make a reservation online for $142 and then show up to pick it up the next morning. But since I figured it would be the same employee there in the morning (it was), he might just tell me to stick it if I tried to work around him. And at the end of the day, he’s the one that has all the power in this relationship because he is the one who has all the cars, and I basically have to do what he says to get a car. But it didn’t feel great.
The Bottom Line
So at the end of the day, whether I saved money or lost money depends on your perspective. Certainly from one perspective, I had been expecting to pay $194 for a car rental and I ended up getting it for $174. So from that perspective, it saved me $20. And if you had told me, right after I realized I had a reservation for the wrong day, that I would be able to get a reservation for $20 cheaper, I would have been ecstatic. But the other side of things are that I felt like I SHOULD have been able to get this car for $142. I mean Avis was certainly TELLING me I could! In fact on their website (tragically I couldn’t get a screenshot of it), at one point it had a banner saying something like “Hurry and finish your reservation in Cincinnati while we still have cars left!!” (this despite my having already talked to the neighborhood Avis employee who said they had no compact cars.
What do you think? Was the Avis / Budget local employee just trying to make a few bucks at my expense? What would you have done? Leave your thoughts in the comments below
Join the PWaC newsletter filled with credit card and travel tips
Points With a Crew has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Points With a Crew and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Some or all of the card offers that appear on the website are from advertisers and that compensation may impact on how and where card products appear on the site. Any opinions expressed in this post are my own, and have not been reviewed, approved, or endorsed by my advertising partners and I do not include all card companies, or all available card offers. Terms apply to American Express benefits and offers and other offers and benefits listed on this page. Other links on this page may also pay me a commission - as always, thanks for your support if you use them