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On a recent work trip I had to rent a car one-way for one-day. I jumped at the one option that was by far the cheapest. However, the car I got wasn’t quite the car I’d reserved.

I’ve rented cars a good number of times, and am used to getting a Nissan Versa or Ford Focus when I reserve a compact (SEE: Why you’re foolish to rent a “standard” car). I’m also prone to some rental car issues…(SEE: The ONE rental car mistake I often make).

More often than not, though, my rentals go smoothly and I tend end up with something a class or two above. This is the first time I’ve been given something smaller.

Picking up my car

When I arrived at the airport, the National car rental counter was pseudo-closed. I’d called to let them know I’d be late, even giving the agent an approximate arrival time. But he was still gone. There wasn’t a sign indicating when he’d be back either, so I just awkwardly stood there for about 10 minutes. There *is* a sign saying they’ll charge you $1,200 if you return your car rented from their location somewhere else without prior authorization.

When I finally got my key and walked to the lot, my first thought was, “man, this thing is tiny.” I’d reserved a compact, which are definitely small, but this had to be the smallest car I’d ever been given. Honestly, when Expedia pulled up a $105 one-way rental to Sacramento, my one and only thought was “BOOK IT!!!!” This was even without using my favorite go-to for rentals (SEE: Using Autoslash to save a ton on your next rental car). The size of the car was an afterthought, but I did notice that I’d reserved a compact.

Wait….you *did* downgrade me!

When I took a look at the contract the next day, I realized that the car class was indeed different than what I’d reserved! It’s written right at the top. The receipt showed the same. I double checked using the class abbreviations.

So apparently the guy at the counter figured he could give me whatever car he wanted and I either wouldn’t care or wouldn’t notice. In this instance, he was right on the first count. I really didn’t care. But I did notice. If he would have told me up front, I would not have balked at the change.

The tin can with wheels he gave got me safely to the Sacramento airport, so all’s well that ends well. The only frustrating issue was not having cruise control, but that is a crapshoot anyway when I reserve a compact, in my experience.

Now…I could call National and ask them for some money back, but given that the rest of the rental went without a hitch and it would probably only net me $5-$10, there isn’t an incentive for me. Honestly, I’d mainly be calling to complain to corporate that their franchise location isn’t being up front with customers.

Conclusion

In this particular situation, I really didn’t care that National downgraded my without explanation. My only use for the car was to transport myself and my bag to the Sacramento Airport. But had I been with my family and with a particular car type reserved, this sort of change could have been a complete deal breaker.

Have you ever had an experience where a car rental company has downgraded you without explanation?

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