Things the Rental Car Guy Won’t Tell You About Rentals

Odds are, you don’t really think about rental cars a whole lot. It’s an oft-forgotten part of car shopping. At the most, you’ll use one a few times a year. However, there’s a lot that goes on in the industry that consumers should know about. I spent my fair share of time in the rental car industry. Now, I’m here to tell you, Mr. or Mrs. Consumer, what goes on behind closed doors at various unnamed rental agencies, and how you can use it to save yourself some money.

The rental car industry is all about the sale

A Hertz office in Manhattan, NY
Hertz in Manhattan | Spencer Platt via Getty Images

Now, I’d like to get something out of the way first. During my tenure at “Bob’s Rent-a-Car”, I interacted with employees of other major, unnamed brands. I saw a lot and learned even more, but most importantly, I am not here to attack any one brand. They all do a fine job doing what they do, just a little different. With that said, there’s some ways that consumers can use these differences to find a good deal on a rental car.

Now, with that said let’s get into it. First of all, rental companies are like big-box retail stores (think Walmart, etc.) They have inventory, just like any other company. In light of that, Bob’s Rent-a-Car taught me to adjust pricing according to inventory. Often, this is seasonal. That big 4X4 SUV is going to be a lot more money than a smaller all-wheel-drive sedan or compact SUV in the dead of winter. Please, use that to your advantage. Unless you’re carrying a truly stunning amount of luggage, you’ll be just fine in the sedan.

A lot goes on behind closed doors

The Hertz logo in JFK airport
Hertz at JFK airport | Photo by Smith Collection via Getty Images

Inventory brings me nicely to my next point, which is sure to make my editor proud. A rental car company is a business. As such, they must make money. Turning cars around quickly makes money. Bob’s Rent-a-Car was a little different in that we were each allowed to set pricing. This is also true of some other smaller brands. Generally, stick to those. You may be able to negotiate a little on the price at a Mom-and-Pop company if you’re willing to take that less-than-clean car.

Talking of pricing, let’s talk about insurance for a moment. Many brands, including Bob’s Rent-a-Car offer insurance coverage. God forbid something should happen to you while renting a car, but insurance is usually a good idea. No, it’s probably not necessary if you’ll only have the car for a day, but if you’ll be doing a lot, the potential risk rises. Say you’re taking that rental car skiing. Slick ice and snow can make for a bad day if you’re unprepared, so take the insurance in instances similar to that.

Make smart purchases when renting

A rental car desk, shown with agents filling out paperwork and selling rental car insurance
A series of rental agency desks | Rust via Getty Images

Hopefully, this little look at the world of rental cars has been helpful. It’s a very competitive industry, and as a consumer, you can take advantage of that. Remember, capitalize on unused inventory wherever possible. And if you can afford it, insurance is a little peace of mind well worth the cash. Good luck and happy renting.

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