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Here we go again… If you’ve been to the gas pump lately you no doubt have noticed that gas prices have risen sharply in the last couple weeks. I was with my wife and filled up with gas at $3.35/ gallon last Friday. After taking a drive Saturday morning, we decided to top off the car on the way home, only to be shocked that gas at the same station, gas went up to $3.53 overnight. Gas prices have become a concern for the car rental companies as consumers are requesting more and more fuel efficient cars. Upgrades which have been common place during the car rental experience are being refuted by the customer. Bigger cars mean bigger gas bills. There are tricks to saving on gas which we will explore in a later blog, and even some great Smartphone Apps that you can use to help locate that cheap gas, which we will also address in a future blog. We should however, start at the beginning, and thats when we are renting the car. I know a lot of you out there are obsessing over hybrids. That fact of the matter is, hybrids represent only a small percentage of the rental companies’ fleets. More often too, when gas prices spike, the demand for these cars do as well, and so, the results often mean higher rates (that sometimes outweigh the fuel savings of the hybrid). Another factor is that car rental companies will use this opportunity to sell off their hybrid fleet to make some quick profit.

So lets take a look at some of the common car rental models out there that most companies carry and their fuel economy (we’ll be optimistic and give you the highway MPG):

Hybrids:

Toyota Prius 4  - 55

Ford Fusion Hybrid  - 41

Toyota Camry Hybrid – 43

Honda Civic Hybrid – 50

Gasoline Powered (Small Car):

Volkswagen Passat – 51

Volkswagen Jetta – 45

Fiat 500 – 42

Mini Cooper – 41

Hyundai Elantra – 38

Ford Fiesta – 45

Nissan Versa – 40

Mazda 5 – 22

Gasoline Powered (Mid/Fullsize):

Hyundai Sonata – 24

Toyota Avalon – 31

Ford Taurus – 32

Chrysler 300- 31

Dodge Charger – 31

Toyota Camry – 39

Kia Optima – 35

Ford Fusion – 33

Chevy Impala – 29

Nissan Altima – 34

Chevy Malibu – 33

Ford Crown Victoria – 24

Gas Powered SUVs:

Ford Escape (FWD) – 33

Chevy Equinox (FWD) – 32

Toyota RAV4 (FWD)  - 31

This is only a partial list of what you can get at any Hertz, Avis, National, Budget, Dollar, Thrifty, or Alamo. When renting your car, don’t be shy about asking what the MPG ratings are on the car(s) you are offered. Its not difficult for the rental agent to look it up. If your in doubt, you can look at http://www.fueleconomy.gov  for the the rating.

Drive carefully, I’ll see you on the road.

 

 

 

 

 

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As more states pass hands free driving legislation which may or may not include provisions relating to texting, travelers need to be aware. In your own home state, most of us are aware of the local laws that prohibit the use of cell phones (or not) while driving. When we go on a trip however, and land in that unfamiliar (or vaguely familiar) city and get into an unfamiliar rental car, we sometimes forget or neglect our normal driving habits. Need to get to that meeting? Want to check into your hotel right away? We will immediately gravitate to something familiar and grab our Smart Phone and use the GPS for directions. Or maybe call an associate to tell them you’re on your way. Looking at your phone’s GPS for directions and having it in your hand, you are in danger not only of being a distracted driver, but also the possibility of a ticket. Law enforcement will sit by airports waiting to grab those that have a phone in their hand.

Regarding talking on the phone; the first thing you want to do is make sure you have your Bluetooth (or similar) device ready to go. If you forgot it, don’t have one, or yours is not charged, make sure your rental car has Bluetooth capabilities. Being that most rental fleets have current model vehicles, chances are you’ll get one. However, not all car manufactures have Bluetooth capabilities as standard equipment. I was in a Volkswagen Jetta the other day and was surprised when I could not locate the Bluetooth. I found this to be true with some of the Mitsubishi models as well. Not all Nissans have Bluetooth pairing either. Avis and Budget’s Where2 GPS devices, as well as Dollar and Thrifty’s Nuvi GPS (you have to rent these separately) can be used a Bluetooth device. Hertz’s NeverLost GPS’ do not have Bluetooth capabilities.

As mentioned, having your phone in your hand while using the GPS may be just as bad as talking or texting on it, as you are lets face it: distracted. Most of the car rental companies; National, Hertz, Avis, Alamo, Budget, National, Enterprise, Dollar, and Thrifty all rent GPS devices of some sort. Prices vary and sometimes you can get a special or a package rate. The rental companies GPS units are updated constantly so you can have the latest and greatest information and travel tools. Some will even offer you traffic conditions as well. When you think about safety, peace of mind and convenience, a GPS may be well worth it; especially if it helps you to avoid an accident or a traffic citation that could cost you hundreds of dollars.

Be careful driving, I’ll see you on the road.

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The competition among the big car rental companies just went for another round. This week, Avis made public its intention to join in the emerging car sharing craze by announcing its interest in purchasing Zipcar. Instead of creating its own car sharing service like Hertz did with it’s HertzOnDemand, Avis thought it best just to buy an existing car sharing company. Enterprise did a combination of the two by starting its own car share service in 2007; WeCar, but later purchased Mint Cars On-Demand and combined the two. The battle for the car sharing market will not be easy as there are multiple independent companies and services playing in the same sand pit. Several, including one in the San Francisco Bay Area (City CarShare) is a nonprofit organization.  The car sharing business is expected to more then double by 2016, to over 4 million members in North America alone. This predicted growth is what has attracted the attention of Enterprise, Hertz and now Avis.

The catch with the car sharing services is that you need to pre-register and become a member, and in some cases pay a fee to join the club. Prices vary from daily rates, to mileage rates, to hourly rates. The membership fees vary too. City CarShare charges $10 or $20/month after the initial application fee (per driver). Hertz’s OnDemand has no membership fee, no enrollment fee, a low deductible, and a GPS in every car. ZipCar starts with a yearly fee of $60 (or more depending on your plan choice) with a $25 application or enrollment fee. Enterprises’ WeCar (which are mostly located on college and university campus’, has a $50 annual fee and an application or enrollment fee of $20. Currently, at some locations they have a promotion and are waiving these fees. WeCar too, has a lower damage deductible similar to Hertz’s OnDemand. The daily rates vary which can be high as $100/day include fuel and insurance, something that is an option when renting a car in the traditional sense. You may want to weigh this out when renting a car share car versus renting a car from your local Budget, Enterprise, Avis or Hertz. However, with the car sharing service, you can rent the car for just a couple hours (approx. $9/hour) to make a quick trip or business run, and no worries about parking. However, often at your car rental retail store, you can rent a car for the whole day for approximately $10 – $20, which is about what you’d pay for a couple hours in your car share car. If you are considering joining one of the car sharing services, you may want to shop around a little first and check out the hourly or daily rates on the websites to see how competitive they are on a consistent basis.

With added focus on car sharing, your options as a consumer are only to get better. The car rental fleets have never been more diversified, and the rental option never more so–even with the consolidation in the market place.

Have you rented from a car share service? Let us know your feedback and observations.

Drive safely, I’ll see you on the road

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The new year brought about the introduction of some new legislation that will keep the car rental companies in check and keep you in the safe lane. The bill focuses on the car rental companies and how they deal with manufacturer (safety) recalls. Currently, when a manufacturer issues a safety recall on a car; its up to the car rental companies to decide what to do and in what timeframe to do it. When Toyota had their big recall regarding brake issues, then self accelerating vehicles a couple years back, the company I worked for grounded over 10,000 Toyotas. They even went so far as to call up customers that were in these vehicles and ask them to come come for an exchange. Other car rental companies did not follow suit right away, but thought better of it soon after. All the rental companies know the stories ( and lawsuits) of safety recalled rental cars being rented anyway, only to end up with a lawsuit of their own on their hands. Rep. Chuck Schumer out of NY (co-sponsored by Sen. Barbara Boxer, CA) was the one to introduce the Raechel and Jacqueline Houck Safe Rental Car Act. The legislation comes about from two sisters who rented a car in California in 2004. The car they rented was under a safety recall concerning possible steering fluid leaks that could cause a fire. The unthinkable happened and the two sisters died in a car crash. A jury awarded $15M to the parents of the girls. The award is a small side note compared to outcries regarding renting safe vehicles, which started with an online petition of more then 100,000 signatures delivered to the car rental company as organized at www.Change.org .

According to those knowledgeable of the contents of the bill, car rental companies will be required (under law) to ground safety recalled vehicles as soon as possible, but no later then 24 hours after delivery of the safety recall notice. You can see why now it will be even more important to provide the car rental companies with appropriate contact information when you are renting your vehicle.

As car rental companies are the single largest purchaser of new cars in North America, and largest provider of used vehicles as well, its a surprise that the industry was overlooked on this topic for so long. Car dealers have been subject to similar legislation for some time. Hertz and Enterprise, the largest of the rental giants had over 184,000 vehicles in recall last year alone.

The bill is currently supported by Hertz/Dollar/Thrifty, Avis/Budget, and Enterprise/National/Alamo. How can they not, if you think about it. Unlike the fiscal debate, this should be a slam dunk and hopefully voted on and signed into law soon.

Drive carefully, I’ll see you on the road.

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As the world did not end last week, and you were holding off on that big purchase of a car; perhaps you may now be thinking of jumping back into the fray. Its tempting, especially with all those end of year deals out there married with great financing rates. If you are still considering what make or model to buy and are not sure, the car rental companies may be become your best consumer advocate. As the price of cars keep going up along with many different choices, why not spend a little bit of time with the make of car you are considering? With the rental fleets carrying almost every major brand these days, it may not be difficult to locate a similar car to the one your are thinking of purchasing. When a friend of mine was asking about an specific SUV he was considering, I directed him to his local Budget Car Rental where he rented the same SUV for a weekend he was contemplating. He, his wife, and kids all got to really give the car a test drive so they knew what what they liked (and didn’t like about the car). He also got to discover what options he would need. In his case, memory seats (because he’s over six feet tall and his wife is about five), as well as captains chairs in the rear instead of the the bench seat to keep the kids at a ‘healthy’ distance from each other. On another occasion, a friend was looking to purchase either a Camaro Convertible or a Mustang Convertible. Both were carried by the local Hertz store. She rented both only to learn that the truck on the Camaro was way too small, which would have been an issue and inconvenience for her. She’s now loving her Mustang! Just last month my neighbor (they know I work in the industry, so I often really do get these questions), was quizzing me about minivans. After I gave them my opinion, I directed them to the  local Avis where they rented on two occasions, two different minivans. They didn’t end up buying a new van because they decided to take advantage of Avis’ program where you can purchase one of their vehicles!

If you are not set on a brand new car, Hertz, Avis, Budget and Enterprise all sell their vehicles to the public. You can get some really great deals on some late model vehicles that often have a good balance of the manufacturers warranty still left on them. Avis and Budget do it through a third party, but Hertz and Enterprise will sell you cars directly through rent to buy programs. Some of the rental companies programs will credit you the cost of your rental (time and mileage) if you purchase one of their vehicles.  You can get the repair history but also some valuable feedback from the rental folks as to what sort of feedback they’ve received from the customers regarding the type of car you are looking for. Check the car rental websites for details. Some are offering specials on car purchase as of the time of this posting. Unbiased feedback from the local folks is also good advice to take if you are just renting a car for a test drive and are still thinking of purchasing that new car from a dealership.

For renting a car for that ‘ultimate test drive’, you are probably best to rent from one of your local rental stores like Enterprise, Avis, Hertz or Budget for example. The local folks there can assist you in renting the exact make and model you want. This would be more difficult to achieve at an airport location especially when you want to prearrange something. It will even be more expensive as you will be subject to all those extra fees and taxes associated with an airport. also, if you are flexible with your time, you can rent a car at your local store on an off peak days to save extra money. You may have to check several of the rental locations and brands to find the make you are looking for. As most of the car rentals companies carry the same brands, they may have different quantities, models and availability. Best advice is try to call the location directly or just simply stop in prior to your rental.

So whether you are thinking about buying that new car or considering a used rental car, try it before you buy it. If you think about it, spending $40 -$60 to achieve peace of mind on a purchase of thousands of dollars is money well spent.

Have fun and drive safely. I’ll see you on the road!

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www.avis.com
www.budget.com
www.enterprise.com
www.hertz.com