Car rental loyalty... what's the point?

Discussion in 'General Discussion | Miles/Points' started by viguera, May 9, 2011.  |  Print Topic

  1. viguera
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    viguera Gold Member

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    I have to admit I never really looked into this, so any thoughts would be appreciated.

    I know there are clear advantages to showing loyalty towards a particular airline/alliance program, and going out of your way towards accumulating miles with them even when you're not flying. Whether it's miles for upgrades / flights or status / perks, there seems to be a clearly defined "goal" that you can achieve with the airlines.

    Hotel programs seem to be equally clear. Stay with a particular chain and spend money with them to gather points, and those points and stays grant you access to specific perks at different levels, and the perks are "nicer" as you progress towards the upper tiers.

    Now car rentals in theory seem to have a similar setup, but it appears that in reality, things don't actually work as well. Browsing through the forums here (and elsewhere) it doesn't seem like you get as much bang for your loyalty as you do with other programs. Not sure if it's because the cost of the actual product is that much lower or because it's a different kind of business (car rentals seem to be a loss leader, with the company making money of the extras you purchase?).

    Either way, does anybody have any thoughts towards why someone should pursue status on a particular car rental program, rather than just go with whoever is cheaper? And if anything, who has the best perks or easiest / best opportunities to "level up"? :)

    I mean from reading people's experiences it almost seems like upgrades are "iffy" at best, depending on the location/time and you rarely get anything worthwhile.
     
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  2. MSPeconomist
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    Upgrades and perks, like not standing in line, special telephone numbers, and being dropped off near your vehicle.

    IIRC, some car rentals used to give airline miles but charged an extra fee to do so. I don't know whether this is still an option.
     
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  3. viguera
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    viguera Gold Member

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    Yeah... I don't know if that's worth much anymore. I mean you fly into most decent hubs and you can walk up to a kiosk, swipe your card and you're off to the races -- keys are in the car, pick one and go.

    Plus "your" car is "right there" so nobody's driving you out there. :)

    I guess there's value in loyalty with regards to free rentals / upgrades / whatever, but it doesn't seem like car rentals are as important when it comes to maintaining loyalty to a particular program.
     
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  4. MSPeconomist
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    Upgrades can be a mixed blessing. I've turned down SUVs and accepted some large cars that I later regretted.
     
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  5. KENNECTED
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    KENNECTED Silver Member

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    Completely agree. Just like every hotel, airline or credit card is not for everyone, car rentals are in my mind the exact same.

    Granted I don't rent cars as often as others, as I tend to travel to cities with good public transportation. However, my preferred car rental programs meet my needs.

    As I hate driving, I often have to call the morning of, to request not to be upgraded. I do not sedan (4 door vehicles of any size) so I have to call and request that my compact car (2 door) rental is not upgraded.

    Call me weird, I love a hatchback! LOL
     
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  6. MSPeconomist
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    I like the sporty version of smaller cars, like the Mazda or a Mustang, certainly not a Lincoln Town Car unless it's a sedan service with driver.
     
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  7. KENNECTED
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    KENNECTED Silver Member

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    LOL Agreed! :D
     
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  8. Frequent Freak
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    Frequent Freak Silver Member

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    I do find value in consolidating all my business with Hertz so that I can accumulate #1 Awards points. These are worth more to me than whatever airline miles or hotel points I could alternatively earn.

    It's also nice not to wait in line and get the hard sell on insurance and other add-ons, although it seems more firms are offering "express" service at no cost or loyalty requirement these days.

    Whenever I've had a billing discrepancy I've never had to escalate the issue beyond calling Hertz's customer service number. I don't know whether having 5* status helps here.

    There are differences between rental car companies. Availability of locations (including outside your home country and off airports), fleet types, ease of getting to and from the rental location, policies on inspection/damages, attitude of customer service personnel and so on.

    Finally, car rental pricing is more opaque than airfare pricing with all the different discount codes out there. Usually I just go to Hertz's Web site and be done with it, unless Hertz's rates are exhorbitant. Saving $5/day or so isn't really worth it to me.

    Make no mistake, I don't think Hertz is perfect. But I don't think the grass is any greener anywhere else.
     
  9. 2soonold
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    2soonold Gold Member

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    The first clue I ever got about how rental cars fit into the ff game was from reading the book, Mileage Pro.
    It's like a ff 101, and suggests why rental car companies are maybe not the most enthusiastic players in the ff game.
     
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  10. 2soonold
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    2soonold Gold Member

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    Absolutely! During a previous run up in gas prices, I was using Hertz and continually given unwanted upgrades. When gas goes up, small cars are more in demand.
    My worst experience found me arriving late in Wichita to pick up a compact for a weeklong roadtrip, only to be upgraded to an SUV by Hertz. They told me I could take the upgrade or wait till a compact came in! I still had 200 miles to go that day, or I would have told them to shove it.
    That trip was the beginning of the end of my exclusive use of Hertz.
     
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  11. FetePerfection
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    FetePerfection Silver Member

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    As others have said, I appreciate not standing in another line. Even with technology, it seems rental counter agents process reservations like government centers process driver's license or license tab renewals, on their own sweet time.

    Grabbing the car of my choice is also important - I put my cars through the sniff test since I abhor cigarette smoke occasionally found in a non-smoking car. So being a member of a frequent rental or preferred rental club is valuable for me.
     
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  12. 2soonold
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    2soonold Gold Member

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    Yep, nowadays, it's National for me because of the choice factor, or Avis because of their airline bonuses.
     
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  13. 2soonold
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    2soonold Gold Member

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    I can respect that.
    Airline miles or hotel points are worth more to me than rental car points; except that this year I finally joined Emerald Club. I'll very easily make Executive, which will come in handy those few times a year that I really want a Gran Marq sized car.:)
     
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  14. eponymous_coward
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    eponymous_coward Gold Member

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    Alamo still does this. I rented cars for four days last month (one 3 day rental in LAX, one rental in my hometown, downtown Seattle, as I don't own a car) with Alamo in April: netted 1,750 US miles out of the deal for the $3 I paid for frequent flyer fees. That's a whopping .17 cents per mile (yes, the decimal point is in the right place). Oh, and since LAX often brings down National's cars to the Alamo lot, and Alamo has day off weekend rental coupons all the time, I got a three-day rental of a VW Jetta for $63. IMO, Hertz, Avis, whoever, cannot touch Alamo at LAX in terms of price or value (they are better at places like LAS, where Alamo's fleet quality is pretty poor compared to LAX).
     
  15. DonV.Smith
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    DonV.Smith Gold Member

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    Like others, I'm finding some value... Corporate negotiations limit me to choosing between a couple of different rental agencies, I typically go with Avis.

    The upgrades are nice perks, depending on the upgrade.
    Some bonus miles never hurt - though at 150 to 250/week, they are more icing on the cake then substantial - in the short term, special promo's pending.
    I also appreciate the free rental days and weekend certificates I accumulate. Sometimes its just nice to grab one of these for the fun of it :)
     
  16. gobluetwo
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    gobluetwo Silver Member

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    As for airline bonuses, given that they tend to be relatively meager, I usually just allocate them to keep non-primary air miles accounts active.

    One "upgrade" I wished I had turned down was a 2005 Monte Carlo several years ago. That thing was a boat and had the worst blind spot I'd ever seen (or not, as the case may be).
     
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  17. MSPeconomist
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    I've never paid extra for the airline miles because whenever I did the calculation, it seemed expensive for a few miles, in addition to just the principle of it. After a few times, I stopped even thinking about it.
     
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  18. thrashsoundly
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    thrashsoundly Silver Member

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    I know the feeling. I once had the option between a PT cruiser and a Dodge Magnum wagon. I hate PT Cruisers, so I went with the Magnum. Big mistake. Magnum is code for "road tank." The side windows are amazingly narrow and the blind spots are tremendous - then make it a humongous wagon. What a terrible car.
    I pride myself on being a pretty good driver, but I blatantly cut someone off on the DC Beltway in this rental car. Didn't see him at all. Close call. Damn car.
     
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  19. Rob
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    Rob Gold Member

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    I've got Hertz Five Star through being a United 1K and I don't see the point of car rental loyalty at all. I almost always priceline cars, most of the time priceline hotels, and never priceline flights. Flight times, connections, and frequent flyer programs seem to have much more differentiation to me than car rental types and frequent renter programs. I don't really care what type of car I'm driving (and usually prefer smaller cars due to cheaper gas and less likely to get scratched in a parking lot) so upgrades don't matter. Location doesn't matter as almost always I'm looking for an airport location. Free rental days are the only things I really care about, and even there, I can usually get a cheap car through priceline or if not, use frequent flyer miles from UA or AA to rent a car.

    Rental cars seem like the ultimate commodity to me as it doesn't matter whether I get an Aveo from Hertz or a Kia from Enterprise...they're both gonna get me there in the same time at the same comfort level for a cheap price.
     
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  20. viguera
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    viguera Gold Member

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    Dodge went through a period where they made crap like this. I remember the first time I drove the 300 after the redesign... I couldn't understand why the windows were so small. I guess that was a fad for them back then.
     
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  21. eponymous_coward
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    eponymous_coward Gold Member

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    This is why I diligently read Evan!'s quarterly Rental Car Promo thread on FlyerTalk. At one point, with 4x/5x Rapid Rewards credits, I was getting 2 RR credits on every rental. One free WN trip every 8 rentals, for maybe $20? Yes, please. (Sadly, RR 2.0 killed this off. :() US miles for less than a quarter cent a mile in added cost? You bet.

    I often get very close to the Priceline/Hotwire price for rentals using deals, coupons and whatever. Add in the miles and it becomes a winner for me. The opaque bidding sites seem to me to be much better at maximizing hotel value than rental car value. I am able to get 20-50% off on rooms without too much work. It's much more difficult to do this with cars by comparison.
     
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  22. MSPeconomist
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    I followed it briefly, but stopped after not finding stuff that was relevant for me, Hertz small and cheap cars and NW/DL miles.
     
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  23. eponymous_coward
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    eponymous_coward Gold Member

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    I would probably do the same if I was accumulating on DL (where I don't think the SkyPesos™ have the same value as US Dividend Miles, and DL is much stingier handing them out to Hertz than US is to Alamo, Dollar and Thrifty).

    I also don't have problems accumulating on an airline I almost never fly, though- not when US's *A Awards are as nice as they are (if you can get past the clueless phone agents). ;)
     
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  24. viguera
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    viguera Gold Member

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    I tried following that thread, but it made my eyeballs bleed.
     
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  25. MSPeconomist
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    I guess I'm not too eager to fly a carrier/alliance without status, especially on an award ticket. If IROPs happen, I fear that I would be the last one they would help. Moreover, status gives you better award inventory on many airlines, although I'm not sure about US in this regard; I simply would not want to take US domestic connecting flights to the international gateway, nor would I wish to get into the arguments about having an IFC award ticket for a business class price in miles.
     
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