Rental Car Stories…the Good and the Not-So-Good

I frequently have occasion to rent a car when I travel. Several years ago, I rented a Hertz car for a few days in Saumur, France. It was a small operation and when I brought it back at the appointed time, there was no one in the little office so, as instructed, I left the keys with the next door shop owner. When the paperwork arrived several weeks later, I discovered I had been charged for three additional days. Fortunately, I was able to produce a receipt from a hotel in Vienna, proving I couldn’t have been driving that car for those three days. It’s probably unfair, but I haven’t rented from Hertz since, mostly because they wouldn’t take my word and demanded I produce that hotel receipt to prove my innocence.

Two years ago, because its rental location was closest to a particular train station, I rented a car from Enterprise. The car was fine, but they really pressured me to take the collision insurance, making a big production of inspecting the car, noting every nick and smudge and clearly giving the impression that I would be held responsible for the least little problem. They also informed me that, in the event of any damage, they would insist on collecting from me in cash when I brought the car back, regardless of my credit card company’s guarantee. It was an unpleasant and intimidating experience and I haven’t rented from them since.

Basically, my advice is not to skip around. Rates are pretty much the same anyway. Pick one of the top-tier companies, sign up for their frequent renter program, and become a steady customer unless and until they screw up. I have been a “preferred” Avis customer for years and that always seems to ensure good service and occasional free up-grades.

In fact, two years ago when I visited the Field of Dreams in Dyersville, Iowa, I rented an Avis car in Molene, Illinois, and dropped it in Burlington, Iowa, where I was to board Amtrak’s Claifornia Zephyr for my train ride back to the West Coast. When I turned the car in at the Avis Counter, the young lady offered to drive me to the train station and gave me an interesting tour of Burlington on the way. And she was cute, too!