I am fairly loyal to National Car Rental for a few reasons but until I had to rent from Hertz, I had no idea just how good I had it. By comparison, Hertz is worse than Spirit and RyanAir.
World Series Comes to Houston
I had a last-minute business trip to Houston during the opening nights of the World Series. Rates were through the roof for everything, that’s fair enough, demand was inordinately high. However, I booked way too late and National was sold out, so was Enterprise.
My American Express Platinum card gives me Hertz privileges that appear similar to National’s Executive status, so I thought I’d try them out.
Hertz Is Full Of “Gotcha” Fees
The rental was fine, though expensive I assume due to the World Series. I was able to rent online and walk out selecting a car, as I would on the National Emerald Aisle as my booking was later and no car had been pre-assigned to me. The choices were average, but they had cars so who am I to complain?
Upon returning the vehicle, wow, was I ever met with “Gotcha” fees. Sometimes I don’t schedule time to refill the vehicle before returning. I could pre-pay but I rarely get a full tank out of a car, so even at normal rates I am likely paying for gas I didn’t use. National charges about 50% over the pre-pay rate which is usually at or slightly below pump prices. That seems reasonable for me especially if I am particularly busy and I have only used 1/4 of a tank.
Hertz charges $9.99/gallon.
Many cities require tolls to get around. You could technically get to and from the airport in Houston avoiding tolls, but that would be insanity. National sends me a bill for the tolls with a little extra for the service, that’s fine. In some cities, they charge a daily fee for the pass too where it’s not built into the license plate. On most similar trips to Houston, my tolls cost less than $10.
Hertz charged me $17.77 for the tolls and $23.80 for a convenience fee.
I’m rather confident that they added some if not more than doubled the tolls but they don’t break that down. I am 100% certain that Houston doesn’t have any tolls that end in anything besides $.05 increments. Then they have the nerve to charge me a $23.80 convenience fee on top of elevated rates? Further, since Texas doesn’t use toll passes (it’s scanned by license plate) I’m not even certain the convenience fee is legal because there would be no way to incur a toll but avoid conveniences provided.
To add insult to injury, I received another $.70 toll fee that must have arrived to Hertz late a week after this though not charge for an additional convenience fee. Gee, thanks.
How Do Spirit, RyanAir Compare?
Low Cost carriers are built on Gotcha charges and representing their total costs as lower than the total cost of travel.
- Low-Cost Carriers charge convenience fees to buy their fares online (the true meaning of a convenience fee) included in the price of the fare, but avoidable if tickets are purchased in person at the airport. Unlike the airlines which make their fee avoidable, Hertz doesn’t have a way to avoid the fee but still incur the toll processing.
- Hertz isn’t even trying to offer their customers value when they charge $9.99/gallon for refuelling. Instead, they are merely trying to catch customers when they have the chance. Both RyanAir and Spirit charge for carry-on bags on their cheapest fares (so does United) but they charge less than any major carrier for checked bags adding value to their customers.
- Spirit and RyanAir charge low base fares and then piecemeal the rest of the fare to equate something a little cheaper than the rest of the competition. Hertz is an expensive firm to start, adding fees like this make them outrageous. Where’s the value?
- Hertz now charges a 50% penalty for cancelling award bookings. Spirit has to allow for free cancellation within 24 hours of booking per US law. While that’s not an example of Spirit going out of their way, it does still beat Hertz and highlights how insane their cancellation policy is.
I’m just one traveler. While I have about 100 rental days annually with National, maybe I am in the minority with my displeasure of the brand. Hertz has a lot of loyal members who probably follow their rules (like I do with RyanAir and Spirit) and enjoy their service. That said, National doesn’t include a bunch of “gotcha” fees to drive revenue, they just deliver great value for money. There’s an old saying in the restaurant business, “never let your customers taste the competition,” however in my experience, there’s no chance I am heading to Hertz.
What do you think? Have you been caught by Hertz “gotcha” fees? Was your experience better than mine?