How a $10 Enterprise rental car became $40, but not more.

| November 17, 2007 | 2 Replies

For me, a car is a means of getting me from A to B.   I just don’t “get” the idea of spending money for a “luxury” car.  But many people aren’t like me, and rental car companies know this.

Two days ago, I rented a car through Expedia.  I reserved the cheapest car available at Enterprise.  It cost $10 for the day, according to Expedia.  I was on the flight with another attorney on the same case and I offered him a ride to the Kansas City courthouse to save him a cab fare.

A friendly person at the Enterprise quickly greeted me and took me out “to get your car.”  That’s when the fun started. 

The Enterprise guy, a young fellow in a suit, gestured to the big lot of cars and asked me what car I wanted.  I told him that I wanted the $10 car I reserved.  He gave me a look of disdain.  “That car is a Kia.  It’s only a go-kart.  You certainly don’t want that.”  He scowled some more for additional effect. It’s always interesting to hear a merchant disparaging its own merchandise.  It’s a signal for savvy consumers to dig in.  I told him I wanted the Kia, because that’s what I reserved.

He told me he “I can put you into a Charger for only $40,” gesturing to the Charger.   I told him that I wanted the go-kart, because it is a small car that uses less gas.  “It’s more responsible to use smaller cars and use less gas.” 

He was frustrated, and gestured to the far end of the lot, saying that they must be washing the Kia, so what should we do?  This is code for “We don’t really have any $10 cars.  My job is to upgrade you”

He paused, then asked, “How about $15 for the Charger?”  Because we needed to get going and because I really didn’t know the fellow to whom I had offered the ride,” I compromised.  I was tempted, however, to wait for a $10 car, whether it be the Kia or something else.   Interesting, though, how a $40 car turns into a $15 car.

But the negotiating was not over.  Then the Enterprise guy raised the insurance question.   He cautioned me that I should get the insurance ($15/day) because “You’re responsible for anything that is damaged, including a cracked windshield.” He pointed to me and continued, “We will take the cost of those damages right off your credit card.”   I told him “no,” because my credit card covers collision/comprehensive insurance coverage (many credit cards do, making most of these daily insurance charges rip-offs.  

The epilogue?  Enterprise got its $40 in the end.  How?  An impressive array of taxes and mandatory charges.  Check out this receipt:

               rental car receipt - lo rez.jpg

The fellow who tallied the charges at the end of the day said that KC is the most heavily taxed rental car city other than Phoenix.   What’s an “Arena Fee”?  I was told that I’m paying for KC’s new arena.  Refueling?  $8 for 2 gallons, because I couldn’t find a gas station to top off the car, but not unreasonable.  But look at the other stuff:  “Transportation Facility Charge”?  I guess that “free” shuttle ride wasn’t free.  “Vehicle License Fee Recovery?”  Am I paying for Enterprise to maintain vehicle licenses?  If so, that’s a hefty fee, indeed.  If that car is rented out 3 times per week (a conservative estimate), that amounts to $184/year.   And, oh yeah, there’s sales tax too.

The bottom line was $37 for a “$10 car.”  Good thing I (mostly) insisted on the go-kart. 

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Category: Consumerism

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

Comments (2)

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  1. jeremy says:

    Do you complain that a police officer is in the wrong when he pulls someone over for speeding, too?! He's doing what's required of him by the government… Boiled down, your complaints only have one thing in common — that you were charged tax by the government, and want to blame it on an individual company who has no discretion in the matter. Next time, check the fees before you fly, and blame the responsible party (taxpayers who voted for the increased taxes and the legislators who proposed them). Or maybe don't rent a car, if you don't want to pay any mandatory fees…

    “Transportation Facility Charge”? I guess that “free” shuttle ride wasn’t free. “Vehicle License Fee Recovery?” Am I paying for Enterprise to maintain vehicle licenses?

    .05 Control of Landside Traffic and Ground Transportation.

    (2) An on-Airport rental car business shall collect from its customers a transportation facility charge per transaction day, which is a 24-hour period, or any fraction of the period that a vehicle is rented under a rental agreement. When an on-Airport rental car business grants a grace period for late returns of rental cars, it may not collect a transportation facility charge for the grace period.

    281.687 Vehicle license cost recovery fee charged by motor vehicle renting company.

    "Vehicle license cost recovery fee" means a charge on a vehicle rental transaction originating within the Commonwealth that is separately stated on the rental agreement to recover vehicle license costs.

    Nothing in this section shall prevent a motor vehicle renting company from including, or making adjustments during the calendar year to, separately stated surcharges, fees, or charges in the rental agreement, which may include but are not limited to vehicle license cost recovery fees, airport access fees, airport concession fees, consolidated facility charges, and all applicable taxes.

    2006-11-15 A USA TODAY analysis of rental charges at top U.S. airports shows that Kansas City, Seattle, Houston, Phoenix and Dallas/Fort Worth have some of the highest taxes and fees in the country.

    To rent a full-size car from next Monday until Friday at Kansas City International, for example, travelers could expect to pay taxes and fees totaling about 35% of the bottom-line price. The analysis reflects prices offered on Enterprise.com last Thursday. Adding to the bottom line at KCI: a $4-a-day charge to pay for a downtown sports arena, a $5-a-day charge for construction of a consolidated rental car facility, an "airport access fee" of about $12 and state and local sales taxes totaling about $14.

    http://www.usatoday.com/travel/flights/2006-10-23

  2. James says:

    I call Bull^%#$@! The Vehice license cost recovery is a fee created by the rental car lobby to recoup the cost of registration and license on each car. When they decided to start the rental car company they understood this was a “run the business” cost…but their little lobbyists got together and stiffed the public. They are supposed to reduce rates in the coming year based on previous year overpayments…but they never do.

    Many of the fees are the same…not taxes but fees created by lobby groups to make money for the rental car companies. Its like saying I will apples, but I expect everyone else to pay for the apple trees and land, and work needed to grow them. They even charge to recover their energy costs…it is insane, and rental companies should be ashamed. They are thieves and criminals. That is why you always feel dirty after dealing with them.

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