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:
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.