There’s a lot of stress that comes with traveling. You have to get through the security checkpoint and then hang out in an airport or airport lounge that’s way too crowded and may be going through a huge renovation. Unless you have first class or business class, you’re jammed into a plane. Hotels have also made for less happy experiences, especially if you’re into the points & miles thing, by changing the rules about stays, or, well, I can just say #Bonvoyed and most people reading this will understand what I mean.
However one aspect of travel has continued to increasingly make for relatively high satisfaction levels – that of car rental companies.
Airport-based car rental companies have had more competition in the past few years. Besides there just being more car rental companies out there, they’ve also had to compete with the likes of ride sharing companies like UBER and Lyft. Their response has been to be more innovative, with more vehicle choices, personalized services and streamlined pick-up and return processes. The good news is that customers are noticing.
According to a new study just released by J.D. Power, customer satisfaction with airport-based rental car companies has climbed to a record high of 843 (on a 1,000-point scale). 2018’s high score was 830, while 2017’s was 826.
Some key findings, as per J.D. Power:
- Record-high rental car customer satisfaction amid tight competition: Overall rental car satisfaction is at its highest level ever, reaching 843 in 2019. Moreover, the gap in performance between the top- and bottom-ranked performers has narrowed to just 31 points (down from 51 points in 2018), with just one point separating the top two companies in the study (Note from Sharon: so all of the top ranking car rental companies are working harder to get/keep their customers).
- Smooth pick-up process is a key differentiator: Though competition is tight between rental car companies, one area showing significant variation in customer experience is the vehicle pick-up process. While overall satisfaction scores are 33 points higher when customers get their vehicle in 15 minutes or less, that happens just 64% of the time (Note from Sharon: We’ve seen that in real life, when there are 10+ people in line for Avis, and we’re in and out with our National Car Rental Emerald Club membership).
- Technology-laden vehicles present a double-edged sword: Rental car satisfaction scores are highest (902) when vehicles have 21 or more features, such as cruise control, GPS, USB ports and premium sound systems, but those scores plummet 140 points when renters indicate that vehicle features are difficult to use.
- Mobile app users more satisfied with rental experience: Overall satisfaction among customers who use a rental car brand’s mobile app is 50 points higher than among those who do not. Currently, just 40% of customers say they have a rental car mobile app downloaded on their smartphone. Rental car apps are used most frequently for making reservations (52%); getting shuttle information (40%); getting general information (39%); check-in (39%); and selecting the rental car (39%).
- Hertz took the highest spot in overall customer satisfaction, with a score of 856
- Enterprise was 2nd, with 855
- Alamo was #3, with a score of 848
2018’s rankings were Enterprise (862), Hertz (848) and National (846)
2017’s rankings were Enterprise (851), National (846), Alamo (828) and Hertz (822)
Click here for the full ranking.
What I noticed
I found it interesting that only 8 car rental companies are used in the study: Avis, Alamo, Budget, Dollar, Enterprise, Hertz, National and Thrifty. No Silvercar, Payless, Fox, Sixt, etc. And yet, “The 2019 North America Rental Car Satisfaction Study is based on responses gathered from September 2018 through August 2019, from 9,382 business and leisure travelers who rented a vehicle at an airport location from August 2018 through August 2019.”
The small print for the 2018, 2017, 2016, etc. studies said, “Note: Included in the study, but not ranked, are Advantage Rent A Car, ACE Rent A Car, Fox Rent A Car, and Payless.” (that was the 2018 verbiage. 2017’s and before were similar, albeit not exactly the same). What’s up with that? Wouldn’t they have an affect on the final numbers? I wonder why they weren’t used. And why were other car rental companies such as Silvercar, Sixt, etc., never used?
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary
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I like them both, but I’m scratching my head on how Enterprise could possibly rank higher than National…