Home Rental Cars Rental Car Companies No Longer Try To Differentiate Their Brand Offerings

Rental Car Companies No Longer Try To Differentiate Their Brand Offerings

by joeheg

Rental Car Companies have undergone a period of consolidation. While this was happening before 2020, the pandemic sped up the process. To be honest, there are only two significant players in the space for the US market. There’s the Hertz Corporation, which runs Hertz, Dollar and Thrifty and Enterprise Holdings, which owns Enterprise, National and Alamo.

There was a time when the companies tried to differentiate their brands. Take Hertz for an example. Their namesake brand was marketed towards business travelers and Dollar was more for leisure travelers. The Thrifty brand was the no-frills version where you’d find the older vehicles and have to endure the endless sales pitches at the counter before renting a car.

At the beginning of 2022, rental car prices were through the roof. My usual plan of using Autoslash wasn’t helping to find lower rates and I ended up renting cars with Hertz using the corporate rate from my employer.

I locked in prices for most of our rentals this year, not knowing if prices would go up or down. As it turns out, Autoslash has started to find lower prices for our rentals, even if it took until the last minute to get a lower rate.

For our most recent rental, I received a notice a week before the trip informing me that I could find a $100 cheaper rate with Dollar from the corporate rate with Hertz. I poked around and found this rate was with an AAA discount, once again proving that an AAA membership is worth more than roadside assistance.

I went to the Dollar/Thrifty counter when we got to the airport. Both companies operate from the same space and you need to tell the agent which brand your reservation is with. We finished the transaction and I was given the directions to get to my car in the rental car lot.

I was told to walk outside, go to the Hertz 5-Star aisle, and take whichever car I wanted. Since I booked an SUV, if there wasn’t anything big enough, I just had to go to the counter in the lot and they’d find something for me.

I went to the Hertz lot with my Dollar folio, stepped into a Hyundai Santa Fe and drove to the exit.

End of story.

Admittedly, I knew that Hertz, Dollar and Thrifty are all owned by the same company. However, this is the first time I’ve been told to take a car from a section of a different brand. As we exited the lot, I realized why I was told this, as the Dollar lot was empty.

Previously, the staff at the airport would move cars around to distribute available inventory but I guess it’s easier to tell people to pick out a car from whichever brand has cars left on the lot.

This begs the question, why do companies try to differentiate their brand?

This would be like checking in to a Hampton Inn and being told to take a room at the Homewood Suites across the street. And if none of those rooms were suitable, you could go to the nearby Hilton.

When it comes down to it, a car is a car. It doesn’t matter if I’m renting the SUV from Hertz, Dollar or Thrifty, it’s all the same vehicle.

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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary


1 comment

Bob Jones August 13, 2022 - 1:05 am

Likely root cause is post-pandemic inventory + demand + supply chain issues.


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