Airport rental car users are increasingly dissatisfied as prices increase, per new study

Oct 21, 2021

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A national rental car shortage and corresponding increased prices have led to an inevitable outcome as customers have become increasingly dissatisfied with rental car companies. TPG got hold of new data from a recent study from J.D. Power that tracked customer experience with rental car companies over a 12-month period.

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J.D. Power, the consumer intelligence company, just released their report, citing an overall decline in customer satisfaction among both business and leisure travelers who rented a vehicle at an airport location from August 2020-August 2021, thanks to a 58% increase in rental car prices in the latter eight months of the study.

The average customer-cited price-per-day rental fee rose to $90.40 by summer 2021 and overall customer satisfaction declined by 11 points (on a 1,000-point scale) during that 12-month period, as documented in the J.D. Power 2021 North America Rental Car Satisfaction Study. Customer satisfaction for the industry as a whole decreased this year to 830 from 841 in 2020.

Read more: My experience with Kyte, the rental car startup that brings the car to you

“Rental car companies have been facing significant challenges, both in terms of vehicle supply and staffing—and a combination of rising costs and long lines at the airport is having a negative effect on customer satisfaction,” Michael Taylor, travel intelligence lead at J.D. Power, said in a statement. “The fact that the average price per day for vehicle rental is now above $90 sounds almost hard to believe, but I’ve seen instances in which a subcompact—booked a month in advance—cost $140 a day.”

Respondents ranked Enterprise Rent-A-Car highest overall, with a score of 861, followed by National Car Rental with 852 and Alamo Rent A Car in third with 837. All are owned by parent company Enterprise Holdings. Survey results were based on responses collected from September 2020 through August 2021 from 4,279 business and leisure travelers who rented a vehicle at an airport location between August 2020 and August 2021.

Related: How to never pay full price for a rental car

(Screenshot courtesy of J.D. Power)

Related: Rental car loyalty needs a makeover: Here are the changes I’d like to see

“This recognition is a testament to our amazing teams and their unwavering commitment to serving our customers, especially in these challenging times,” Enterprise Holdings told TPG via email. “Our teams continue to work hard to meet the increased travel demand and support customers’ broader transportation needs.”

The St. Louis-based company is the second-biggest car holding company in the U.S., behind the Hertz Corporation. In response to pandemic-induced challenges, Enterprise brands have extended loyalty perks for customers. Last week, both Enterprise and National announced they would be extending members’ loyalty benefits for the second year in a row to “provide even greater flexibility to its customers.”

Although National does not have a points program in lieu of allowing customers to earn credits to use for free rental days, they too have extended their Emerald Club Program Free Days for an additional year through Dec. 31, 2022. Other extensions include tier status for Emerald Club Executive and Executive Elite members along with Enterprise Plus Silver, Gold and Platinum elites, now extended through Feb. 28, 2023.

Read more: Your guide to earning, redeeming and loyalty with National Emerald Club

“Our brands led the car rental industry in loyalty tier extensions and point rollovers throughout the pandemic and the recent extensions continue the robust loyalty and convenience benefits for its most frequent customers,” said Enterprise. “Related to pricing, our rates are determined by several supply and demand factors including location, dates of travel, length of rental, availability as well as when the reservation was made.”

On the other end of the spectrum, Hertz and its subsidiary Thrifty Car Rental both fell in the bottom half of the satisfaction ranking compared to their competitors.

“We have refocused our efforts in critical areas to ensure we keep service at the forefront of all we do,” Lauren Luster, Hertz’s communications director, said via email. “We have also put new strategies in place to better manage the headwinds we face across the industry such as staffing and tighter fleets as a result of the pandemic and ongoing microchip shortage.”

Hertz did not confirm or deny an increase in their vehicle pricing as reflected by the report. Representatives from Avis Car Rental and Budget Rent a Car declined to comment for this story.

Related: Can’t find a rental car? Why you should try Turo instead

When asked about the report’s findings, J.D. Power attributed a “steep increase in daily rental fees to the recent decline in satisfaction,” as reflected by the survey.

“Rental car companies have found themselves in a tight spot, trying to meet increased leisure travel demands while their fleets have been reduced. Almost all of the rental car companies we track have increased prices,” Taylor said via email, and warned that this is likely to continue well into next year. “The expected shortfall of new car production, due to chip shortages and other critical manufacturing raw materials plus the tight market for used cars, doesn’t bode well for the rental car industry in the near term.”

Read more: From sold out to $700-plus daily rates, where the car rental shortage is worse than you think

Featured photo by Michael H via Getty Images.

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