Tips for the Car Rental Person


If we can get you to pay more for an upgrade, insurance, gasoline, a GPS, even an additional driver, we get a cut of the extra charges.


we love our UK customers which we affectionately call “the Brits”. When the Virgin and British Airways flights are in, the Alamo counter is full of agents. The Brits are fun folks and love upgrades. We Alamo rental agents have autonomy when it comes to the price of upgrades. There is a minimum which we must adhere to, usually $11 per day, but we can raise it to whatever we believe the customer is willing to pay. If the Brit wants an SUV instead of the midsize sedan reserved, we may charge him $11 more per day or maybe even $99 more per day. Even better, many Brits have long term rentals, 2, 3, 4 weeks or longer. The longer the rental, the better for us if the customer buys something. For instance, an upgrade of $49 per day for a 3-week rental equals a total of $1029. If the agent can average just one or two sales like this per day, he/she will get a 15% cut of the upgrade sales alone.

Always inspect the car you are renting with an employee before signing anything.

Car rental offices should have a vehicle inspection form that’s signed by you before the car leaves the lot. This limits the possibility that you’ll get blamed for damage that you didn’t cause. “Unfortunately, from my experience, many customers were blamed for damage they did not cause,”

Off-airport locations are often cheaper than airport locations.

The vehicles at airport locations typically cost more because of airport fees, which cover the car rental agency’s rental and transportation costs.

Make multiple reservations and play the system.

Most reservations can be canceled without penalty. My insider suggests making multiple reservations. “Look at rates online or call in for them,” he says. “If you’re not too picky, make a reservation for one of the small, cheap cars. Make another for a nicer car that you might like to rent. When you show up, use the reservation for the smaller car. Ask the rep how much it costs to upgrade to the nicer car you want to rent. If they rate ends up being less than what you reserved the higher-class car at, then do it. If not, use the other reservation. They have to honor reservation rates.”

Negotiate your upgrade.

Upgrade rates don’t exist. They’re made up by salespeople. “If you come in with a Ford Focus reservation and were interested in a larger car, I’ll charge an upgrade for you to get into a Ford Escape,” he says. “If you have a Ford Escape reservation and are looking for something more fuel-efficient, I’ll charge you an upgrade to a Ford Focus.

Timing is everything.

The largest expense incurred by a car rental company is depreciation. Basically, these companies are leasing all the cars in their fleet. They’re charged different rates for different types of cars. “It is very important for car rental companies to have as many cars on the road as possible, as any cars that are sitting are not making money, and are actually costing the company money in depreciation fees.” A customer who shows up after a busy holiday weekend can more or less name the price for a rental car.

Complain and you shall receive.

Car rental companies often go to great lengths to make customer happy — even when their grievance are not legit. “Like most companies, we want you to use again — and again and again,” says the insider. “Even some of the most ridiculous complaints that I’ve seen have been resolved by one of my managers. They offered a full refund and a free rental to a customer I knew was full of it. But we want you back so much that an occassional hit is fine.”



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