Car Hunt And Enterprise Rent-A-Headache

by golbguru on July 12, 2007

Since our Nissan broke down on a freeway a few days ago, we have been trying to zero in on some good deals on used Honda or Toyota vehicles. We located a few feasible deals far away from our town and decided to rent a car for a couple of days in order to pursue them (that is - visit some dealerships, test drive, haggle, try to aggravate an irritating salesperson, etc.).

Renting was not our first option; we first borrowed a *very* old car from a good friend - who forgot to mention that the registration sticker had expired. We didn’t notice it either - until a cop pulled us over - for exactly that reason! That effectively ended the productive phase of the old car and forced us into looking for rentals. :(

Now, let me whine about how Enterprise conducts it’s car renting (rather the lack of it) business. Since the last couple of days we have twice tried to rent an economy car from Enterprise. Each time, I booked the car online and scheduled the pick-up at about 11:00 am on the following day. This is what happened on both occasions when it was about time to pick up the car:

Me (called to ask for a ride): We need a ride to your location to pick up our rental car. Would you please arrange for someone to pick us up?

Desk Clerk (after checking up our confirmation number): Sir, we don’t have any economy cars available at the moment. In fact, I am not sure if we will have any available for the rest of the day.

Me: Forget economy, is there any other car we can get today?

Desk Clerk: No sir, we don’t have any cars available.

Me: Is it possible to get one later in the day.. say about 3:00 pm? It doesn’t have to be an economy car.

Desk Clerk: I am not sure.

We called at least FIVE other Enterprise locations and got a similar story.

What is the matter with these guys? Why does a car renting company doesn’t have a single car to rent at ANY of it’s locations at ANY time of the day? If they don’t have cars available (or have a backlog), why the heck don’t they say that on their website - or at least give a courtesy call to inform about the lack of availability?

Is this *normal* for Enterprise or am I just going through a bad car phase here?

On a related note, I will have some interesting stories (rants) about car dealers. From the experience so far, let me just say that ALL car dealers work on the same profound assumption - most people are born suckers.

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{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Julie Rains 07.12.07 at 8:10 am

I know someone who worked for Enterprise many years ago and he said they called the sudden availability of cars “Enterprise Magic”; yes I was disappointed that there wasn’t some sophisticated forecasting process or just some day-to-day figuring out when a reservation could or couldn’t be honored. I’ve had waits for cars at airports (to guarantee the car, we were supposed to pay a premium) but it almost sounds like they aren’t particularly interested in your business (this has happened to me also); perhaps they are serving a corporate customer.

Btw, we bought our last 2 cars through AAA. Credit unions also have a car-buying service if you want to go that route. I didn’t test drive but it worked out fine.

P.S.
Have you seen the Seinfeld where Jerry is explaining to the rental car rep what a reservation is?

2 mapgirl 07.12.07 at 9:12 am

I’m not sure where you live, but I’ve lived in 3 major tourist cities in the US and this is what I’ve learned about weekend rentals.

1) Don’t count on it during the summer when the tourists are about.

2) Try a hotel. Some of them rent from inside the hotel.

3) Try a location not affiliated with any hospitality location, i.e. standalone store. Alamo in Cambridge, MA is one place I can think of like this. I rented a car there after staying overnight with a friend in Harvard Sq. I took the car to Cape Cod and later hopped the T back to the airport.

4) Try Thrifty. Off the beaten track, but sometimes much cheaper and no-frills.

Bummer this is turning into a headache. Enterprise is ok, but certainly not my favorite car rental shop. I’ve used National, Hertz, Avis, Thrifty, and Alamo booked by Travelocity and by Priceline. Where I live now, we have Flexcar and Zipcar services.

Is there a reason why you are picking new over used?

3 Meagan 07.12.07 at 9:38 am

Ugh I have had the same issues with Enterprise. I usually went with them because they are well known and I’d never heard any complaints but after my two dealings with them I am boycotting them.

The first time we actually got a car, but we requested economy and were “upgraded” for no extra charge, leaving us with a KIA Magentis. The car smelled, it wasn’t so good with gas, and the wipers were broken (and of course it rained the entire week that we had it). They charged us $75 A DAY just because we wanted to drop it off at the airport that was 25 minutes away from the original location.

My second experience was much like yours. I called a week in advance and made a reservation, but when I showed up - lo and behold they don’t have a single car. And it was on a misty cloudy Wednesday, in the middle of October. Not exactly what I would have considered prime tourist season! They called another location (different company) that had an Impala (once again I would have prefered a smaller vehicle) and the other company was charging $40 more a day and of course Enterprise wouldn’t cover it even though it was their error and their bad customer service. I ended up getting a ride from someone else but rest assured I will never be renting from Enterprise ever again.

4 Brad 07.12.07 at 10:08 am

As far as car dealers go . . . I’m afraid you’re right. I was considering trading my SUV in for a Corolla earlier in the summer, and got so far as to sit down with a salesman and “negotiate.” From bluebook, edmunds, and NADA values on both vehicles I had figured that a fair trade between my 2005 Pilot and this 2006 Corolla would include $5k cash for me, which would pay off my loan and give me about $1k in cash.

The guy comes back after the appraisal and the form shows a difference of $1500 . . . IN THEIR FAVOR. I looked more closely, and they had appraised my car for roughly $4500 less than bluebook trade-in value. I told him he was crazy, and he asked me what I needed to make a deal. I told him, “$5k in my favor.” He replied, “so we’re $6500 apart?” Yes, of course we were. He went to “see what he could do,” and came back with a best offer of even money. I could do nothing but laugh, and told him that we were just about finished. He tried to tell me that “gas mileage is causing the value of SUVs to drop like a rock.” Two salesmen since have told me that this is a flat-out lie. In fact, I noticed later that this dealership had a ‘03 Pilot (2 years older) with 50,000 miles (30,000 miles more) ON THEIR LOT, with a sticker price $5000 higher than what they offered me for trade-in. I was tempted to call him back and give him a piece of my mind again, but it’s not worth it.

They don’t mind losing a customer like me; one who does his homework. They probably sold that car within a week to someone they could make much more money off of. Car sales is a complete joke.

5 Debbie 07.12.07 at 12:18 pm

I used to rent cars at Enterprise during the four-year period when I didn’t own a car. This was in a stand-alone building. I would make a reservation (by phone in those days), drop by after work on a Friday to pick it up, and use it for the weekend.

I did this two or three times a year for four years and never had any problems. Sometimes an economy car was not available, so they would rent me a bigger car at the same rate. They always had a small car of some kind, and the cars always seemed new to me and never gave me any problems.

Once I tried going to the airport to rent a car, and that was terrible. I decided there are two kinds of people who rent cars: 1) tourists, who get them at airports and 2) people whose cars are wrecked, who rent other ones from stand-alone places. I decided stand-alone places were much better than airport places at catering to people with no car at all.

I tried rent-a-wreck once and had a choice between a car with a manual transmission, which I didn’t know how to work back then, and a car that wouldn’t start. I never went back.

I also had a reservation for a truck disappear from Ryder. I tried to rent one in May, when all the students were moving. They made more money on long-distance moves than they would have on my move, so they dropped me. (And their ads always said “We’re there when you need us.” Arg.) I never went back, but at least they called me two days before my reservation to let me know rather than waiting until I showed up there. Yikes. (Fortunately, Enterprise had a hatchback available, so I rented that and made several additional trips and had a friend with a pick-up help me with the final load.)

6 KMC 07.12.07 at 12:19 pm

Believe it or not, it may have been your request to get picked up. The reps at Enterprise absolutely HATE picking people up.

For what it’s worth, somewhere on the Consumerism a while ago I read a piece from an Enterprise insider. He/she detailed some of their ‘practices’ that make be of interest to you.

Good luck.

7 Lazy Man and Money 07.12.07 at 2:40 pm

So they “know how to take the reservation, but not how to HOLD the reservation… which, if you think about it, is the most important part of the reservation.” :-)

8 Family Savings 07.12.07 at 2:43 pm

Call Enterprise back and let them know you are unsatisfied with their service and going someplace else.

9 Kitty 07.13.07 at 6:18 am

I wasn’t particularly happy with Enterprise either. Usually when I rent I use Hertz - the company I work for has a deal with them which applies to personal travel as well as business, so it makes using them a lot cheaper for me than any other company. Plus I get a free damage waiver.

This one time I used Enterprise because I totalled my car and my insurance instructed me to use Enterprise. My insurance was paying $20 a day, I paid additional $10. After a couple of days I decided to get a ride to work with a friend instead ($10 to me from insurance company for not using rental) and returned the car. Even though I returned the car very early in the morning, it turned out I owed them for three days because they charged for the calendar days. It was my fault, of course, for not reading the agreement (they might’ve even mentioned it - I should’ve paid more attention). Now, it was only a small amount of money, but it was still annoying. Hertz has never charged me for calendar days, always for 24-hour periods.

10 Baz L 07.13.07 at 9:48 am

I must say I’m never had any problems with Enterprise and their car rentals.

But as far as car salesmen go…wow…
What I’ve learned is that you just be straight up. True, you might save a couple extra hundred dollars if you haggle a bit, but to me the headache isn’t worth it.

I come in, I don’t even look at the sticker price. I do my homework, know the value and offer something that’s about $500 more than what I’m willing to pay and I stick to it.

After that, I walk out the door. If I don’t hear something at the “fair” price, I keep walking.

You’d be surprised how many times that I’ve had dealers try to stop me with better deals when I was cranking up my engine to drive away.

They know what the car’s worth. It’s your job to know that too. So if both parties know what the cost of things are, what’s the deal with haggling. Trust me, they’ll know more than you ever do. Just don’t listen to what they have to say. When they give you the sticker price, stick your fingers in your ears and hum. Stick to your guns and walk away.

Baz L
Day In The Life of Baz
http://www.LifeOfBaz.com/

11 golbguru 07.13.07 at 11:52 am

Mapgirl: This not a tourist place by any measure. :) In fact half the town’s population has probably go to their respective home-towns for the summer.

BazL: That is exactly what we did on our second day (the successful day) of car buying. This topic deserves a post in itself.

12 MoneyNing 07.13.07 at 12:11 pm

You probably aren’t alone with the car rentals. I’m in car rentals all the time and for some reason they employ some of the worst educated people there.

One thing you can do is just reserve online since they have all the car database on file and you probably won’t get a better deal if you call in. You can also try priceline to name your own price (always the best deal). Then once you have the reservation, it’s pretty easy. Hertz is actually quite easy but it’s much more expensive than the others.

13 Griffin H. Harrell 07.25.07 at 3:23 pm

You overlooked Saturn…they are a “No Haggle, No Hassle” Dealership and have been since the day they opened their first dealership or “Retail Facility” as they call it…I throughly enjoyed my experience with them.

14 David Sexton 08.11.07 at 8:00 am

I worked at Enterprise for several years and they talk alot of about customer service to their employees but reward on financial results.

Enterprise does have discounted rates if you car is being repaired but most reps don’t offer it up front. There is also further rate differentiation whether your car has been in a collision (usually cheaper) or in for service work.

As far as looking for a car goes, I have found a part time car dealer who I pay $500 to go to a large auction like Mannheim and give him exact specs on what I am looking for. I usually buy 2 or 3 year old cars with low mileage so the factory warranty is still place plus I can buy an extended warranty through my credit union. It’s pretty hassle free as long as you have inspected the car and done the research. My dealer friend will give me a print out of the cars going through the auction that I am interested in that include the VIN number so I can cross reference against Carfax to make sure it hasn’t been damaged or in a flood.

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