June 12, 2006

Rental Car$.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jim @ 9:28 pm

I had occasion to dig out my bill for the seven-passenger minivan I rented to use for the week while in Fort Myers Beach last month. Clearly, I don’t pay nearly enough attention to the details.

Sure, I had signed all that stuff (i.e. the charges) when I picked up the car at the airport. Excited about being away and in a rush to get underway, I didn’t pay all that much attention to what the woman behind the counter was saying, and when all the papers were done, I placed them over the visor until it was time to turn the car in, at which time I hurriedly stuffed them into a carry-on. Once home, they were tucked away with e-tickets, boarding passes, brochures, and the usual detritus one accumulates when traveling.

Only now, I actually read the bill. Holy crap! The “additional charges” and other stuff brought the price for the week from $161 to $388! Some of this, as you shall see, was the result of the Rental Car Company’s venality (in my opinion), combined with my lack of paying proper attention.

Here’s the story.

The “Basic Rate”
Several weeks before the trip, I used priceline.com and placed a bid for a seven-passenger minivan. My bid of $23.00 per day was accepted. So, to get a feel for what the van would cost, I multiplied $23.00 times 7 days, which turns out to be $161.00. Seemed pretty reasonable to me, given that simply going to the rental car website and making the same deal (I checked today to be sure) would cost $512.00!. The information on Priceline properly advises that there will be “additional charges” that will have to be paid to the rental car company. I figured that the “additional charges” would amount to a few bucks. I did not figure that the “additional charges” would be $140% of the base rate.

The “Additional Charges”
Here’s the breakdown:

$ 69.93 ($9.99 per day x 7 days) for “CDW”
$ 73.75 Fuel Service Option
$ 56.00 Additional Driver
$ 22.18 “Concession Recoupment Fee”
$ 04.69 Sales tax

$226.56 TOTAL (in addition to the $161.00 “base rate”)

NOTE: I declined all the insurance gimmicks, so none of the following includes any of that.

Christ only knows what “CDW” is, but I paid almost seventy bucks for it.

Fuel Service Charge
This bit of douchebaggery was my own fault. The “sell” is, “Pay for the fuel up front, and bring it back empty. Don’t worry about filling up.” As I said above, I was in a rush, and I didn’t do the mental calculus I should have done. As such, I ended up using only about a half tank of gas, for which I paid $73.75. Knucklehead!!!

Hell, even if I had used ALL the gas, I figure it would have cost me, at most, $54.00 to fill the tank (18 gallons at $3.00 per gallon). Instead, I paid $73.00 for about $20.00 worth of gas.

The moral of the story is that, unless the airport is more than 15 miles away from the nearest gas station, tell the rental car people to shove their “Fuel Service”.

Additional Driver
It cost $8.00 per day ($56.00 for the week) for Mrs. Parkway to be allowed to drive the van. As it turns out, she never needed to drive the damned thing, but I know I would be up Shits Creek if I had not paid the charge and she had driven the car and gotten into an accident.

I seem to recall that one of the other rental companies does not charge extra if the “additional driver” is a spouse over 25. In my view, that ought to be the standard practice, but obviously it is not.

Concession Recoupment Fee
I have no goddamned idea what this is, but somebody or something ended up with $22.18.

Sales Tax
This one I understand, and, at 4% it is a bargain. In Jersey, it would have been 6% and quite possibly 7% if our new governor has his way.

Summing Up
1. Use priceline.com. If you are certain of your dates and times, use priceline.com. I say this, because, once your bid is accepted by Priceline, that’s it. There are no changes permitted. As noted above the difference in cost was $161.00, via Priceline, as compared to $512.00 directly from the rental company.

2. “Fuel Service” DON’T BUY IT. Even if you were to smoke up the entire tank of gas to “return it empty” you’ll still pay way too much. Fill it up near the airport instead.

3. Additional Driver Here’s a dilemma. You could search out a rental company that does not charge for a spouse as the additional driver, but that rules out using Priceline.com, because with Priceline, you get whatever national rental company accepts your bid.

4. CDW If anyone knows what the hell “CDW” or the “Concession Recoupment Fee” is, please let me know.

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