Have you ever shopped for a rental car online and thought you found a great deal... but at checkout realized that the initial rate somehow became much higher?
Here’s an example from a major rental car company’s website: “Small SUV for $47 a day." But when all the fees are added in, that price jumps to more than $73 a day!
From another car rental website: “Compact car for $14 a day." But when you go to reserve it, the real price appears and jumps to more than $26, nearly doubling the advertised price of the car.
Frequent car renter Barry Maher says that comparison-shopping for the cheapest car rental deal online, and then finding scenarios like these can be frustrating. “The prices are very often quite deceiving and it can be very difficult.”
The president of the ACRA (American Car Rental Association), Bob Barton, agrees. Those extra fees upset them too. “This is one of the challenges we face as an industry, our consumers experience sticker shock.” He explains that many of the fees are out of the rental company’s control.
According to Barton depending on where you rent a car-- the state, county or local community may be trying to make extra cash from car rental fees. These fees help pay for things like sports stadiums, convention centers, road construction projects and budget shortfalls.
In a nationwide survey the ACRA found more than 100 car rental excise taxes have been passed in forty-three states and those fees have cost renters more than 7.5 billion dollars.
Airlines now have to disclose the “real” price of tickets up front, so how come car rental companies don’t? Because there’s no law or regulation requiring it. However there is a bill pending right now in Congress that would prohibit additional states or local governments from passing any new excise taxes on car rentals.
Consumer advocate Edgar Dworsky from Consumerworld.org asserts that while car rental companies may lack control over cities or states driving up fees, they do have control over disclosing the real price of the car up front. “Car rental companies tell you one price, get you all excited about it and then wind up charging you significantly more.”
We found only one major U.S. car rental company, Enterprise, shows you the fees as you comparison shop. Why don’t more companies disclose the fees? Barton says with many communities having different surcharges, it’s tough to breakdown. Sometimes the fee is based on the value of the rental car.
“We disclose what we know as best as we can,” he states.
Frequent traveler Maher says not knowing what extras he’ll have to pay for up front drives him crazy, and he has a message for car rental companies: “Isn’t it much better customer service to let them know exactly what that bottom line is on that car?”