Why Would ANYONE Do This When Renting a Car?

The line at the Dollar Rent a Car counter was nearly endless this morning at Miami International airport.

I genuinely don’t understand why anyone would wait in such a line.

  1. If you’re a member of a car rental company’s frequent renter program, you don’t need to in the first place.
  2. There are many other rental car companies in Miami. None had lines like this.

Outside of Priceline and Hotwire rentals there are still very few prepaid rental rates. There’s generally no penalty for failing to pick up a rental car you’ve reserved. (And you can be nice and ring them and just cancel in any case.)

Walk to another counter. Or even if you’re concerned about rate, book a new car on your phone while standing in the Dollar line. At least research your alternatives.

I get that not everyone knows their options, or is confident enough to chnage their plans. Although I find that it’s very possible to just negotiate at the rental counter, and with as many companies as there are at the airport (and plenty of cars on all levels of the garage this morning) it would seem at least worth a try.

Joining a car rental company’s frequent renter program is the most important tip to improve your rental car experience. And it’s free.

You can even sign up with elite status.

Here’s how to protect yourself the next time you rent a car.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I cannot imagine why anyone would use that company, I use hertz or avis.. I do not use anything else.. I may try silver.. seems interesting all A4s but why would anyone use Dollar… they have crap cars…

  2. Good Advice. I always tell friends 1st thing join airline, hotel, car rental programs. Second get status will be at National Executive @LAX later today. Pick a nice car & on my way to In & Out then Manhattan Beach. Currently on AA33 seat 3F A321T using 45K US Airlines miles. Things I learned from U. Thanks!

  3. Easy enough to understand (cause it once happened to me)…they most likely had a pre-paid non-cancellable reservation through hotwire or priceline. And since rental companies don’t recognize status when booked in certain ways through those sites, folks had no choice but to wait. Unanswered is why Dollar did not add staff when their systems showed a surge of reservations at that hour.

  4. Big rental companies are not guaranteed to provide a better alternative: I had problems with Avis, Hertz and Sixt in Europe already.

    Especially when the big ones charge double the rates on occasions, I can perfectly understand why people would choose Dollar.

  5. Can you not block Ken from posting comments so that those of us who are still sane don’t have to dig our way through them to read comments that might have some value?

  6. Good advice.

    I was forced to rent from Dollar once in Phoenix. My colleague and I came up with a new marketing slogan for them…. Dollar – where the wait will make you holler. I haven’t been back in the 9 years since.

  7. Ken- If somebody is “under the radar” that means they cannot be detected (thus attracting NO notice), so your comment makes no sense regardless of validity or lack thereof (the latter I imagine).

  8. I agree about the value of the Dollar frequent renter program. While my preference is Hertz (Platinum), I will often rent from Dollar when the price difference is just too much. As a Dollar club member, you just go to the car lot and the paperwork is there with a minimal line.

    As to the line, I see the same in Vegas. Dollar being a low cost renter attracts the seldom traveler that needs all the options explained and has to fill out all the forms from scratch. Not really Dollar’s fault that their customers can’t just grab and go.

    Dollar has its place just like the low cost air carriers.

  9. Dollar in Florida also has a tendency to overbook and thus “run out of cars” — thus forcing customers to wait until somebody brings one back.

  10. Some people look at the least expensive rental, so they saved $15 big wow. These are the same people who will drive 15 miles from their house to save .02/gallon on gas…

  11. Why you ask? Miami is a very popular destination for foreign visitors especially for Europeans this time if year. Most of these people waiting are visitors who booked tour packages. Airline , hotel and car rental. So being g that said they have to wait because their rental is prepaid with their vacation package. So they are not crazy or too dumb to look for another option they are locked into their package.

  12. I book Dollar all the time when traveling because their rates are the best usually when coupons, discounts are added. However, I will not be a lemming. I always double book rental cars when I travel so that I have fall back in case a Miami happens. I also register for their frequent renter programs to skip the lines.

  13. I had a Dollar reservation at LAX. Terrible line when I got there. In line I signed up for their elite program, but it takes three days to enroll. I walked 0.5 mile to Enterprise. I won’t use Dollar again.

  14. Like enterprise they are dependent on interacting with the customer and doing a walk around at the car etc etc. huge waste of time. Just do hertz gold or Avis preferred and right to the car. If you give Avis your flight info they will text you and tell you what parking space your car is at waiting. 10 seconds with the gate person and your gone.

  15. In the past, Dollar had been the choice of debit card renters – they accepted them (with a credit check) in locations where you’d not be able to rent without a credit card. I am not sure this is the case in Miami – but it is in other locations…..

  16. Ken will no longer be commenting, I just didn’t have time to handle it earlier today. As I say, he is only the second person in 12 years where I’ve had to do this. I love my readers and commenters!

  17. I consider an annual bonus as a good thing, whether they “need” to offer it or not. That doesn’t mean I’ll keep the card, but I’m not sure how you twist it into a bad thing. I’ll bet you try for retention offers even on cards you know you’ll keep.

  18. I was there in MIA today with a Dollar reservation and saw the same thing. I thought I was spared because I had an Express booking — but the line outside was just as long and annoying. They were out of cars, and I still had to wait 45 minutes for my turn at getting a car (they were overcommitted and you had to wait for a return to turn over — then it would be brought to the front for the next person in line. UGH!)

  19. Gold, Emerald Club, or Preferred. Every time. I have for last 25 years. ONE time I stood in line because Dollar (CLT) was 1/2 everyone else. I am amazed that some mileage “experts” stand in line. I know because I see their posts and have recently commented on them.

  20. On a Hertz non-prepaid rental I cancelled after the pickup time and I still got charged. It took me 3 weeks of back and forth with Hertz to get the charge reversed. Not sure it’s true you can just not pick up and not risk getting charged, even if it’s by a careless employee.

  21. I rented in LA from dollar and experience the same long wait for the first time in my life. I asked for any car but they said they did not have any cars. When I finally got my car. They had a row of standard cars that no one reserved. Not the best way to run a business. The first time it took only one minute, I was amazed. The major renters will be my next ride during summer vacation.

  22. Do not rent from Alamo or Vanguard either. Talk about no customer service. Have been fighting a charge for over 3 years when I never drove their car. Also, this line can also be explained by a lot of foreign travelers from both Europe and South America – oftentimes they are travelling for the first time and have language needs as well.

  23. This also shows me they are going to be understaffed at return. Dollar recently charged me an extra day just for a few minutes over – which was their fault due to me sitting there forever waiting to be checked in.

  24. For those claiming they’ll “never rent from Dollar again,” FYI, Dollar (as well as Thrifty) is now owned by Hertz. All locations where all three brands are corporate now share management and a fleet. That means that if you are mad at Dollar for running out of cars, you really need to get mad at the local Hertz manager on duty.

    Unfortunately, the Hertz buyout of DTAG seems to have actually *lowered* Dollar/Thrifty’s standards, as Hertz now uses them as their dumping ground for their older, more worn out fleet (and Hertz’s fleet was already one of the oldest in the industry), and where Dollar used to respond to corporate customer service inquiries in 2-3 days, now they’re taking as long (or longer) than Hertz (who was always bad at customer service response times, both for calls (I’ve waited 45 minutes) and emails (I’ve waited 2+ weeks). I was optimistic about the Hertz takeover, but I’m not so much anymore. It remains to be seen whether these are just merger pains or actual intended consequences…

  25. FWIW, the line at the Hertz counter in Nice, France, was even longer when I was there on May 28th. Fortunately, I had recently gotten Hertz Platinum so it only took 30 minutes instead of two hours. But my reservation was prepaid so I had to stick around. And as you said, the other counters were almost empty. And this was friggin Hertz! Related this on FT and found out this is not unusual for Nice. Disgraceful.

  26. Update for my LAX weekend – no problem at @ National as Executive thru MilePoint. Other than no car with a sun roof and back up camera. When I brought it back, I went in to the office to use the rest room on the ground floor where Alamo is – long lines. BTW National will give you a ride to any hotel on Century Blvd – saved me a UberX ride

  27. I happen to work for Dollar Thrifty. The reason the lines are so long is because we have more reservations then cars and it continues and continues and continues. Hertz never suspends thier “reservations” so they come by the droves, we just do not have enough vehicles, therefore, the long waits. We are owned by Hertz and follow their guidelines. So if anybody wants to glorify Hertz and put down Dollar Thrifty, they should know all the facts. Just saying!

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