Hours-Long Waits For Cars And 67 Top Tier Elites In Line At The Denver Airport Hertz

A reader shares that he showed up at the Denver airport Hertz with no cars, 67 people on the Presidents Circle list waiting, and some customers reporting standing there for more than 90 minutes and counting. Fortunately there’s one almost sure-fire way to cut the queue.

Rental car prices have in many cases become the biggest expense of a trip. Rental companies offloaded vehicle inventories during the pandemic, and didn’t place orders. The market for cars is tight. And travel has picked back up. So there’s more people looking for cars than there are cars.

Last month I offered a visualization of the rental car apocalypse in one photo. I arrived at the airport and there was only one vehicle in the entire rental car garage. I wasn’t the highest status customer, or first in line. Hertz had a wait list of over 60 people. And I drove off in that 40,000 mile Mitsbushi.

As Hertz once told me,

Some things to consider for your next trip,

  1. Use AutoSlash to book your car (they will apply any/all available coupons and discounts) and track the price to help you rebook if cost falls.
  2. Rent from a car dealership
  3. Silvercar is no longer at airports, but with 48 hours’ notice they do deliver cars
  4. Use Turo to rent someone’s car instead of renting from a regular agency, but this is less convenient for airport arrivals especially with family. You can get a nicer car for less but the easy airport pickup can’t be replicated.
  5. Skip the rental car and Uber if you’re going to stay mostly on property at a resort.
  6. Consider the unethical tactic of making more than one rental reservation, from different car companies. That fails Kantian ethics (how would this look if everyone did it?) but it’s a guerrilla tactic in a Mad Max-style world where everyone is out for themselves.
  7. Tipping may help you jump the queue over others and get a rental company employee to prioritize you over other customers (also of questionable ethics).

It’s this last tactic that appears to have worked in Denver, with my correspondent writing that $50 got him a premium vehicle.

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. Rent from small local companies, they often don’t show up on OTA, they won’t be as convenient but definitely bears waiting 1.5 hours

  2. The sure fire way to skip the line is to skip Hertz. I’ve rented three times in the past month from three different airport locations, all from National. There has been no lines, and each station has had numerous cars. Granted, I’m not trying to rent in super tourist heavy locations (e.g. Florida, Hawaii, etc.), but this whole repeating ‘the sky is falling with car rentals’ thing strikes me as a non story.

  3. Rent in town as opposed to the airport. Lower daily rates. Lower taxes. Better availability.

  4. Double vote for National. We rented this week from them in Phoenix, dropping off next in Denver. There were plenty of cars – we had our choice of at least 10.

  5. “It’s this last tactic that appears to have worked in Denver, with my correspondent writing that $50 got him a premium vehicle.” Thanks. At least we now know your correspondent is a total scumbag who bribes people to get something they are not entitled to over others who were waiting. Don’t even try to call it a tip in the future. Just call it what it is. A bribe.

  6. I used Hertz Denver Airport last Wednesday evening and had my pick of plenty of cars in President’s Circle section. This may happen at times but definitely isn’t the norm everywhere like people want it to seem.

  7. We had no problem at a city location in Boston. Maybe consider skipping the airport unless it is WFO like Denver or a location like PHX where you must have a car.

    The “tip” story is offensive. One should not need to pay a $50 bribe to secure expected service. It is light years worse than the $5 “porter” fee to skip the LAS taxi line or the $20 trick.

  8. President’s Circle memeber-Hertz wanted $5k for two weeks-bought a car and will flip it when done

  9. Has to be a Hertz issue versus Denver. I flew in last Sunday for a week of golf and hiking. Rented from National and there were a lot of cars on the executive emerald aisle (and throughout their lot). I got an Audi A5 w 800 miles on it so was very happy.

    BTW I spoke.w the manager when I arrived since had to change credit card in reservation. I complimented him on how well National was doing w cars (no issues for me in LA or Dallas). He told me National got aggressive about buying back cars, including from Hertz and Avis, which is why they are in a good situation.

    Can’t recommend National enough and no idea why anyone would rent from Hertz (and I 5 circle level or whatever it is called now)

  10. SNA car rental today. The Dollar / Avis line was 40+ deep. The Budget / Hertz line was only about 15. Before getting in line at Budget stopped at the counter to ask if they had Fast Break at this location. They asked my name and proceeded to get my car for me. Oops. I only stopped by to ask about Fast Break. I got my paper work and got out of there quickly before the mob realized what had happened.

  11. I had an issue at the Thrifty/Dollar/Hertz facility in DEN on a Saturday afternoon a few weeks before Xmas. After about an hour in line, a customer got violent, went behind the Hertz counter, and started smashing things. Employees rushed customers out of the facility or into a back office. It was only after the police arrived and arrested the unruly customer and I returned into the facility that I noticed a tiny sign at the front of the line for Blue Chip members.

  12. The 67 presidents club on the waiting list sounds like a whopper from the agent to calm the DYWIA of the reader telling them ‘but i’m a Presidents Circle…’

  13. I’ve either been doing road trips or going where no rental car is needed. I’ve always found the car rental to be the worst portion of the trip. Takes up time and there’s all the threats of what you will owe if you get a scratch or a flat or whatever,

  14. When everyone is elite, no one is. Hertz Denver always seems up and down. Feast or famine in my experience. Oh and commenters please stop telling people about National, they will all come ruin it.

  15. It’s not a “tip.” It is a bribe and I expect the person receiving it will be dismissed, and deserves to be, if any of the other people in line find out about it and report it. The other suggestions are legitimate. In general, for leisure travel I would be looking for now to go to places where a rental car is not an essential. My last rental was at Fargo, N.D., where I mentioned to the counter agent that they seemed to have cars. He said that all those I saw were booked, and I was lucky I reserved a few weeks before, because they wouldn’t have any available for weeks. Fargo isn’t exactly the number one tourism or business destination in the world.

  16. The common theme in all these articles and comments is Hertz. Seems like the solution is simple.

    As to the pearl clutching over bribery – wow. It’s like people don’t live in the real world. Bribery, right or wrong, is everywhere at every level of everything, public or private. How can seasoned travelers and supposed businesspeople be so naive?

  17. RE: the tip as bribe, when you’re in line as an “elite” waiting for a car, the premium upgrade cars are always sitting there. Maybe it was a bribe because the employee pocketed the $50 and comped the upgrade. But anyone can pay the extra fee to get the premium car immediately. Would have done it two weeks ago in Chicago at Hertz if I wasn’t expensing the trip.

  18. They weren’t all President’s Club members. A month ago when I rented from Hertz at Denver, they were running low on cars but fortunately weren’t out. I’m just Five-Star at the point after having been President’s Circle in the past, but when the Denver Hertz was running low on cars, they just listed everyone including myself as President’s Club on the Gold Board and directed us to the last dozen cars they had which were only left in the President’s Club aisle. I agree that National has been providing way better service and availability of late, but my corporate rate largely ties me to the anchor that is called Hertz.

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