Warning: Hertz Keeps Taking Reservations When They Don’t Have Cars Or Staff

A reader shared his experience Monday night renting from Hertz at Dallas – Fort Worth. He’d reserved an SUV but was happy to take any car. They had none they’d rent. He’s a Presidents Circle member and was behind 15 others in that top public elite tier line waiting for a car. He reports about 20 people deep in line for Five Star elite. I feel sorry for those without status.

Worse, they actually had cars they wouldn’t give out to customers who’d reserved them. They were premium vehicles available for additional upgrade.

This readers advice, “This is like the 10th time this year at DFW. Never rent here on a Sunday or Monday night! It’s insane. And then it’ll take at least another 30 min to check out because they only have 1 gate open.” They don’t have staff either.

There was a rental car apocalypse in 2021, with travel roaring back but rental agencies having offloaded their fleets. I wrote about an hours-long wait for cars at Hertz in Denver with 67 top tier elites in line for a car, and about my own experience in New Orleans where there was only one car and a wait list of 60 people (I got the car, I’d never been so happy to have an over 40,000 mile Mitsbushi).

The lack of vehicles wasn’t an excuse because rental companies took the reservations even though they didn’t have cars. Hertz was especially egregious with this. Not only were they filing police reports on customers and billing people who didn’t even rent their cars they didn’t have cars to rent to the people they’d promised them to!

Car rental companies don’t get called to account nearly as much as airlines and hotels. They’re usually something of an afterthought, and they almost universally offer a poor experience (relatively speaking National is ok). Car rental companies charge more scammy fees than anyone else yet they mostly get a pass.

But it’s the unwillingness to honor reservations that is most appalling. Seinfeld skewered this all the way back in season 3 episode 11 (1991) and over 30 years later it’s still the same problem.

Hertz once told me point blank that they do not promise to honor reservations.

Rental car companies overbook. Most reservations aren’t prepaid and are cancellable. And sometimes more people show up than expected. That’s not what’s going on here.

Hertz seems to consistently be taking more reservations for cars than they can support, knowing how many people will show up. They don’t communicate with customers when they see this happening. They could warn customers away and suggest they rebook elsewhere! They don’t staff appropriately to handle the volume of bookings they take, either.

There’s simply not enough innovation in the car rental space. Companies abuse customers with impunity. And unlike airlines, which have cash obligations to customers when they fail to honor reservations, and hotels which generally pay to put guests up at another property when they overbook, most of the time car rental companies give you nothing. So there’s no reason other than reputation not to just keep taking reservations when they have no cars. And they already have such poor reputations…

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. Never had that Hertz experience using Avis or National. I routinely get offered upgraded cars when they don’t have my reserved class on hand. Also—bonus—no attempts to call the police for dutifully returning my vehicle.

  2. Hertz is the market leader. They know they can screw you, and you (or an equivalent customer) will keep coming back to sustain the net revenues their investors expect. So, you get screwed.

  3. I was happy Hertz survived bankruptcy but I’m no longer tenting with them because their Presidents Circle car choices are garbage everywhere I go. They also have way too many EVs in their fleet which are untenable because of the charging issues.

    Sticking with Avis and National only.

  4. My partner was a high executive at a major airport. He always said that rental car companies were the scum of the earth.
    Always being major pains in the butt. No wonder you see the rental companies no longer in most terminals, but in a rent a car center.

  5. With all the harm, and sometimes trauma of wrongfully being arrested on a Friday night and ruining your family vacation until you have to go to court Monday or Tuesday if a holiday (and worse if you got caught up Wednesday evening before Thanksgiving), I just always warn people….

    It hurts to use Hertz!!!

  6. Had the same experience with Hertz in SAT earlier this year. Landed at 12am and they said they wouldn’t have cars until at least 3am. There were folks who had been waiting since 10pm. Funny thing was they were still talking walk-ups but refusing to honor reservations.

  7. I’ve always double booked because of this… I rent one car with Hertz (Presidents Circle), and rent another with National (Executive Elite). This has saved my butt countless times… even in places like Orlando, where 1 lot is empty and the other is full.

  8. I have had the long line at the exit happen a few times at SEA, with only 1 booth manned. Very annoying.

  9. Avis was same story at DFW Mon night. Sixt accepted an online rez at 7p but had no cars and notified me at 10p they were ready for me to pick up!

  10. Thanks for flagging, though why does the reader who reporter continue to rent with them at DFW if this is the ’10th time this year.’

    And thanks @Jack for clarifying Avis and Sixt had issues at DFW that night. was there some sort of weather that delayed flights?

  11. Hertz in DFW a couple months ago managed to rent a car I reserved and was assigned to me to someone else. And never checked their ID at checkout. They drove around with it for a week then I got charged for it on my credit card. DFW ignored me. Thankfully of course Amex was having none of it, and I called DFW airport police and filed a police report against Hertz. The officer seemed overjoyed at the opportunity to go over there and investigate.

    Last week I was in a small airport where just Hertz and Enterprise. My arranged transportation was late so I decided just rent a car. I went on the app, both companies showed nearly every single car category available. Made a reservation. Walked over to Hertz and was told they have no cars at all, haven’t all day, and maybe one will get turned in when they next of two daily flights leaves. Enterprise had nothing they could rent (three SUVs with cracked windshields or service recalls). But kudos to Enterprise called the person from the in town office who just took one of his cars and told them to turn around. It was a Chevy Spark but better than nothing.

  12. Had the same experience recently at JFK. Huge group of customers, way understaffed, “no cars”. They had cars, just no one to process returns for rental. I demanded a car and got one

  13. Exact same experience at DFW on Sept 1st. Utterly incompetent. Ended up uber-ing all weekend because these s***heads do not deserve my $$$

  14. @Greg perhaps he was exaggerating a bit, but he may have to rent through them for company reasons. My company has an agreement with Hertz so it nearly always ends to being the least logical cost and therefore we are required to book it. I’ve rented from DFW 3x and every time it’s been a hot mess. Very disorganised and virtually no cars. Clearly that site is worse than others as I’ve had no issues in some other locations I’ve rented from with them this year.

  15. I often rent at off airport locations due to the pricing difference. Then I take a taxi over there and a taxi back on the other end. It is usually still cheaper. Enterprise was my go to rental but after Covid-19, their prices are sky high so I rent at Budget. Budget’s prices are still too high so next spring I may see if spending several hundred on Uber rides is more affordable than renting when I visit my mom. It may take a decade for vehicle rental companies to rebuild their inventory of rental cars and they will be paying a lot more for them than they used to pay in bulk just a few years ago. The availability of vehicles may gradually get better but the pricing will probably never go back to what it once was.

  16. I’ve had this multiple times at LAS. No cars in spite of having a reservation and president’s circle. One time they gave me some cargo van that had really bad gas mileage.

  17. Car rentals have become far too costly. It used to be fairly priced now you can spend more in car rental than airfare.

  18. The issue here is that rental car companies don’t pre collect payment in most cases or have any cancellation fees, which might seem to be consumer friendly but it means they have a high number of no shows and it makes overbooking a necessity. Make people prepay or at least cancel 48 hours beforehand or pay a penalty and you have much better handle on your inventory.

  19. Hertz Denver was a complete mess with a 3 hr wait for cars with about 50 people waiting. I had reserved 2 weeks prior.
    I botched and they took of gas fee which only saved me about $10 so I bitched more when they emailed a request for a review. They took of $75 but still not worth the aggravation.

  20. Arrived at SFO Monday 9/18. 2 hours and 30 minutes in line.
    Only one person at counter. Line kept getting longer, I can’t imagine how long took the very last person in line.

  21. Similar to what Tom R says…corporate contract with Hertz and we use them to rent. I rent from DFW 2x per month and run into this issue regularly there. Read the reviews of Hertz DFW on Google. It’s a problem at this station more than any other as I rent around the country for work & personal and only have had this problem at DFW.

  22. I had this problem at SEA last year. Prepaid reservation through Costco, got there to a massive line. First they claimed their systems were down, then they claimed they ran out of cars. I called Costco in front of them and suddenly they had an upgraded vehicle for me available.

    I get down to the part of the rental lot where all their cars are? It was FULL. Bonus: the car wasn’t where they said it was and had to go back into another line so they could track down where the car actually was. Never, ever again. NOPE

  23. LOL imagine renting from Hertz! I always rent from National no matter the price. Always the best service and cars!

  24. I’ve always found the best way to rent a car is through Costco. I get 4 quotes – all of them lower than anything I can book directly. Usually they are through Budget, Avis, Enterprise and Thrifty.
    Costco adds an additional driver at no cost. If it’s Budget, I can use the promo checks I get from Budget.

    I am completely indifferent as to the rental car company I use. Since it’s my money, I want the lowest cost.

    Never had a problem with a rental through Costco.

  25. I waited nearly 4 hours at JFK for a car, was sold a stack of stuff I didn’t need (by being lied to by the agent) and ended up with a car with nearly 60k miles on the clock.

    It was in a worse state than my own car.

    This was Dollar, part of Hertz.

  26. @Met Fans — It’s not car rentals that have become far too costly, it’s airfare that is too cheap, witness how bad flying is and how much worse the climate is becoming.

  27. 5 minutes to rent an Enterprise in downtown Denver this week. And they upgraded at no charge. I have zero “elite” status,

  28. This has happened to me four times at LAS as a President’s Circle member in the last two years. Hertz customers are forced to queue up in their respective areas (PC, Five Star, and Gold) and wait to take the first car that shows up and is parked in their area. My waits at LAS have ranged from 10 minutes to as much as 35 minutes; on one of these maddening waits, the car Hertz brought me had the check engine light on.

    At least I wasn’t on a tight schedule with an imminent business meeting when the no car situations happened in LAS. When it happened to me at DFW in June, I narrowly avoided being late for a meeting.

    Remember when Hertz used to run commercials comparing itself to inferior rental car companies? Hertz has become the dodgy “not exactly” company it used to pit itself against.

  29. Wow, @I make love in lavs says that “Hertz is the market leader” ???? When did you last travel, 1985 ??? Hertz is a dumpster-fire loser of a company, fresh out of bankruptcy and in dead last among domestic Rental Car providers. At present, National/Enterprise is the acknowledged market leader in this space, and as other comments show, they work very hard to maintain that reputation.

  30. It’s that bad or worse in Honolulu. I saw them sell a car to an unreserved customer. They have deprioritized the membership for max out profitability and ineptitude.

  31. The leadership of Hertz should be prosecuted. They charge customers for cars they don’t have any refuse to refund the money. Even if customers eventually get a refund they are still cheated. Customers have to spend a lot of time trying to find a last minute rental car at a higher price. This often interferes with the appointments customers made anticipating transportation by their Hertz rental car.

  32. I have run into this 3 times in 3 months with Hertz. First in Portland during a mid-day flight arrival. Next in Las Vegas at 5 pm on Sunday and then this week in Toronto on a Monday. They stated in Las Vegas that you had to cancel in-person at the Gold desk for which the wait was over an hour. Or continue to wait until a car shows up.

    Hertz definitely needs to stop this practice as it is simply too frustrating, losing hours of time just to get out of the airport.

  33. Haven’t rented from Hertz in probably a decade because they are always more expensive in the places I frequent.

    The worst company out of the rest of them has to be Budget/Avis. Off airport locations have the clapped out vehicles and the airport locations are an exercise in waiting and waiting.

    Special hate goes out to Budget in SLT. They have cars and counter staff, but you still wait hours to get one. Their major malfunction is that though the make ready department staffed to an extent, it is slow and 2 out of the 3 cars they had for my family smelled like weed.

  34. This happened to my family and I over Labor day weekend. Flew last minute to Burbank with a same day Hertz Rental. Showed up a the desk and was told. Oh it’s a holiday weekend and this is a same day rental, sorry we are out cars. (Avis was doing the same thing btw). National wouldn’t rent cars because they knew and told people they were out. Was able to get a car at LBX from National for more than double my original Hertz rental (and another 150 dollar uber ride). When I told Hertz about this situation they offered me some points that equated to a 2 day rental. No mention of reimbursement for all the ubers. I’m Executive Elite with National and President’s circle with Hertz. If National had electric cars more readily available I would never rent from Hertz again.

  35. I can sure relate to the problems at Hertz. I had a prepaid car rentalnset up for Shreveport, LA the last weekend of July. Flew in, went to the Hertz counter to be told they could not honor my reservation because of no cars available. I was told I could be put on a waitlist or call Hertz customer service for a refund. I told them to call their customer service desk, why should I? Isn’t that THEIR job? i was still told I had to call.
    I finally called my self and got a refund later.
    As if I hadnt learned my lesson, I booked a Hertz car at Fargo, ND over
    Labor Day weekend. Car rental was fine until after I return home via DFW
    and receive an audited receipt that Fargo Hertz charged me a fuel up fee of 45.00 . I had to call 4 times directly to finally get a manager to credit me for their mistake. I had even put thr gas receipt in the contract envelope with the keys in the drop box as I had a 600am flight.
    I will NEVER book Hertz again, ever!

  36. Similar “Nothing available” comment in Albuquerque last week when I had reserved thru Gold. Finally got a small SUV for family that barely fit our luggage. Travel is no fun anymore.

  37. There is simply NO reason to use Hertz. Ever. After frequently and carelessly filing police reports on their customers (and refusing to withdraw them), positively hands down there is no reason to EVER use them. Buyer beware.

  38. STOP — Overbooking is NOT unique to Hertz. This exact same problem happens at every single car-rental company, ALL THE TIME. Post-covid, pre-covid, it’s EVERY CAR RENTAL COMPANY. None of them respect your reservation. Autumn 2019, i had 2 cars reserved at Ft Lauderdale cruise port. Me & 5 arrived at the reservation time, but NEITHER rental was available. We waited 3 hours before the first reservation could be fulfilled. The 5 people barely made their flight. I am in the emergency-response business AND I travel often so I can adapt,… but my travel friends (senior citizens and grandchildren) cannot handle rental company failures that result in missed flights. This particular RESERVATION FAILURE in 2019 was Alamo. But since then I’ve learned that all car renters overbook and overpromise. I think this should result in fines.

  39. Had similar situation at Alamo FLL. One hour wait in line. Then another hour of confusion inside garage. As a car was returned, it was pulled over to pickup area with no wash or other prep. One elderly gent got a Dodge Challenger. He could barely see over the dashboard. A family of 5 got a Nissan Sentra. Folks were grabbing anything with wheels.

  40. The Same thing happened to me. You have a 12:30PM reservation and you don’t get your car until 1:15PM. Your time start at 12:30PM and not when you get your car. This is mangerment fault and corporate problems because they don’t want to hire or buy more cars
    Just don’t take it out on staff because there employees.

  41. Phx had nothing but a half dozen EVs with zero battery tonight. Worker was busy blaming Expedia for some reason.

    Took one with no charge knowing my hotel had a free charger. I probably need to return it tomorrow though as the speakers scream with electric whine even with the radio off.

  42. The feds need to get involved. Just like they have with airlines who have over booked and stranded their passengers.

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