It used to be that renting a car was the least expensive item on a business trip.At some airports that catered to local tourism the rates were so low that it seemed you could rent a car and use it for years for less than it cost to buy one.Lately, it seems like you are buying the car every time you rent one.
When an Avis car rented for $18.00 a day and Alamo was $12.00 the only consideration was which one had their car lot situated right outside the terminal.After 9-11 most car company lots wound up off site anyway so that difference disappeared.
Before gas topped $4.00 a gallon you could reasonably assume that the lowest rental rates would be assigned to the smallest cars and that the cost would increase proportionately with the size of the vehicle.This is no longer true.Many companies are actually charging less now for vans and mid-size SUV’s than they are for compact cars and in any case the price difference between the smallest sub compact and the largest SUV is nowhere near what it used to be.
It seems that car rental companies are still sorting through the impact of high gasoline prices on their daily demand for various size cars and have yet to decide exactly how to price their fleets in each market.
The offshoot of all this is that travelers should consider how they will be using their rental cars when making a reservation.If you only need to get from the airport to a customer and back, and will use less than a quarter tank of gas, it may actually be cheaper (and would certainly be more comfortable) to rent a larger car or even an SUV.If a longer road trip is necessary, then paying extra for a compact may be more economical.
The bottom line is that car rentals have joined airlines and hotels on the list of things that once were simple but now require closer inspection in order to minimize your travel costs.