Rental Car Satisfaction Reaches Highest Level in 7 Years

PHOTO: A traveler walks past a sign displaying the various car-rental companies at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, May 2010. According to a recent study, rental car satisfaction is at its highest level in 7 years.

In contrast to the decline in hotel guest satisfaction, customers of rental car companies are as satisfied as they've been in the last seven years. That's according to the J.D. Power and Associates 2012 North America Rental Car Satisfaction Study.

The study ranked 12 car rental companies. Enterprise came out on top, followed by National and Alamo.

1. Enterprise

2. National

3. Alamo

4. Hertz

5. Avis

6. Budget

7. Dollar

8. ACE Rent a Car

9. Thrifty

10. Advantage Rent a Car

11. Payless

12. Fox Rent a Car

Only Enterprise ranked as "among the best." National ranked "better than most." Numbers three though seven ranked "about average" and the rest ranked "the rest."

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"The rental car industry continues to step up its game, building on improvements in the rental car customer experience made over the past several years, while also benefiting from higher satisfaction levels with cost and fees relative to prior years," said Stuart Greif, vice president of the travel practice at J.D. Power and Associates. "However, there still are tremendous opportunities to leverage technology to address customer pain points in the rental car experience. There is also an opportunity to make the most out of staff interactions with customers and raise customer satisfaction levels even higher."

While business customers tend to be more critical of their rental car experience than do leisure/personal customers, they also tend to be more loyal. The study finds that 33 percent of business customers say they "definitely will" rent from the same brand again, compared with 26 percent of leisure/personal customers.

Among leisure/personal customers, 41 percent selected their rental car company based on price. For business travelers, that number is just 24 percent.

"Business customers tend to rent more frequently, so they are more aware of what to expect and they are often pressed for time, thus speed and efficiency are critical to their satisfaction," said Ramez Faza, senior manager of the Travel Practice at J.D. Power and Associates. "Therefore, business customers tend to be tougher graders. Leisure/personal customers tend to shop around more and search for the best value and are often more satisfied with cost and fees than are business customers. These insights are somewhat counterintuitive, because business customers are not paying out of their own pocket, whereas leisure/personal customers are spending their own money."

The study measures overall customer satisfaction with renting cars at airport locations by examining six factors (listed in order of importance): costs and fees; pick-up process; return process; rental car; shuttle bus/van; and reservation process.

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