Rental agencies are losing their market share for many activities, but business travel is one opportunity where car rental companies and customers can both win.
If transportation on your business trip will be a tax writeoff, or paid for by your company, the appeal of ridesharing and public transit disappears. Car rental gives travelers the convenience of choosing when and where to go without having to wait for a ride to arrive or commute long hours with crowds of people.
If your business is taking you places, you’re probably going to want to rent a car. Here are some expert tips from those who have traveled with car rentals.
Choose airline and hotel partners
Bundling your travel costs usually amounts to extra savings. The same is true with car rentals.
“We pair our Delta SkyMiles with our car rentals to accumulate more SkyMiles,” Shawn Breyer of Atlanta House Buyers explains. “Delta partners with numerous car rental companies, which is great for getting rewards at Delta and the car rental, giving you double reward points. . . . If you enjoy rewards, it's important to look at what partnerships your airlines, hotels, and car rentals have with each other.”
Erica Dermer, blogger for Celiac and the Beast, echoes this idea. “When I first started flying often, I made sure to attach my rental car to my airline loyalty program,” she explains. However, Dermer sticks to one airline and one rental agency for her travel: “If I rent from Budget, I get points for Southwest Airlines. I use my Southwest Airline credit card to rent from Budget, and also get points from that. It's best to stick with one airline, one rental car company, and get the credit cards and loyalty programs attached to those to get the best benefits.”
Need mobile accessibility? Find a rental company with an app
So you want to rent a car, but you don’t want to wait in line for nearly an hour to check it out. Or, you don’t want to call in if you need to extend your rental. Choose a car rental company with a robust app that helps you through the process more quickly.
“I set up my own loyalty membership with about five or six rental companies, but really only use one — National,” Anne Fletcher of TravelSOUL says. “This is because their app is super easy to use and I can easily extend my rental through the app without hassle.”
Some companies, such as Avis, Alamo, and Sixt, allow online check-in that lets patrons access the express counter and head to their car quickly without waiting in line at the kiosk, resolving one of the peskiest vexations of renting a car.
Use your vehicle options
When selecting a rental, you can choose different models to match your circumstances. Vanessa Keating of Evolve Creative, LLC explains the choices: “Rentals I have used range from cargo vans for equipment pickups to economy cars for shorter airport-to-meeting trips to vans/suburbans [and] mid- or large-size sedans for longer client visits with a team of coworkers.” Being able to choose your vehicle gives you more opportunity than driving your own car or hailing a taxi.
Business travelers can also choose higher quality vehicles to boost reputation. “I prefer luxury models because I entertain clients when traveling,” Rebecca Beach of MomBeach.com notes.
And if you’re concerned about safety, Frederick Penney of Penney & Associates has some advice: “I believe it is also best to rent one of the largest or safest vehicles on the road. The advantage of being in a bigger car when in an accident outweighs the small amount of money you save by renting a compact car. Nobody ever picks up a rental car expecting to get into an accident, but taking some additional precautions never hurt anyone!”
Tailor your selection to your needs to make your business trip a more comfortable experience.
Take advantage of the benefits of renting a car
If you’re going to have the convenience of a rental car, take advantage of its benefits. “The greatest benefit of renting a vehicle rather than using your own is avoiding the wear and tear,” Ron Auerbach says. “So by using somebody else's car rather than your own, you're not worrying about how many miles you put on it. And you know that the rental companies maintain their fleets.”
Frequent travelers don’t have to worry about wearing out their own vehicles, and they also get to explore their destinations. As Dermer explains, “I rent a car because I want the freedom to explore. I want to be able to venture out at night or in the morning before the convention/conference/trade show starts. I don't want to be chained to my hotel and their food and beverage offerings.”
Check and double-check availability
Some rental agencies may have a lean fleet in rural locations and during seasonal surges.
“There are some rural areas where car selection might be very limited,” Auerbach says. “So you may just have to settle for whatever they happen to have available at the time and make do with it. It's also possible, depending upon when you need the vehicle, that none are available at the time.”
Keating also warns of this additional disadvantage: “Pricing is also quite variable, especially around large events or holidays where rental volume is at a premium. It is sometimes a challenge to get the car you need as they are based on criteria in person that can't be communicated online or [through] calling an agent who may not be available once you arrive at the rental pick-up location.”
It can be hard to tell what’s available, especially in rural locations or when working with smaller car rental agencies. Business travelers should consider this when they’re looking for a bigger selection. If they want a higher likelihood of their desired vehicle being available, they should rent from a company with a large fleet of vehicles.
For those who need to travel often for business, a rental car might make sense. And with this advice, it might seem like an even more attractive option. Research companies and find out which rental agencies offer you the best match.