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Shopping for a rental car based on cost? You're not going to like this

November 05, 2013|By Catharine M. Hamm | Los Angeles Times Travel editor
  • The shuttle that takes you to the car rental counter figures into customer satisfaction, according to a J.D. Power study.
The shuttle that takes you to the car rental counter figures into customer… (Richard Derk / Los Angeles…)

You’re happier with your rental car experience, except when you shop based on price.

Those are among the findings of a J.D. Power rental car satisfaction study released Tuesday, which also showed National as the top-ranking company. 

“There is scarcely anything in the world that some man cannot make a little worse, and sell a little more cheaply. The person who buys on price alone is this man's lawful prey.” That quote, often attributed to English writer John Ruskin, bears out what the J.D. Power study found: More than a third of car rental customers shop based on the cost of renting the car, but the joy of the good deal didn’t correlate with satisfaction.

Those renters were less positive about their experience than those who chose customer service as their top priority. The satisfaction level among price-sensitive customers was 756 out of 1,000 points. The level for those who let customer service be the determinant in choosing a company was 828. (The overall satisfaction level was 775 for all companies; last year, it was 769.) 

J.D. Power asked more than 12,000 respondents from September 2012 until August 2013 about their experiences. National walked away with the crown with a satisfaction score of 809 out of 1,000. It was followed by Enterprise (799) and Alamo (782). The top two traded positions from last year, when Alamo was also No. 3.

In this year’s survey, the top three were followed by Hertz (773), Avis (770), Budget (764), Thrifty (751) and Dollar (743).

The factors the survey weighed included cost and fees, the pickup process; the actual rental car; shuttle bus/van service and the reservations process.

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