I just touched down for a bit of a long-term assignment in the Miami area—I’ll be in SoFlo until 7/21/17, so RG readers, holla—and as a result, I decided to investigate some different rental car options. Normally, I’m National 4 Lyfe kinda guy, as I like the ability to pick my own car and exit the airport as quickly as possible. But, in this case, National was the most expensive option by far, clocking in at nearly double the price of some competitors.
As a result, I decided to investigate SiXT Rent a Car.
They had some stunningly low rates on European cars—something like $20 a day for a Mercedes GLA/CLA, Audi A3, or Volvo S60, and only a little more for a C Class or even E Class. National was $35 a day for something from the Emerald Executive Aisle, which, in Miami, normally means an Impala or Charger, and sometimes it’s worse.
So I reserved my “Audi A3 or similar” through their website after I found a 15% off coupon online. This made my rental $16 plus tax per day. Amazing, right? I could have saved even a little more if I had decided to prepay my reservation. However, just in case all wasn’t what it seemed, I decided not to. And, boy, I’m glad my Spidey senses were tingling on that one.
I showed up to the SiXT rental desk around 9:45 PM, after walking past literally a dozen SiXT advertisements on the way to the Rental Car train. I’ve been incredibly spoiled by National, in the sense that I can just walk to their Emerald Aisle, take a car, and leave. However, SiXT gave me a QR code to put into my iOS wallet, which was supposed to mean that I could have “express” checkout.
Turns out that SiXT and I have very different understandings of the word “express.” After waiting ten minutes or so at the counter, where I could observe SiXT employees taking the most cavalier of attitudes toward customer service, I was called up to my counter. Turns out there was another counter right next to it that I couldn’t see from my original vantage point, where a young lady was just sitting and filing her nails. Okay, then.
Nevertheless, I was somewhat excited about my car options. After I handed the young lady at the desk my phone with the QR code displayed on the screen, I began to review the SiXT brochure on the desk. It detailed the various classes of cars, including the engine size and horsepower ratings of each. It was taking the associate at the counter a genuinely long time to enter my information, so I had time to review all of the options. I was even considering an upgrade, when she interrupted my train of thought with a between Scylla and Charybdis sort of option.
“Would you like the full coverage insurance, or the basic coverage?” Christ, little girl. I’ve been in sales longer than you’ve been alive. Don’t alternative choice me.
“Neither. My credit card covers that.”
“Okay, but it doesn’t cover liability. Florida state law requires you to buy liability insurance.”
“My regular insurance policy covers me for liability.”
“Do you have your policy with you? I have to enter it.”
This is the sort of thing that drives me batshit crazy. I’ve rented literally fifty cars or more in Florida in my life. Not once have I been forced to buy liability insurance or to demonstrate that I carry it. (In fact, it turns out Florida law states exactly the opposite.) I wonder exactly how many people SiXT bullies into paying for insurance that they don’t need?
“No, I don’t carry a paper copy of my insurance policy with me. What exactly do you need? I’m in a bit of a hurry here.” Which wasn’t technically true—I was only in a hurry to go to sleep.
I think she sussed out that I was suitably annoyed, so she said, “That’s okay, sir, you’ll just have to sign a waiver. Now, will you be driving on toll roads here in Miami?”
If you’re not aware, it’s nearly impossible to drive in Miami without going on a toll road at some point. Nearly all of the highways have toll sections, and if you try to drive on surface roads in Miami, you may end up killing yourself—either out of frustration or by accidentally stopping at a red light in Little Havana after dark.
“Yes, I will.”
“Okay, well we charge a service fee for each toll of five dollars…”
Now I was mad. “I’m sorry, what? The tolls are like fifty cents each.”
“Yes, but we have to charge a service fee for each toll. You can get unlimited tolls for $11 a day.”
Jesus. So that’s why the rentals are so cheap. “I’m not paying that. Why can’t you just bill the tolls to my credit card on file like every other rental car company does?”
“We have to charge a service…”
“Oh, for fuck’s sake. Fine. I’ll pay the $11.” My savings over National was nearly gone at this point, and I’d been inconvenienced for at least 30 minutes. But at least I was still getting a better car than I’d normally get with National. Kinda. Well, no, not if it was a CLA 250. Fuck.
“Okay, sir, they’re washing your car right now, so it will only be another 30-45 minutes.”
“Cancel my rental. I don’t have time to wait for that.”
“Are you sure? It’s late at night and you might not be able to get a car elsewhere.”
I opened up my National app, and 10 seconds later, had a one-click reservation. “Yeah, I think I’ll be fine. Cancel it, please.”
“Okay, well, if you’re sure. You didn’t pre-pay, so there’s no charge.”
“Thanks.” I stormed off, collected my bags, and went down to the Emerald Aisle in the garage. 2 minutes later, I had my Impala V6 LT and I was on my way. Sigh.
Moral of the story? If something seems to be too good—especially if you’re a tenured business traveler who really should know better—it probably is. And National, I’m so, so very sorry. I’ll never stray again.
I’m surprised with your experience at Sixt.
I don’t rent enough cars to be a National Emerald Elitist, so I tend to go with who has the nicest cars at the best prices. I’ve rented at Sixt in their Orlando and Tampa stores and had much better service than what you described in Miami.
I’ve never had to wait for a car to be washed, I probably would have walked out at that point as well.
Long story short, give them another shot (just not in Miami).
Sixt in Orlando FL is no better.
I rented from there back in November 2015.
Similar experience to JB, very slow service at check in.
Car had been washed but not cleaned. It was filthy inside.
And the crap with the toll charges is just one big rip off.
When I did their on line customer satisfaction survey they offered me a “complimentary upgrade voucher for your next vehicle rental with Sixt”
2 chances !
Having said that Hertz at LAX is not much better.
They tried to scam me with an upgrade. When I complained afterwards they refunded me $250.
My experiences with Fox has been much better.
This was Bark, not Jack.
I like Alamo which is owned by the same group as National. The last time I went to Denver Alamo didnt have any cars available on the days I was there so I tried Fox. Big mistake…long wait to get a car, their location was in a warehouse far away from the airport, and I ended up with a total POS Jeep Compass. Never rent a car from Fox.
That experience is about par for the course. At least for me. And I’m not singling Miami here. I have never been a National Emerald customer, but in my experience the counter at National hasn’t been much better than the experience you recount here. Except for the car wash — I have never had to wait more than five minutes for the “car wash,” which it certainly wasn’t, based on the car appearance on delivery.
Same for Alamo, Avis, Hertz, … I’m probably forgetting someone here. I think the car rental companies punish you with the counter experience for not being an “elite” customer. I have never had to frequently rent vehicles, but if I did, I would definitely pay extra to avoid any and all counter interactions. Which in the end you did too.
the toll thing isn’t out of line. when I flew to DFW to go to Plano, Hertz socks you $5/day for PlatePass plus any incurred tolls.
And- like where you were- it’s hard to get anywhere around the DFW area without using a toll road.
I’d be interested to hear your take on Turo. The one time I used it I thought it was pretty great and they picked me up right from the airport.
Turo has worked well for me too. Wouldn’t want to have to trust it frequently, however.
I don’t know how Enterprise is for travelers, but there’s an office that’s maybe a 5 minute walk from my house so when I’ve needed to rent a car that’s usually where I go and the service has generally been very good.
When I was in LA, I rented from Budget and discovered that Visa allows car rental companies to run my credit card up higher than they’ll let me. Budget dinged me a $250 cleaning fee for smoking in the car. I was close to the limit on that card and if I had tried to make the same charge it would have been declined. Sometimes I forget who the banks are really working for.
Enterprise is weird. IME they’re staffed by college kids, and to give off a certain image they make said college kids wear formal business attire.
yet the offices are almost universally filthy.
Rental cars, restaurants, and hotels all do authorizations for transactions higher than the bill. this is not unique to Hertz. Restaurants do it so they cover the tip amount once the bill is signed. Hotels and rental car companies do it so they don’t get burned by damages, etc.
And smoking in rental cars (and hotels) always has a cleaning fee-that’s on you.
Has anyone tried Silvercars? Sounds like a neat idea; I wouldn’t mind paying a couple more bucks to get an A4.
I’ve been completely satisfied with my experiences using SIXT in Europe, but I can’t recall using them in North America.
Nice cars, good rates. I had BMW wagon on my last trip.
I’ve had a similar counter experience at National and Enterprise in the US, though. I think you’ve been insulated using the Emerald Aisle service.
Never used SIXT. When I fly somewhere I use Avis or National. Bark is right walking to your car and driving away is great. I have always have had issues with enterprise including a number of the things Bark just mentioned. For instance last week I was asked to prove liability coverage. Odd since I had rented from the same enterprise 3 times in the last 3 months without being asked for it. In general I try to avoid enterprise but they have an office a mile and half form my house so I use them from sheer convenience.
I’m a member of Dollar(owned by Hertz) Express. Like Barks Emerald reservations, 2 minutes online and I’m done. All my insurance, credit card, license, etc is on file. Go directly to the lot, get my contract off the board or at the desk, grab my rental and out the gate.
It’s a rental, I don’t plan to buy one of whatever it is,so I don’t give a rats round what it is.
A $4 can of Febreeze will save you the smoker cleaning fee. It’s all the rental company does.
Back in the day I rented a car from the Hertz enthusiast collection and the women at the counter were worse than worthless but the people down in the garage were great. When it comes to car rentals I think a lot depends on the people, and probably the big advantage of National is that the people are removed from the equation.
This is pretty accurate. However, the people who are there when I return the car always seem pretty genial and competent, especially at MIA. There’s normally a manager there to greet me and ask how my service was, etc.
I think National has figured out that people are willing to pay more to NOT have to deal with a person. Imagine what will happen if/when other businesses figure this out.
Maybe this is why department stores are shedding jobs at 10X the rate of coal mines.
I don’t do much shopping. I just just don’t care about things the way many people do. When I do need something I can’t get at Costco, I generally shop online unless fit is the most important criteria. I do talk to people though. I’ve heard from many people in recent months on their frustration with shopping at the local indoor mall, or at many a deli or butcher counter in area grocery stores. The people hired to ‘help’ the public have no inclination to do so unless it is a subset of the public they’re personally interested in interacting with. Most of the time, they’d rather talk to each other.
It’s sort of a joke among the intelligent how stupid sheep have been manipulated to fight venture capital’s battle against Wal-Mart in the name of social justice while simultaneously buying everything from Amazon; patronizing nobody who has a tie to their community or who cares about anything that can’t be measured on a balance sheet. The reality is that the idiots trying to keep poor people from getting good deals don’t shop at Dollar stores or Wal-Marts. They’re choosing Amazon over stores that once provided service but now provide daily reminders that Obama destroyed our sense of community.
This seems like a good enough place to ask. I’m going to drive up from San Diego/San Marcos to LAX in late August and want to rent a car one way. Gotta be big enough for 3 checked bags, 2 carry-ons and 2 adults. Any suggestions for companies to use or what to look out for? Ive never rented a car in the US.
The best thing to do is to rent from the Emerald Aisle at National. It’s a virtual certainty that you’ll pay a midsize rate but be able to find a full-size/CUV on the aisle. They’re probably about middle of the pack when it comes to price in the US.
I have equivalent status at Avis, and their toll policy isn’t quite as onerous, but it still drives me insane whenever I’m in Texas (I should just get my own e-reader, probably, but I live in Cali). Shopping the Goldilocks Aisle at Avis is one of my favorite pastimes (sometimes you feel like 4 door pickup?), but it drives me bananas when it’s nothing but Altimas or Elantras. Interestingly, my Firm has a policy where we aren’t allowed to get anything too ridiculous from the rental lot, lest our clients try to cross-match what we may have paid for it and think poorly about it on the bill, even if all we were actually charged for it is the Avis midsize price. Thankfully, the time the 5 series showed up I was on PTO.
interesting thoughts here .
i rarely rent and don’t care what it is so maybe next time i’ll get a $19.95/day u-haul pickup truck ? .
before pops died he came to visit and rented a toyota four door sedan from rent a wreck, it was 6 years old, black (in l.a. not less) and hadn’t been washed/vacuumed much but everything worked (!AC!) and when i drove it for him, the oil was already topped up, tires too and it drove fine .
i’m guessing that most here rent for business and so really don’t want to waste any time waiting and arguing with blatantly rude & dishonest counter people .
cj ~ you’re showing how fearful of black folks you are by being the _only_ person stupid (different & worse than ignorant) into this . don’t be so scared .
I used to have Enterprise Gold thanks to my best friend’s dad/former employer. After I got put on the DNR list, I was forced to look elsewhere. Last summer, we tried to rent from Sixt at FLL. After waiting 20+ minutes in 100* heat (with a massive hangover, no less), their shuttle finally picked us up. Once we got to the rental office, we got much the same treatment as you.
I hailed an uber back to Hertz at the airport, who had us out the door in 10 minutes. I could deal with the high-pressure upcharges, if they didn’t try to skate on fees by housing their operations off-campus. We rented a Penske truck one-way to move him back to Detroit the next afternoon and didn’t experience the same headache as at the Sixt counter.