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Economists and talking heads argue endlessly about our economy on a daily basis. "It's back!," "It's almost back!" and "It's never coming back!" seem to be the leaders among the varied viewpoints we hear and read about. One sector that has apparently begun to rebound is the car rental business. Not necessarily in financial terms, but from the standpoint of customer satisfaction, America's rental car companies are returning to to a position last seen in the pre-recession days.

J.D. Power has released its annual North American Rental Car Satisfaction Study, and the results are positive for every company included in the survey. Now in its 15th year, this J.D. Power study examines customer satisfaction with the airport car rental process, and it looks at six specific factors: Costs & Fees, Pick-Up Process, Rental Car, Return Process, Reservation Process, and Shuttle Bus/Van. The highest score possible is 1,000 points and, for the 2010 study, the average Overall Satisfaction score is 750. This is up from 733 in 2009 and 734 in 2008. Every company in the survey has improved year-over-year in the survey.

This year's big winner, however, is Enterprise, which received the industry's highest rankings in customer satisfaction. Enterprise is no stranger to this award, and getting the nod in 2010 makes it seven years in a row for the rental car company. Following behind Enterprise, Hertz and National also performed quite well in the survey while Advantage, Alamo, Avis, Dollar and Thrifty rounded out the results. You can see how each one performed over at the J.D. Power results page.

[Source: J.D. Power]
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J.D. Power and Associates Reports:
Overall Satisfaction with Rental Cars Rebounds Following Challenging Years for the Industry

Enterprise Ranks Highest in Satisfying Rental Car Customers for a Seventh Consecutive Year

WESTLAKE VILLAGE, Calif.: 16 November 2010 - Overall customer satisfaction with rental cars has returned to pre-recession levels after declining to lower levels during the past two years, according to the J.D. Power and Associates 2010 North America Rental Car Satisfaction StudySM released today.

Now in its 15th year, the study measures overall customer satisfaction with renting cars at airports by examining six factors (listed in order of importance): costs and fees; pick-up process; rental car; return process; reservation process; and shuttle bus/van.

Overall satisfaction averages 750 on a 1,000-point scale in 2010, improving from 733 in 2009 and 734 in 2008. Satisfaction with the reservation process; pick-up process; shuttle bus/van; and costs and fees have achieved three-year highs. Each of the rental car companies included in the study has improved in 2010, compared with 2009.

"Improvement in the rental car industry occurs across all aspects of the customer experience," said Stuart Greif, vice president of the travel practice at J.D. Power and Associates. "By quickly improving their operations as the market started coming back, rental car companies started reversing the negative impact on satisfaction that cuts and deferred investments had during the downturn. Satisfaction snapping back in 2010 is a testament to the industry doing its best to balance the tension between customer satisfaction and hard economic realities during this period."

Enterprise ranks highest in customer satisfaction among rental car companies for a seventh consecutive year and performs particularly well in all six factors. Enterprise is followed in the rankings by National and Hertz, respectively.

Incidence of reported problems has decreased to 9 percent in 2010, compared with 11 percent in 2009. Vehicle pick-up and billing are the areas with the highest rates of reported problems.

"While it's possible to exceed expectations when resolving a customer problem, which could elevate satisfaction levels even above those of a problem-free experience, this situation is a rare exception," said Greif. "It's important to note that 22 percent of problems experienced by customers go unreported, which means there was never an opportunity to resolve them. The bottom line is that prevention of problems is a far better strategy than service recovery for achieving high satisfaction levels."

In addition to increased satisfaction with rental car companies in 2010, customer loyalty and advocacy have also improved from 2009. In 2010, one-third of business travelers and 28 percent of leisure travelers indicate they "definitely will" rent from the same brand again-marking increases of 2 percent and 5 percent, respectively, from 2009. Advocacy rates have increased by 3 percent among business travelers and 6 percent among leisure travelers from 2009. In 2010, 30 percent of travelers in both groups say they "definitely will" recommend their rental car company.

The 2010 North America Rental Car Satisfaction Study is based on more than 11,500 evaluations from business and leisure travelers who rented a vehicle at an airport location within the previous 30 days. The study was fielded between October 2009 and September 2010.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 4 Years Ago
      The last car I rented was from enterprise. It was a kia optima and it was junk. It had 30k on it and drove like it was more like 200k. It had a really bad vibration on the hightway we thought the car was going to shake to pieces. I called and said something and was told that I could take the car to another office and swap out the car. The closest office was closed so I had to drive 15 miles out of my way to Detroit Metro. When I told them what I was there for they thought I was crazy and didn't believe me. After a few phone calls to the main office they went out to the lot and got me a brand new malibu. When I got back home and took the car back the manager asked about the Kia. I told her what happend and she gave a huge discount of the contract. They get 4 stars for customer satisfaction in my book.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I rent from Europcar or Enterprise while in Europe. Still top notch!!
      • 4 Years Ago
      I just got finished using Enterprise for about a month and a half.
      The body shop was waiting for a major part that was only available from the Hyundai.
      The first day I rented they allowed me to upgrade to a SUV ( Jeep Liberty ).
      I really didn't like it so when I was contacted later that day by Enterprise to check if I was happy I let them know that I was unhappy with this particular vehicle.
      They allowed me to return it the next day for an really comfortable Impala.
      I had that for almost a month until they called me one day and asked me to return it for recall service. Even offered to come to my job and switch it out.
      I took it back in after work and asked for a 11' Sonota but none were available.
      I was offered a 11' Chevrolet Equinox that had 1100 miles on it.
      Overall I feel the Enterprise staff was very accomodating and did everything they could to make my rental expierience as pain free as it could be.
      I will defintley use them in the future.
      My only complaint would be the lack of "fun" cars in this branches fleet.
      I would have paid out of pocket to get a sporty car or convertible.
      • 4 Years Ago
      The only rental agency I rent from is Enterprise because of the great service and great rates.
      • 4 Years Ago
      EVERY time I have rented with Enterprise, it has some odd-ball amount of gas in it. 1/3 tank. 5/8 tank. "Bring it back with that much in it..."

      Nonsense. I rent a car, and it is to be ready to go, fully serviced. Other agencies do it; even Dollar, the company that is always dead last on my list, has a full tank.
      • 4 Years Ago
      what kind of car is that on the left of the picture?
      • 4 Years Ago
      I rent cars frequently for work when I travel, and Enterprise, along with several others, have become MUCH better. I hate the one's with the high pressure sales to get you to upgrade, pay for a full tank of gas, and buy insurance you don't need. Enterprise used to be awful about those things, but now they are great, and the personal service from staff is great, too.
        • 4 Years Ago

        It is common for merchants to charge a $1 temporary or non-temporary charge on your card, as a sort of "test" charge. They wanted to make sure the card you gave them was legitimate.

        PayPal, Amazon, etc all do it when I put in a new (or updated) card. It usually disappears within a few business days.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Though Allstate was paying for the basic rental and not me, Enterprise did apply slight pressure for me to buy the CDW. I declined and that was it. I was told to bring it back full. They got a debit card from me and charged (not just authorized) $1, which they refunded when I brought it back. I thought that odd. Cheapest gas around was next door to them, so I did fill it up.

        They did offer to clean up an Elantra for me when I balked at a Corolla. Overall, didn't think they were too bad. But for those who were renting themselves rather than having someone else's insurance pay for it, there was a bit more pressure for the CDW.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I've used Enterprise three times and I ended up getting stiffed every time. I prefer U-Save, a smaller company with much better service and better cars, plus they will also accept cash. I've done business with them for nearly 10 years and never had a problem with them. Once when my car was being repaired, I told my insurance carrier to secure a car through U-Save. He now send all his clients to U-Save.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Here's some irony about judging on Shuttle Bus/Van. There are airports where the rental car garage/lot is walking distance from the terminal, including Tampa and Sea-Tac.

      Others have a common rental car bus operated by the airport, with all of the rental cars in a parking garage. Such airports include Phoenix, DFW, and MSP.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Just don't reserve a Cargo Van for Mother's Day weekend. I reserved one a week in advance. I needed to move daughter home from college a couple of weeks early. I called for them to pick me up and they said all cargo vans were gone. I told them I reserved the van a week earlier. They said tough luck. We always overbook. No one else had a van either. I was SOL. Thanks Enterprise... No Free Rental or assistance of any kind. I even contacted their headquarters in St. Louis. Sorry was it!!!
      • 4 Years Ago
      I've rented from Enterprise a few times and always have had good experiences with them.

      The last time I rented they gave me a choice of anything in the lot, including a new Tahoe, Suburban, Expedition, '11 Sonata, Taurus and a '11 Grand Cherokee (that had 300 miles on it).

      I ended up in the Sonata and couldn't have been happier. No pressure to purchase extra insurance, the car was extra clean, and it had a full tank of gas (which they have a gas matching program anyways).
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