I Like Being Able To Choose My Rental Car But I Hate Choosing A Rental Car

I remember back when I first was a National Car Rental Emerald Club member. That status gave me the privilege of booking a midsize car and being able to book any car parked in the Emerald Aisle. No more having to take the car they assigned me, I had the power to pick whichever car I wanted.

I remember renting an Oldsmobile Bravada just because I could.

'95-'97_Oldsmobile_Bravada

OK, stop being jealous. Who wouldn’t want to rent this car?

Flash forward and National isn’t the only car rental company that lets you pick from the lot. They don’t even require you to have any type of status to be able to pick your own car anymore.

Here are some of the car rental company policies for choosing your own car:

National Car Rental

Choose any car (Midsize and above) on the Emerald Aisle and only pay the Midsize rate (in US  and Canada).

Hertz

Hertz Ultimate Choice puts you in the driver’s seat, making choosing the right vehicle easier than ever. Now available at select airport locations, it’s the convenient way to find exactly the car you want and get going. Best part? It’s available to all Hertz customers.

Avis

Looking for a ride that’s just right for your trip? With Avis Preferred Select & Go you have the freedom to:

  • Keep your pre-assigned vehicle
  • Exchange your pre-assigned vehicle at no extra cost
  • Upgrade to your choice of specialty vehicles for a daily fee

Dollar

Car rental just got more personal. Our great rates and travel tools help you do more with your Dollar, and now you get to choose which specific vehicle you want to drive.

Here’s how it works. Reserve the car class that you want to drive. Pick up your rental agreement at the counter and select any vehicle within the car class you reserved.

Thrifty

At Thrifty, we’re always looking for ways to enhance your rental experience. We already save you money and now you get to pick which specific vehicle you want to drive.

Here’s how it works. Reserve the car class you want to drive. Pick up your rental agreement at the counter and then pick any vehicle within your reserved car class.

Silvercar

With Silvercar, you could pick a car but it was always a Silver Audi. They’re changing the formula and now you get to pick the color Audi you want to rent.

I’ve started to dread picking a car

First of all, the ability to pick a car from the aisle doesn’t matter much if the rental car company doesn’t have any available cars. In this case, you’re at the mercy of which cars get returned while you’re waiting. I find this to often be the best option because you’re able to score a huge upgrade without paying for it.

You imagine picking a car to be something like this picture from Hertz:

012019-hertz-ultimate-choice

Instead, you’ll often find a mostly empty lot with three or four cars in the area you’re allowed to “pick your own car” from.

This was the scenario we were placed into on our recent trip to Austin, TX. Because I’m a Hertz Gold Plus Rewards member, I can go directly to the lot and choose a car, skipping the counter.

Walking to the lot, I had the choice of three cars. Wait, someone’s already in that car. Make that two cars. It’s Texas in the summer, check the interiors. Both cars have black leather interiors.

Sigh.

I go for the Black Nissan Altima and check for the only other determining factor at this point. The Sirius XM radio is still activated. OK, decision made.

Color-Options-for-the-2018-Nissan-Altima-b5_o

At this point, is having “my choice” of a car really a selling point? I had a choice of two cars and neither of them was what I booked, which was a VW Jetta or similar. I should have paid more attention to the caveat (Make/model not guaranteed).

Final Thoughts

I think it’s time to realize that the gimmick of picking your own car from the aisle isn’t there for the customer’s advantage. It’s a system that allows rental car companies to allocate cars to whichever area they need, depending on the demand that day. More frequent renters mean more cars in those sections. Not enough cars in the regular sections? Just drop a premium car down there and make someone think they’re getting a great upgrade.

Not to mention the anxiety I get when picking a car. What if I pick a dud, like my most recent rental where the warning “Front radar unavailable due to obstruction” popped up every time I started driving. Turns out it’s a known problem with Nissan Altimas. I told Hertz of the problem on Twitter and their response was for me to tell the agent when returning the car or I could contact them to arrange for a replacement vehicle.

I didn’t complain because I felt it was partially my fault. I picked this car. It wasn’t assigned to me. Sharon says that’s because I was raised with guilt. Whatevs.

Part of me likes the rentals where I am told to go and get my car from space A-113 (and congrats if you get that reference). There’s no pressure. I get in the car and leave the lot with no worries and no regrets.

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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary

2 thoughts on “I Like Being Able To Choose My Rental Car But I Hate Choosing A Rental Car”

  1. Seeing that picture of an Oldsmobile goes a long way toward explaining why the company is not in business any more.

  2. Booked a bmw x3 and got handed a cadillac in Vancouver as an emerald elite. Tried to bring it up and nobody cared. So I am back to booking the emerald aisle.

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