Which Car Rental Company Has the Best Customer Service and Vehicles?

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If it seems to you that car rental rates and waiting times are among the highest they’ve ever been, you’re not wrong, and you’re certainly not alone.  Those two factors were cited in the most recent JD Power North American Rental Car Satisfaction Study as the primary reasons overall customer satisfaction with car rental companies is no longer trending upward after showing a steady increase beginning in 2009.  This annual study looks at how well car rental companies do, customer service-wise, in six areas (in order by ranking importance): cost and fees, the pick-up process, the return process, rental car quality, shuttle bus/van service, and the reservation process.

Based on the survey responses, North American car rental companies were ranked in each of the six customer satisfaction areas and then assigned an overall Customer Service Index Ranking.  Among the key findings: car rental costs increased $5 on average over the previous year, and wait times were longer at every point in the rental process, from picking up to returning the vehicle, averaging nearly 45 minutes total wait time per rental.

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So which car rental company had the highest customer satisfaction?  It turns out that the best rental car company in terms of customer satisfaction was Enterprise with 805 points (out of a possible 1,000), followed closely by National with 797.  Alamo was a more distant third with 776 points (all 3 companies are owned by Enterprise Holdings).  Tied with Alamo, and the only other car rental company to score above the industry average of 774 points, was HertzAvis and Budget (owned by the Avis Budget Group) were fifth and sixth with 771 and 762 points, respectively, followed by Dollar with 734 points and then finally Thrifty with 725 points (both companies are part of Hertz Global Holdings).

Note that “discount” car rental companies like Payless, Fox, and E-Z Rent-A-Car were not included in the survey.

Also not included was Sixt.  This company seems mostly to go out of its way to emphasize good customer service, although you can find poor reviews of some of their locations, especially regarding their propensity to charge damage fees.  You can have a really good experience with Sixt, and they have really nice cars (they specialize in renting luxury cars at regular-car prices). To be safe, check out the desired rental location on Yelp or Flyertalk before you rent.

You can view a graph of the overall rankings here.

Rankings by Category

Enterprise ranked highest in all customer satisfaction areas with scores that ranked it “among the best” in all categories.  No other company is able to make that claim.

National lost a few points in the costs and fees category, although it was second only to Enterprise.  Dollar and Thrifty ranked lowest in this category, while all other companies were deemed “average”.

If you desire an easy reservation process, go with Enterprise, National, or Hertz.

If the pickup process and wait times are most important, Enterprise and National ranked well above the competition.

Who has the best vehicles? Again, Enterprise and National, with all other companies’ vehicles rated as average or worse.

If a quick and easy return process makes you giddy with joy,  Enterprise, Alamo, Hertz, or National are the recommended choices.

For the best shuttle bus service to off-airport locations, Alamo actually tied with Enterprise, followed closely by Hertz.

Fans of Avis and Budget are out of luck – both earned “average” ratings in nearly all categories.

Finally, it’s pretty safe to say that after reading this, if you decide to rent a car from Dollar or Thrifty – well, whatever happens, that’s pretty much on you.

See a graph of rankings by factor

Overall Car Rental Company Customer Satisfaction Ranking
Best Car Rental Company Overall

Car Rental Company Customer Satisfaction Ranking by Category

Best Car Rental Company by Factor

More information: JD Power North American Rental Car Satisfaction Study

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