Rental cars: Advantage vs. Avis
It’s easy to get spoiled as a frequent rental car customer. Rental agencies’ preferred programs make renting incredibly simple. I walk off the plane, walk to my car, get in and drive away. Before last week, I hadn’t rented a car the “traditional” way in several years. The differences make for an interesting comparison.
Location, location, location
You might call Advantage the Ryanair of the car rental industry. It’s basic rates are usually among the least expensive, and it’s airport locations leave much to be desired. Despite a promise of “In Terminal” I found myself on a shuttle bus to an off-airport site.
At airports that have cars in the terminal I’ve never seen an Avis that was off-site.
Renting a car the old fashioned way is a colossal pain in the ass. The lines, the wait for the rental contract and the attempted insurance upsells had me longing to return to the hassle-free experience I’m used to. But on balance, Advantage provided exactly what I would have expected from a discount car rental firm: A mediocre vehicle at a low price.
This is not entirely a fair comparison because I have Avis First status, but Avis does just about whatever I ask them to do. If I don’t like a vehicle, they will swap it out (and upgrade me) at no extra charge. And while I typically find my car and drive off without talking to anyone, there is a dedicated preferred office available to assist me if I should need help.
Renters at Advantage should beware of the following: Unlike most rental agencies, Advantage will charge you a damage deposit up front, and then refund it later if you bring the car back in the same condition you rented it. Most rental agencies simply authorize an additional amount above the rental cost on your card, and then release that hold once the car is returned. For a one-day rental, Advantage charged me:
$20 Rental fee
$200 Damage deposit
It refunded my $200 damage deposit about a week later.
This is an unusual practice in the rental industry, and one that I disagree with. While Advantage is often less expensive than Avis, hassle takes time, and time is money. I’m going to vote with my wallet and continue renting from Avis in the future.