Thursday, November 18, 2004


Renting a car? Forget Alamo National. Consider Enterprise.

That’s it. That’s the whole post, the sum of all my wisdom on the matter. You can all stop reading now.

But if details are needed, a justification for this advice, read on. Just remember that you can stop reading whenever you want. And that I warned you.

Martina and I wanted a full-sized sedan for 10 days, and, looking online, Alamo National’s prices were lower than those of Enterprise — except that there’s more to cost than mere dollars, and that cost surged to near-unacceptable limits when it was revealed that, on a large lot choked with vehicles, there were only three full-sized sedans we could use. Two were two-door models. All were red.

A two-door, full-sized sedan may appeal to some. It doesn’t make a bit of sense to me. And what’s with all the red cars? Is there a huge demand for red full-size two-door sedans all of a sudden? (The New York Times said recently that colorful cars are “on the way back in,” but the forecast was for over the next few years. So there will be no credit given for being cutting-edge when the preponderance of red is likely to be just cruel coincidence or a brutal streak of bad taste.)

There were other full-size cars on the lot, employees said, but to get to them, a lot of other cars would have to be moved out of the way. And they’d have to be cleaned. They may be filthy, we were told.

Meanwhile, two other unmarried couples came in and rented, with the clerk helping them offering each — out of the blue, and a four-door blue, at that — a waiver of the additional-driver fee. It never came up on our side of the counter.

The Alamo National clerks were unwilling to replace our red-or-possibly-filthy full-size with a premium car, but they would give us a sport utility vehicle. (In what is very unlikely to be a coincidence, the lot was overloaded with them. Strangely, when gas prices get past $2 a gallon on top of rental fees, people tend to find SUVs a little less chic.) We took the beast and instantly regretted it. It was loud, uncomfortable and, yes, filthy. It felt like we were sneaking illegal aliens into the country ... because we desperately needed money to fix our truck. Hell, this thing didn’t even have a keychain remote, which is pretty standard for rental cars.

We drove it to my house in Porter Square so I could shower, then to the Davis Square Enterprise car rental site. There we asked them to save us from the sport utility creature for the same cost or better, and they found us an excellent Volvo station wagon that had pretty much every amenity one could want. It was like going from the monkey scenes in “2001: A Space Odyssey” to the scenes set in the future, and we were in and out within a half-hour.

Then we took the SUV back to Alamo National. It had been gone an hour and driven less than three miles, but the company charged us for a full day and said we’d taken it 16 miles.

Strangely, I wasn’t even all that surprised or upset, as though it was worth it just to learn the lesson.


Anonymous said...

Alamo has always been the cheap-o national chain.

Anonymous said...

hey, look, comments! and these and the redesign have probably been here a while, and i'm just the slacker who hasn't read the blog lately.

anyhow, rental car sales people have a lot of range to decide prices, upgrades, etc. if you're a regular or are super nice to them for no reason, they'll often cut you a deal. but if you get off on the wrong foot with them, forget it - they take it out on you in price, car type, and general rudeness. and some of them are just lying jerks who want more commission.

budget usually has good prices - you just have to go the the specials page online or be extra friendly when you go in.