Most of our rental cars are completely unremarkable and easily forgettable. Yet first rentals are momentous -- in my case, I grew up driving $800 so-called "beater cars" and my first rental car was the first time I drove a vehicle that had a real value! Remarkably, each member of the AutoSlash team was able to recall their very first rental, whether for personal use or work-related, where "work" is a relative term. One of our first rentals was a business rental, one rental was put to work, and one of the rentals flat out stopped working! The fact that we all remember the first car we rented is telling about the spot vehicles hold in our culture -- ask us about the first hotels we paid for and you would get blank stares!
My first rental was for work -- I was leading a training session and had to get myself (and a bunch of tech gear) from D.C. to Ithaca, New York. My employer decided that it would be comparatively expensive to fly me up to New York and ship the equipment. Translation: I was salaried, so the "low cost" option was for me to drive a Dodge Caravan from Washington-Dulles Airport to Ithaca. The rental had to be Dollar, as that company was the only one waiving under 25 fees at the time (a past benefit of the Student Advantage program).
I already knew that everyone on the AutoSlash team could top the story of that first rental, so here are their tales!
One-Way Rentals -- A Tactic that Often Comes with Age
Andrew's first rental was the only one booked as a one-way rental. He had a different way of avoiding the Under 25 fee, as his family worked for Midwest Airlines and he could use that corporation's booking code. Picking up at SNA (John Wayne Airport) and returning at LAX (Los Angeles International), he didn't find the traffic in the region to be particularly bad! Although it was his first time driving in a major city, he even took the time to visit an open house at Edwards Air Force Base. We weren't surprised at that excursion at all -- our team has visited most of the airports, military installations, and transportation museums around! We're geeks about more than just rental cars!
Renting from a Competitor
Chris already worked in the rental car industry at the time of his first rental. However, his first rental was from a different company! Why? At the age of 19, he was ineligible to rent from his own company after his personal car was hit by a negligent driver. He was responsible for contracts to give other people cars but couldn't rent one on his own, so the other driver's insurance company hooked him up with a Ford Taurus from Enterprise.
What are his memories of the Taurus? Two things stuck out -- it was an effective way of keep miles off his company's cars when running errands, and he was horrendously frustrated by Enterprise's fuel policies at neighborhood sites. As the car had 1/8th of a tank at the time of pickup, he couldn't put too much fuel in the rental because his personal car might be repaired at any time!
Trucks Do Truck Things
Do you know the stereotype that people who own trucks get stuck doing truck things? Eric knows that people who rent trucks get stuck doing truck things. First, a step back. Eric didn't reserve a truck for his first rental. He reserved an "economy car" but all the rental company had remaining on the lot was a premium truck. As Eric noted: "A Dodge Ram with a Hemi is way better anyway."
Yes, a Dodge Ram with a Hemi is much better than a Chevy Spark (no offense to Chevy Spark owners). Courtesy Navigator84 at Wikipedia.
However, his mother learned that Eric had a Dodge Ram with a Hemi in his possession. Eric needed to wash out the back of the truck shortly thereafter, after hauling a load of dirt his mother quickly purchased!
Then There's Jonathan
AutoSlash founder Jonathan routinely has some of the more "eventful" rental car stories. As the elder statesmen of the AutoSlash team, he and I share (painful) memories of vehicles that existed before the vast quality improvements of recent years. His first rental involved a vehicle from the last millennium. Flying into Orlando International Airport, he was visiting friends with a condo in Daytona Beach. He was assigned the classic land yacht of the day (the Ford Crown Victoria) in an era of cheap gasoline.
His rental was scheduled to be a round-trip but ended up only going one way (in two literal senses). You see, by the second day of the rental, the transmission of said Ford Crown Vic was only working in one gear due to previous renters driving the vehicle like ... well, a rental. That one gear was "Reverse". Jonathan being Jonathan (not unlike Manny being Manny) successfully managed to get the vehicle back from an outing to the condo in reverse.*
* We can't fault that decision at all. Not only was this before apps like Uber and Lyft, this was before the era of ubiquitous cell phones!
A call to the rental car company and a replacement vehicle was delivered on the same flatbed that took the Crown Vic back to a repair yard. Jonathan's first rental included two cars, a very impressive feat most frequent renters never experience!
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