Rental car customers are happier overall with the airport rental experience these days, according to J.D. Power's 2019 North America Rental Car Satisfaction Study. In fact, renting a car has officially become the most satisfying part of the North American travel experience, beating out satisfaction with airports and airlines. This year, satisfaction with renting a car at the airport hit an all-time high in the survey's 24-year history.
Hertz jumped to the top of the leaderboard as the top-ranked car rental company, unseating Enterprise, which had held the top spot for the previous five consecutive years. Alamo took the third spot, with National coming in fourth place at the industry average.
"Across all of our travel-related studies, rental cars have become the most satisfying part of the overall traveler experience," said Michael Taylor, Travel Intelligence Lead at J.D. Power. "This is due largely to companies' continued innovation to tweak their pick-up and return processes and deliver stand-out customer experiences. Many customers can walk the lot and pick a specific car, and the pick-up process can be completed in 15 minutes or less. Adding personalization through apps and alerts to mobile devices is a big plus, too."
The Best and Worst Car Rental Companies at Airport Locations
Satisfaction with renting a car at the airport rose to an industry average of 843 points on the market-research firm's 1,000-point rating system, which is a slight increase from 2018. These were the top-ranked car rental companies:
- Hertz 856, up 8 points since 2018 (and a whopping 34 points since 2017)
- Enterprise 855, dropping 7 points since last year
- Alamo 848, beating the industry average by 5 points
- National 843, coming in at the industry average
Once again, brands aimed at budget travelers—Thrifty, Dollar and Budget—were the lowest-rated in J.D. Power's annual survey of 12,000 business and leisure travelers who rented from an airport location. More than 73 percent of respondents had rented for leisure travel.
AutoSlash Has a Different Take
But how does the J.D. Powers survey results compare to AutoSlash's assessment? "It's interesting to see Hertz ahead of National in the survey. Based on our experience and feedback from our customers, we'd rank National first. National is still clear and away the king of service and it offers the nicest vehicle selection," says Weinberg. "We'd place Hertz second, followed by Avis third, Enterprise fourth, Budget and Alamo tied for fifth, and finally Dollar and Thrifty."
How to Improve Your Car Rental Experience
There may be two easy ways to make your own experience better, according to the J.D. Power survey:
Use the app. Overall satisfaction among customers who use a brand's mobile app is 50 points higher than with those who do not. Currently, just 40 percent of customers say they use a rental car mobile app. Rental car apps are used most frequently for making reservations (52%); getting shuttle information (40%); getting general information (39%); check-in (39%); and selecting the rental car (39%).
Use the express service. Though competition is tight between rental car companies, one area showing significant variation in customer experience is the vehicle pick-up process. While overall satisfaction scores are 33 points higher when customers get their vehicle in 15 minutes or less, that happens just 64 percent of the time.
- Review: Hertz Rental Car App
- Review: Enterprise Rent-a-Car App
- Review: Alamo Rent a Car App
- Review: National Car Rental App