Most of the time we book a rental, we seek out rates with "Unlimited Mileage". We're well aware (or should be aware) that "unlimited" refers to a number of miles on the current rental only. For instance, we have various posts about geographic restrictions on rental with an unlimited number of miles (U.S. to Mexico, intra-Europe, and sometimes even from one state to the next), plus specific off-limit areas such as unpaved roads. "Unlimited mileage" simply means that the rate for that rental will stay the same, whether the renter drives 10 miles per day or 150 miles per day in the allowed range. Unlimited mileage does not mean that a renter's next rental will have the same flexibility, and unlimited mileage does not mean that a rental car company has to continue renting to any specific individual. Yes, there is a tiny risk of being placed on a rental car company's "Do Not Rent" list for excessive mileage driven.
An example that received modest media attention last year was that of Halifax-based band Walrus. The band had visited their local Avis shop and rented a van for a North American tour. The tour had a stop in San Francisco, so the van was burglarized (because that happens to many, many individuals in San Francisco). The band returned the vehicle to Avis and thought they were cool; after all, the damage could be repaired and the band had "only" put 11,000+ miles on the rental van in 20 days.
We don't know how Pabst Blue Ribbon feels about this product placement.
So we know what you're asking after learning Walrus has actual music videos.
If Walrus has enough money to create music videos, why don't they have their own van or tour bus like most other bands?
That's a great question to which we have no answer; maybe the band does now have their own tour vehicle. One thing we do know is that Avis objected to the excessive mileage and put the band's leader on the "Do Not Rent" list.
"I assumed this was from the window being smashed out, but instead they told me I was on the list for 'high mileage risk' and that I'm never to rent a vehicle from Avis again," the band's Justin Murphy tells Exclaim! "Apparently 18,000 km in 20 days is too many or something. I fell for the deceptive 'unlimited kilometres' trick."
And here's one of those cases where we have to take the rental car company's side.
- The band was not charged any more than the contract listed for the 18,000 km in 20 days, so it's not deceptive.
- Does a rental car company (or any other business) have the ability to refuse future business from an individual for any reason? Yes, and each rental car company does exercise that right.
Besides, if Murphy was the only person on the rental car agreement -- he didn't say anyone else was banned and additional driver fees get expensive over 20 days -- the remainder of his bandmates could still rent from Avis ...
Yet being banned by a rental car company can be problematic for frequent travelers. Placement on the Do Not Rent list by an Avis-owned location covers potential rentals from Avis, Budget, Payless, and Zipcar (the corporate parent is the same) while a ban by a franchised Avis location would only apply to sites owned by that specific franchisee.
High Mileage Risk, Depreciation, and Service Intervals
Can a company like Avis elect to block a renter in the future due to a perceived risk of driving an excessive number of miles? Absolutely, and there are two major factors to consider -- depreciation and service intervals. High mileage rapidly depreciates what was likely an expensive vehicle; depreciation is exacerbated if the mileage causes a vehicle to miss one (or more) scheduled service intervals. Miss two service intervals and any vehicle, when done as a rental, goes from being a well-maintained program car sold directly by the manufacturer or a rental car company to being sold at a wholesale auction. Individuals banned by rental car companies due to high mileage are because those drivers are at high risk of profoundly dropping the resale value of rental vehicles.
Service intervals and records are critically important to rental car maintenance -- when I recently rented a vehicle in the U.K., I had a sticker on the windshield where I simply had to notify the rental car company if a specific mileage on the odometer came up for service. That's entirely reasonable; I didn't approach the mileage that would necessitate service but I would simply exchange the SUV if I had. It's the same process one would follow if a vehicle were recalled or on a long-term rental; turn in the existing vehicle for maintenance/repairs and leave in a different car.
Do Most Renters Have to Worry?
Very few renters have to be concerned about being banned due to excessive mileage, despite us hearing of examples from all three major rental car companies over the past few years. The mileage required before one needs to worry tends to be greater than the service interval of a rental vehicle but the understandable point of frustration is that rental car companies don't release a clear formula to state when a user might constitute a "high mileage risk".
Three major U.S. firms -- Hertz, Dollar and Thrifty -- explicitly reserve the right to ban a user for driving more than 3,500 miles in 30 days. Yet note that Dollar, Thrifty, and Hertz, even with the publication of "3,500 miles in 30 days", doesn't automatically restrict rental privileges.
The policies of other rental companies are far less clear; for instance, Enterprise simply says a renter is to return the vehicle in the same condition (normal wear and tear excepted). And that ambiguity leaves truly high mileage drivers in a sticky situation!
We already knew Sixt was bad for those summer round-trip cross-country trips; Hertz and affiliates Dollar and Thrifty have the discretion (but not the requirement) to outright ban users for those same types of drives. Sadly, none of the rental companies other than Dollar and Thrifty have "line in the sand" statements about what can trigger a "high mileage" ban. And placements on the "Do Not Rent" list tend to irrevocable; the few times we've seen individuals removed from those lists are when outstanding debts are paid (and even that doesn't always work).
As the rental car companies don't have clear policies on what causes a guaranteed ban, renters can proactively take steps to minimize the risk of being banned.
- My local Hertz station manager often asks me how far I'm driving before assigning a car or upgrade; renters can disclose their travel plans to see if there would be clear problems or prohibitions.
- Renters with the ability to select their own cars at airports can find the vehicles furthest away from a service interval by looking at "Next Service Due" stickers or ask what steps to take if one is about the pass the mileage on the "Next Service Due" sticker.
- When price-competitive, renters with exceptionally long trips can look into one-way rentals. Even companies like Sixt waive their ordinarily restrictive geographic ranges when a driver has a one-way journey!
We're not associated with any rental car company but a good starting point is always:
If you're driving far enough that you would have to service your personal vehicle, the rental car company is likely expecting to service their own vehicle!