Traveling through Nashville (BNA)? Welcome to my hometown airport! For an airport that’s almost top-30 in the United States, Nashville International has a lot of a charm. Our airport even has live entertainment most hours of the day.
Before we talk about rental cars, there’s one question I receive about Nashville International Airport quite frequently – “why is Nashville International Airport’s IATA code BNA?” The airfield was named after Col. Harry S. Berry and BNA is a designation for “Berry Field Nashville”.
Rental Cars at BNA
Upon arrival and leaving airside, a passenger has exceptionally easy access to rental cars. Down one escalator is the baggage claim, then all of the rental car counters are down a second escalator. There are 11 rental car companies in the rental car facility (as of March 2017):
- Avis Budget Group – Avis, Budget, Payless
- Enterprise Holdings – Alamo, Enterprise, National
- Hertz Global Holdings – Dollar, Hertz, Thrifty
- Catalyst Capital – Advantage, E-Z
The counters are grouped by corporate parent – sister companies are always side-by-side at BNA and share staff.
- On the left are Advantage, E-Z, Dollar, Hertz, and Thrifty.
- On the right are Avis, Budget, Payless, Alamo, Enterprise and National.
Payless is appropriately stuffed in a corner, behind the escalator, nearest the restroom, with no door for the staff member. Given Payless’ place in the AvisBudget structure, the jokes effectively write themselves.
The rental car hall even includes technology such as the Hertz kiosks, Dollar/Thrifty kiosks with live agents, and Enterprise kiosks that never read my Tennessee-issued drivers license.
Done with the counter or intentionally selecting a company that allows you to pick your own car? The next step is to walk (or ride) to the Consolidated Rental Car Facility.
Nashville implemented the concept of a consolidated rental car facility (CONRAC) well. The airport built a consolidated rental car facility that is:
- Consolidated. All rental cars are in the consolidated facility, which doesn’t always happen. Las Vegas, for instance, has eight car rental companies that are not at the “consolidated” rental car facility.
- Nearby. Instead of complaining about the traffic and exhaust fumes from shuttle buses, or placing the rental car facility miles away in another town/county (requiring shuttle buses), Nashville put the rental car facility within easy walking distance.
- Really Nearby. Do you walk with a purpose? I timed myself at 1 minute, 58 seconds from the Hertz counter to the rental car facility.
The airport planners used solid logic when constructing a consolidated rental car facility, so we’ll give those same airport planners a pass on the newest plans for a $1.2 billion upgrade that appears to include a monorail heading away from the Interstate.
Where to go with a Rental Car?
Where might a car lover head from the airport? Nashville has an extensive automotive history; even today, we generate a lot of auto parts here. We’re the home of Bridgestone Americas, a Hankook Tire plant, and various other auto component builders.
Want to learn about European cars throughout history during your stay? The Lane Motor Museum has the largest collection of European cars in the United States (closed Tuesday and Wednesday).
Ever wanted to visit an operational automotive assembly plant? Nashville is one of the few cities within an easy driving radius of multiple plants offering tours. Just southeast of Nashville is the Nissan Smyrna manufacturing facility, offering tours on Tuesday and Thursday. Looking for something a little sportier? Well, there is the National Corvette Museum and Bowling Green (Kentucky) assembly plant just over an hour away. While the Corvette Museum is open most days, the assembly line tours are offered on limited days (and will be suspended for an undisclosed timeframe starting June 2017). The tours of these two facilities always require advanced registration, as most plants don’t even offer these experiences!
But well before Chevrolet and Nissan, there was once a company that manufactured vehicles in the city of Nashville.
Introducing Marathon Village
Marathon Village is a quick visit that can happen on any working day without a reservation; the Village is also a great visit when one member of a traveling party might want a quick fix in automotive history while the rest of the group is desiring something different.
Marathon Village is a series of businesses operating in the space that was the Nashville manufacturing plant of Marathon Motors. Don’t remember Marathon Motors? You are forgiven, as the company has been defunct since 1914. Marathons were Brass Age cars, right-hand drive in the era where automobile designers still believed wooden firewalls separating the driver from the engine were great ideas. Sold on every continent except Antarctica in the early 1910s, these are the only cars ever manufactured in the city of Nashville. Marathon Village is where every individual component of these vehicles was created, unlike manufacturers with outsourced equipment providers today.
Visitors to Marathon Village during traditional business hours, Monday through Friday, can find a one-room Marathon History museum that includes four Marathon cars and part of a fifth. Why is this a rare opportunity? There are fewer than 10 known Marathons in existence worldwide. Automobile scrapping was very different a century ago and it’s certain that many of these pre-war vehicles were melted down to support efforts in World War I and World War II.
After the Museum
The museum is small, supplemented by descriptions, articles, and machinery more than a century old throughout the buildings of the Village, which is an active business location with space leased by many firms. The operating company of Marathon Village describes themselves as “A Creative Community”. Our Translation: it’s the non-annoying hipster component of Nashville with scores of businesses for individuals of disparate interests.
Ever watch the show American Pickers on the History Channel? The newer Nashville shop is in Marathon Village. Intrigued by Corsair Distillery and one of the few elite female distillers? A fan of wine tastings such as Grinder’s Switch?* There’s even a coffee shop, restaurant, and comedy club among the dozens of other businesses that might pique one’s interest during a quick visit.
* Pro-Tip: Dry wines in the region are generally not so good …
Planning to visit Marathon Village? Unless you’re coming from downtown Nashville, be very cognizant of rush hour on any drive you make in the area. Many first-time visitors aren’t quite aware of the pain level caused by the intersection of three Interstate highways (24, 40, and 65) until it’s too late.
Airport Rental Location Quick Guide
|Advantage||On-Airport||(800) 777-5500||Sun-Sat 6:00 AM - 11:59 PM||Link|
|Alamo||On-Airport||(615) 932-6036||Sun-Sat 6:00 AM - 1:00 AM||Link|
Sun-Fri 5:00 AM - 1:00 AM Sat 5:00 AM - 12:30 AM
Sun-Fri 5:00 AM - 1:00 AM Sat 5:00 AM - 12:30 AM
Sun-Fri 6:00 AM - 11:59 AM Sat 6:00 AM - 8:45 PM
|Enterprise||On-Airport||(615) 275-0011||Sun-Sat 6:00 AM - 11:59 PM||Link|
|E-Z||On-Airport||(800) 277-5171||Sun-Sat 6:00 AM - 12:00 AM||Link|
|Hertz||On-Airport||(615) 275-2600||Sun-Sat 5:00 AM - 12:00 AM||Link|
|National||On-Airport||(888) 826-6890||Sun-Sat 6:00 AM - 1:00 AM||Link|
|Payless||On-Airport||(615) 275-2961||Sun-Sat 7:00 AM - 11:00 PM||Link|
Sun-Fri 6:00 AM - 11:59 PM Sat 6:00 AM - 8:45 PM
- Ground Transportation at Nashville International Airport
- Nashville Airport Redevelopment Plan
- Marathon Village
- National Corvette Museum (Bowling Green, KY)
- Nissan Tours (Smyrna, TN)
- Lane Motor Museum
- Visit Nashville
- Trip Advisor Nashville Activities