City of Atlanta

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) is the largest airport in the world by passenger traffic and is operated by the City of Atlanta's Department of Aviation, in consultation with the City of College Park, Georgia. You see, there are very critical facilities of the airport (namely the consolidated rental car facility) that are not located in Atlanta, so the City of Atlanta has to get the City of College Park to sign off on their collection of visitor money (including yours) through taxes.

Frequent readers of the AutoSlash blog know that the taxes on rental cars at the airport already rank slightly above the national average, even on a "free" rental day but we're fans of the airport. Yet we're also fans of the area, especially given the Porsche Experience Center Atlanta being adjacent to the airport itself!

So why does the Fee Detective need to visit Atlanta now? Well, the rental car taxes at the airport aren't disappearing anytime soon. In fact, those taxes were recently extended an additional nine years from an original expiration in 2038 to 2047, three decades from now, to help pay for infrastructure that the average visitor will never use.

The Atlanta Hawks apparently have "A New Tradition of Winning", as opposed to the old tradition of ...

As in most cases where cities make a series of questionable decisions, it's time for Questions and Answers with the Fee Detective!

Question: Why did the cities decide to extend the rental car tax another nine years?
Answer: The city of Atlanta "needed" to pay for improvements to Philips Arena, the home of the Atlanta Hawks basketball team that also hosts some concerts.

Question: If the Philips Arena website advertises itself as the number 4 venue for live entertainment in the U.S. and number 10 in the world, does it really need $200 million in improvements?
Answer: The City of Atlanta, along with the Atlanta Hawks, determined there was a "need".

Question: Is the Philips Arena an ancient facility?
Answer: It's been open less than 18 years.

Question: Didn't the City of Atlanta just lose the Atlanta Braves?
Answer: The Braves now play in SunTrust Park, located in Cobb County, Georgia.

Question: If the City of Atlanta doesn't have to pay for improvements at the Atlanta Braves' Turner Field anymore, why isn't there already money available to pay for the Philips Arena improvements?
Answer: You're funny. Really. And Turner Field was only used for 20 years.

Question: So the extension of the rental car taxes pays for the arena improvements?
Answer: You're funny. Really. The extra nine years of rental car taxes pay for about half of the improvements. In addition to extending the taxes for another nine years at the world's largest airport, the City of Atlanta has to take (some of) the proceeds from selling the Braves' old stadium, then issue two separate bonds. However, the Atlanta Hawks are graciously chipping in about one-fourth of the cost of the improvements. It's (almost) the least the team could do.

The City of Atlanta is taking the easy path -- one that's popular with voters -- of imposing rental car taxes on airport users to pay for facilities designed for local residents. This tactic is a relatively recent innovation but the City of Atlanta reminds us that that populism wins (taxing visitors who ostensibly don't have a local vote), even when many of the taxes imposed at an airport are actually borne by local residents and voters. 

Fees, facility charges, and taxes got you confused and/or down? The Fee Detective can explain. Send your query to and we may feature your question in an upcoming post.

Ready to rent your next cheap rental car? You will, unfortunately, get stuck paying taxes and will probably help pay for a stadium you won't visit. However, AutoSlash will always find you the best rental rates for your rental period! Click below to request quotes now.

Quote me Track a reservation! Learn how you can save 30% or more on car rentals