National Tops Rental-Car Satisfaction Survey

National took the top score in J.D. Power’s 2013 North America Rental Car Satisfaction Study. Find out why.

All travelers who rent cars like good customer service, but leisure travelers love low prices. The results of J.D. Power’s 2013 North America Rental Car Satisfaction Study reflect that: National took this year’s top score.

Although National replaced Enterprise in the top spot, all three top spots—and the three companies to score above average—are part of the same corporate family: National and Alamo are both owned by Enterprise.

The average score for all companies was 775 on a scale of 1,000, up slightly from last year’s average of 769. It was well above the latest average airline score of 695, and well below the cruise line average score of 824, and about at par with the hotel score of 777.

The spread among the top-ranking scores wasn’t great: 809 for National, 799 for Enterprise, and 782 for Alamo. Companies earning below-average scores were Hertz at 773, Avis at 770, Budget at 764, Thrifty at 751, and Dollar at 743.

Travelers really like fast, no-hassle pick up on their cars. About 20 percent of the respondents used a program that allows them to bypass the rental counter, and their satisfaction was substantially higher (score of 820) compared with those who had to use a counter (score of 770). Leisure travelers (score 777) were slightly more satisfied than business travelers (score 771). The only factor where business travelers scored higher than leisure travelers was expediency of pickup, no doubt because business travelers were much more likely than leisure travelers to participate in bypass programs.

Rick Garlick, global head of the J.D. Power travel and hospitality practice, summed it up pretty well: “While price is the first filter for selecting a rental-car company for most travelers, such other factors as expediency, especially for business travelers, and customer service are what really please customers. … Lowest price is often associated with a negative experience. We see the same thing in our hotel study—customers often feel like they got what they paid for, and it wasn’t a positive experience.”

Do you agree with the results of this study?

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By Ed Perkins

A nationally recognized reporter, writer, and consumer advocate, Ed Perkins focuses on how travelers can find the best deals and avoid scams.

He is the author of "Online Travel" (2000) and "Business Travel: When It's Your Money" (2004), the first step-by-step guide specifically written for small business and self-employed professional travelers. He was also the co-author of the annual "Best Travel Deals" series from Consumers Union.

Perkins' advice for business travelers is featured on MyBusinessTravel.com, a website devoted to helping small business and self-employed professional travelers find the best value for their travel dollars.

Perkins was founding editor of Consumer Reports Travel Letter, one of the country's most influential travel publications, from which he retired in 1998. He has also written for Business Traveller magazine (London).

Perkins' travel expertise has led to frequent television appearances, including ABC's "Good Morning America" and "This Week with David Brinkley," "The CBS Evening News with Dan Rather," CNN, and numerous local TV and radio stations.

Before editing Consumer Reports Travel Letter, Perkins spent 25 years in travel research and consulting with assignments ranging from national tourism development strategies to the design of computer-based tourism models.

Born in Evanston, Illinois, Perkins lives in Ashland, Oregon with his wife.

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