Saturday, July 08, 2006

"Compact" Car Rentals

I've been back to Texas to visit twice this summer -- I spent last Saturday through Tuesday there, a great holiday weekend -- and have wound up renting a car both times. The first trip it was cheaper with gas included for me to fly into Houston and then drive to College Station. I went to pick up my compact car and was directed to a Chevy Equinox. Sure, it is one of their smaller SUVs -- I don't know if the HHR is smaller or not -- but it is a far cry from the Ford Focus I was expecting. The rental associate at the counter had tried three times to talk me into an upgrade, so I think this one can be chalked up to them being out of the sardine cans on wheels.

On the 4th my flight out of College Station was delayed by the rain in Houston. The highlight of my time spent in the airport was learning at the same time that the shuttle had lifted off safely and that the aircraft we were waiting on had left Houston. I made the connection to Chicago, but missed the train to Champaign. I made a reservation for a compact car while waiting in College Station, and when I arrived at O'Hare I was directed to a KIA Sorento. This blew me away. If they hadn't had any compacts available they should have forced me to rent something bigger due to my late reservation.

My theories on why this is happening are; the rental cars are in collusion with the oil companies to force rental customers to buy more gas, the American perception of what is compact has been severely distorted, or the rental companies don't actually have any compact rentals but just rent bigger cars at a lower rate. The first theory seems most likely to me as the other two mean the rental companies would be charging less than they should.

I'll be renting a car this next weekend for a trip over to Springfield to compete in the Iron Abe Triathlon. I'll probably request something larger so I can fit my bicycle inside to avoid purchasing a bike rack. If they give me a 15 passenger van instead of a small SUV I'll not be surprised.


Blogger Bubba's Sis said...

The HHR is bigger than the Equinox, according to Mr. Chevrolet (my hubby!).

9:23 PM  

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