“I Don’t Understand…I Made a Reservation”

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Renting a car is usually an uneventful part of a travel experience.  Except for the time I booked a round-trip rental instead of a one-way.  Oops!

Well, team member Keith recently got back from a ski trip to Aspen.  And his plans included picking up a car from National Car Rental to drive to Denver.

When he showed up at the car rental counter, they had his reservation, but they did NOT have the vehicle he booked.  So they charged him a $500 fee to rent a different vehicle! 

 Does this remind you of a Seinfeld episode?

I’ll share the positive outcome of the car rental saga.  And explain what you should do if you’re in a similar situation!

National Car Rental Review

I’ll let Keith tell you about his experience!

Keith:   Thank you Daraius!

I booked a rental car with National ~2 weeks before my trip to Colorado.  And I received an email confirming my reservation for a Nissan Altima or similar at a cost of ~$48.

National Car Review 2017

The Email Confirmation From National Showed a One-Way Car Rental for ~$48

On pick-up day, there were high winds in Aspen.  And all flights at the Aspen Airport were cancelled.  So many folks were trying to rent a car to get to a different airport, which meant all of the rental car companies were sold out.

Even though I had a reservation, I was informed the type of car I booked was not available.  And the only alternative was to take a larger SUV.  But to do so, I’d have to pay a $500 fee because the car was not returning to the pick-up location.

National Car Review 2017

In the End, the $500 Drop-Off Fee Was Refunded. So the Unpleasant Rental Car Experience Was a Minor Hiccup Following an Amazing Weekend Skiing With My Wife and Friends!

Unfortunately, in these situations there are not many options.  So I was forced to pay the $500 fee.

But after returning the vehicle in Denver, I quickly called National Car Rental’s customer service.  And after explaining what happened, they agreed to refund the $500 fee!

Bottom Line

Even with a confirmed reservation, it’s possible the details of your car rental can change if the company is sold out of cars.  This means you might have to pay extra fees or could potentially be without a car.

Unfortunately, you don’t have many options in these rare circumstances, especially if competitive car rental companies are also sold out of cars.

I can’t promise this will work.  But calling the rental car company’s customer service department could potentially save you money on fees if you present the details of your situation.

Do y’all have a memorable rental car experience?

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22 responses to ““I Don’t Understand…I Made a Reservation”

  1. GetToThePoints

    I too have experienced this at a ski location. I raised hell with the manager and they “found” a dirty unprepped vehicle. Imagine that. It is a ploy they pull. Corporate ought to fry their buns for these tricks.

  2. Thankfully, another terrible industry that Uber and Lyft are disrupting 🙂

  3. How wad the CDW included?

  4. I had a rental at Orlando Airport where I was charged a fuel surcharge when returning the vehicle. When I rented the vehicle, it only had 1/4 tank of gas, so that’s how I returned it. The staff insisted that it was full when I rented it. Eventually the counter staff investigated that I only drove the car 50 miles and there was no way that a full tank would be at 1/4 with that usage and they took the charge off my account. It pays to be vigilant or that might have went unnoticed.

    • I agree! Most of my car rental experiences have been positive. But it’s always a good idea to watch out for unexpected fees.

    • I’ve learned to always take a photo of the dash showing the mileage & gas level before I leave the lot, along with photos of the car’s pre-existing damage.

      • I have always wondered how this would help, taking a photo. Couldn’t a person just take the photo after they damaged the vehicle and say it was like that ?

        • I take my photos in such a way as to show the parking space number and any other proof that I’m still on the lot.

        • Photo is date stamped. Save our butts in Nice France as we pulled out of lot and saw damage 2 minutes later when we stopped. The cars were so close together in garage and lighting dim so we did not see it. However my daughter suggested taking picture s has date stamp and sure enough they were going to charge until we showed them photos.

    • I’ve rented a car in Manhattan that had only about a quarter tank of gas. At the time they said they had no way in their small area to top up tanks. When I returned the car at LaGuardia, with a quarter tank of gas, the inspector initially dinged me for the “missing gasoline” until I explained the situation (which was not a surprise to her, she had heard the story before).

  5. I still don’t understand how there hasn’t been a class action for this behavior. “Reservation” is such a solid term, that any reasonable judge would have ruled against this decades old practice long ago. This situation is tailor made for broad legislation or legal action. Only because we’re accustomed to it, would anyone defend it.

  6. I never would have paid the $500 fee, I would have called customer service right from the counter and made them listen to the call until they agreed to waive the fee (that was already supposed to be waived) right there. Remember, those counter folks are really salespeople. If you tie them up during a busy rush of people, they will do whatever it takes get you out of the way so they can try and up-sell someone else.

  7. I usually make reservations with 2 unaffiliated major rental chains as insurance in case something like this happens I can try the other.

  8. I’ve had this happen twice recently.

    The car class I booked wasn’t available so they gave me the next class up without any additional charge. Once with Hertz and once with Enterprise. With Hertz, it was at DTW which made it surprising.

  9. I rent with national very reguarly (13 rentals so far this year) and while I can see this ation happening, customer service has always taken care of it promptly.
    I had a similar situation where I reserved a “pickup truck” and when I arrived the only ticks available were Nissan frontiers. When I turned it in I do it out it was a “small pickup” and my $80 rental was now a $400 rental due to the upgrade. I went into the office and the issue was promptly fixed and I was only charged the original amount.
    In an example of going above and beyond, on Monday I turned in a vehicle a day late and visited the counter to have the extra day charged to a different card. Not only did the agent gladly do that, but they discounted the rate $10 because they felt it was too high.
    Moral of the story: in my experience national customer service solves any problems quickly and above xpectations.

  10. National did something similar to me in Hawaii. I was taking the ferry from Lanai to Maui so had to pick up the car at the dock location. But I’d be returning it to the airport location. I tripled checked that I wouldn’t be charged a fee because I didn’t return it to the same location. And then they did just that. It took loads of arguing with me, but finally got them to remove the charge.

    To top it off, the employees at the dock location were some of the nastiest. They knew they’d be picking up 6 people from the ferry to get us to the cars and they sent someone with a small SUV to pick us up. No signage, nothing. I was lucky that I thought to ask the guy who was looking around if he was National. He wanted my husband to wait on the docks with all of our luggage so he could take the 4 other people who were renting one car. I argued and finally one couple said they’d stay at the dock. Then they had one, miserable person at the car location who barely be bothered to do her job.

    Never again. I’ll take an interisland flight to avoid all of this (plus the nauseating ferry ride!).

  11. Loved the Seinfeld reference!
    How irritating, but glad to hear it was able to be resolved appropriately!


  12. It costs us $600 one day from aspen we returned the car to aspen (rented from aspen) but flights cancelled so needed the car back and one way to denver…sooooo$600 nuts as the flights cost just as much per person den-ase-den unitefd nuts