Let’s face it, unless you’re traveling to a city like New York or London where public transportation is actually easier than having your own transportation, you’re going to spend a lot of time in rental cars. Fortunately, the transportation options available to business travelers are getting better these days, with companies like ZipCar offering car share programs. And if you’re a real high roller (or your employer is, anyway), you can always look in to a car hire.
There are several companies who seem to dominate the rental car market, those being Hertz, National, Alamo, Avis, Thrifty and Budget. Each offer advantages and no one seems to be much better than another. In my humble opinion, you should choose the company that works best with your airline miles program of choice. With most airline mile programs, you can score some miles while you drive, which is a nice bonus. If you think you’ll need rental cars in your future, you can instead opt for earning the rental rewards points.
We’ve all been to the airport rental agency and been forced to deal with the person behind the desk offering to “upgrade” us to a larger, less fuel efficient vehicle. I can’t imagine why the fleets of SUV’s aren’t all booked up these days in the age of high gas prices. Then they’ll offer you 15 types of insurance, which you most likely don’t need anyway. Not so much fun, especially after being stuck in an airplane for several hours. Luckily, these days companies are beginning to offer kiosk or online check in, or other handy ways of avoiding that ordeal.
These days, rental car companies have started to get with the program with amenities. You can:
- save a bundle on gas charges by renting a hybrid vehicle
- rent a navigation system for about $10 a day (which is a MUST in a strange city)
- rent a toll device so you don’t have to carry around a roll of quarters (which can save you a bundle on tickets). This includes Pass 24 through Dollar and Thrifty, and PlatePass through Hertz.
- rent a car by the hour (in NYC only at this time)
- get Wi-Fi in your rental car
Car Share Programs
Car Share programs are the newest wave in ground transportation, with companies like ZipCar and Flexcar blazing the way. I am a HUGE fan of these deals, which work particularly well if you visit member cities often. With car share programs, you rent the car by the hour. The cars are parked at strategic locations in the member cities, and you go from there. In downtown areas, this could save you a bundle on rental charges AND prevent you from paying out the nose for parking at the hotel. You get the car during the day when you need it, and put it back where it goes once you’re finished. At about $8 per hour, you can see where this could be an advantage. Insurance and gas are even included in the price! The only catch is that the cars aren’t available everywhere at this time.
This has never been an option for me, but it sure would be handy to have someone to drive you around everyplace you need to go. Avis has a chauffeur program, as do all of the limousine companies in various countries.
photo by ReservasdeCoches