You have many options for renting a car.

2 NEW tips for renting a car

There’s no shortage of online advice for renting the right car at the right price. From The New York Times to FOX News, you’ll find juicy tips like…

  • “If you are renting a car in one location and turning it back in in another, don’t just focus on the daily rate you will be charged – drop-off fees can be shockingly high.” (FOX)
  • “Web tools to compare car rental rates aren’t nearly as sophisticated as their counterparts for flights and hotels…Hotwire tended to have the best deals in the searches I tried, whileCarRentals.com displays more of the independent companies.” (NYT)

And then there are the warnings about rental car schemes, from websites are diverse as Travel and Leisure (Worst Rental Car Rip-offs) and MoneyTalksNews (Car Rentals Rip-offs: 6 Things to Watch Out For).

Now comes a new survey from J.D. Powers, known to most people for its new-car customer satisfaction survey, which auto makers tout in their TV commercials – often with a spinning J.D. Powers trophy in the foreground and their award-winning vehicles in the background.

But J.D. Powers conducts customer service ratings on damn near everything. Just this month, that’s included blood glucose meters and Japanese replacement tires. And just a couple weeks ago, it included rental car companies.

The key findings, and our suggestions…

1. The best rental-car companies

Let’s start at the end: National ranked highest in customer satisfaction with a score of 809 out of a possible 1,000. Enterprise close behind at 799, followed by Alamo with 782.

Tip No. 1: Since many rental pickup locations are at airports, it makes sense to check these three companies first. Their prices are all competitive (between $103 and $118 for a three-day rental in my neck of the woods), and even those modest savings can be eaten up with differences in various fees. So you might as well pay for the best customer service. Because…

2. Money spent might be time saved

“More than one-third (35 percent) of customers cite low price as a top reason for selecting their rental car company,” J.D. Power says. “Yet, overall satisfaction is lowest among customers who select based on price.”

In other words, you get what you pay for.

“A critical factor associated with rental car satisfaction is expediency of pick up,” J.D. Power says, citing “counter bypass” as one of the most coveted services. But such conveniences often add a few bucks to your bottom line.

Tip No. 2: While J.D. Power also says, “A smile from the rental car staff can have a huge impact on overall satisfaction,” paying for one isn’t worth it. What is: Any service that saves you time. “Counter bypass,” which is the term for going directly from the airport to the car, is by far the most valued service to most of us. So check for it online or ask for it when you call. You’ll be happy you did.

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