Photograph ©2021 by Brian Cohen.

The One Thing You Should NOT Do When Rental Cars Are Not Available When You Arrive

Especially if you have a confirmed reservation.

Over the past couple of years, rental car companies have had a difficult time keeping up with demand — which had been pent up due chiefly to the current 2019 Novel Coronavirus pandemic — because supply has been low due to factors such as a shortage of critical components and materials to complete manufacturing the vehicles and a shortage of labor…

The One Thing You Should NOT Do When Rental Cars Are Not Available When You Arrive

2021 Nissan Altima SV Hertz
Photograph ©2022 by Brian Cohen.

…which has caused this scenario to occur significantly more often than in the past: you arrive at the rental car facility — whether you are renting at the airport or in a neighborhood location — and no vehicles are available despite you having a reservation.

The one thing you should not do is cancel your reservation, as canceling your reservation basically releases the rental car company from fulfilling its obligation of providing you with a rental vehicle, which you went through the trouble of securing. You did not expect that scenario to happen; and it is not your fault.

Although nothing is guaranteed, you can try exercising your rights as a customer, as the worst that can happen is that your requests are denied:

  • Have Them Provide You an Alternative — You went through the trouble of booking the reservation and arriving at the rental car facility — only to not be provided with a car. Ask the agent to provide you with an alternative — even if it means renting from a nearby rental car company; and even if it means that the difference in cost is covered.
  • Get an Upgraded Vehicle at No Extra Cost — You might be told that no more vehicles are available; but that might only be in the class of vehicle which you reserved. If a better vehicle is available, ask for it at no additional charge. Just keep in mind that as the vehicle model increases in size and weight, that usually means that it will consume more fuel and may cost you more money.
  • Ask For Expenses to Be Paid — If the supply of rental vehicles is expected to be replenished in several hours due to customers returning vehicles, you may try asking for modest expenses to be covered. One expense might be transportation to and from the hotel at which you are staying or the restaurant at which you are dining instead of waiting several hours in the rental car facility.
  • Secure a Discount — Ask for a discount for the effort you went through. This could be in the form of less money on the current rental or a coupon which is valid towards a future rental.
  • If You Have Elite Status — One of the benefits with the elite status which you earned with the frequent renter loyalty program of the rental car company might be that you must be supplied with a vehicle if you booked your reservation in advance. If you have that benefit, use it to your advantage.
  • Contact the Corporate Office — If all else fails and you are dealing with a stubborn agent or employee who does not seem to care about your plight and giving you proper customer service, contact the corporate office via Twitter or some other form of social media. You can also call the corporate office via telephone or send an e-mail message; but social media usually leads to faster results — and the entire exchange is in writing in case you need to refer to it later..

Final Boarding Call

Hertz car
Photograph ©2022 by Brian Cohen.

You have some rights as a customer. When a rental car company is unable to keep its end of an agreement with you, be creative about some sort of compensation for your troubles…

…but remember to remain polite and patient with the agent or employee with whom you are dealing, as the situation is usually not his or her fault. Losing your temper will not help resolve the issue — and may only exacerbate it.

To repeat: if a rental car facility has no vehicles available and you have a confirmed reservation, do not cancel it.

All photographs ©2021 and ©2022 by Brian Cohen.

  1. All my experiences is the rental company will initially ask me if I want an upgrade even before indicating my class of vehicle is not available. Of course if I consent to the upgrade I have to pay the daily upgrade fee. If I refuse the upgrade and the class of vehicle per my reservation is not available, I get the upgrade for the same daily rental per my reservation.

    A vignette concerning being a walk up. This before the days of internet. Reservations were made via an 800 number. I walked up to a car rental company located in the airport of my city of residence. The lady behind the counter indicated all they had in inventory were luxury vehicles (Lincoln Continental). Literally, 10 yards away were a bank of coin phones. I called the 800 number for this particular car rental agency..made a reservation for a lower class of vehicle. Five minutes later, I walked backed to the reservation desk and gave my reservation number. Ohh,the previous rep, was visibly upset. And yes, I presented a smug smile.

    1. I enjoyed reading your vignette, Firstlast. Thank you for sharing that.

      Yes, the employee behind the counter will try to sell you anything they can, as many of them get a commission on what they upsell…

  2. Consumer protection and frankly, anti-fraud laws need to be strengthened not only with respect to a guaranteed vehicle but guaranteed type if a specific type was reserved.

    I can see the cost benefit of only having guaranteed vehicle for elite members and not the general public, so that everyone can still cancel close-in. However if the guaranteed vehicle benefit is literally guaranteed as part of a status-based reservation then it should have an enforcement mechanism instead of being a gratuitous promise that the rental car company can ignore at will. In other words the membership program benefits should alter the terms of the rental agreement, like any other contractual promise would.

    Likewise specific vehicle type can be important if you reserve a truck, 4wd, or van, especially a specific kind (such as, delivery van). What is the point of having categories if you are showing a fraudulent inventory? I had a Hertz HLE pull this stunt when I reserved a delivery van (Sprinter) for a move. I was and still am President’s Circle Hertz Club Gold. I went in a week prior to confirm in person and they lied to my face saying it would be available while still showing availability on their website. Of course they had leased them all out to Amazon. A disgruntled employee fessed up a couple days later, and I had to scramble, fortunately still a few days before the actual move. I did cancel but only out of fear the scammers at the HLE would charge my credit card and then force me to do a full chargeback and thus be banned from Hertz indefinitely — that was one of Hertz’s many other scams back in the day, sort of like calling the cops to arrest you for theft after you already returned the vehicle. In the end getting banned would have been worth it, though not being banned gave me time to fully cash out/monetize the President’s Circle benefits. Hertz corporate did nothing for me personally besides a lousy $50 voucher (I was out way more than that for a substitute rental) though I did get the HLE manager disciplined. That is why Hertz never again.

    1. No customer should have to go through all of that just to rent a vehicle that should be similar — if not exact — in class to what was originally requested, TD. Thank you for sharing your experience.

      Stephen M. Scherr is the new chief executive officer of Hertz since February of 2022. I wonder if Hertz will change for the better overall under his leadership…

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