There's a survey for everything these days, and everything is easily translatable to list form. The auto industry is not immune to this: Who can resist "The Best Vehicles for Dogs" or "The World's Ugliest Cars"?
Though predominantly consumer driven, auto-related surveys have just as much, if not more, relevance within the business community. This is especially true for auto rental operators, who have experience with scores of models and hundreds of vehicles from varied manufacturers, and who rely on their fleet vehicles as their main source of revenue.
Auto Rental News surveyed owners and managers of auto rental companies to determine their "favorite rental car of all time." Survey respondents were asked to judge 35 model choices on price, functionality, reliability, safety, customer experience, maintenance, acquisition costs, resale value and overall return on investment.
The results revealed how the auto rental industry considers a favorite car compared to the general public. In their evaluations, survey respondents cited "reliability" most often, not surprising when rental cars run at least a thousand miles a week. Cost to repair ranked almost as high-with so many vehicles to manage, "cost to replace brake pads" and even "cost to replace a lost key" become key considerations.
Contrary to consumer car surveys, a vehicle's styling was not a primary judging criteria. While styling was mentioned, it was often in deference to a simple, ergonomic design. Rental operators appreciate a car "without a lot of bells and whistles for the customer to mess up."
Acquisition cost matters, but resale value was mentioned more often. Functionality, roominess and trunk space are also coveted-respondents pointed out that a good rental car needs to be versatile enough to handle a renter's needs if the requested rental class is sold out.
Here are the top 10 results, out of 386 responses.
The winner: Toyota Camry
In addition to achieving the highest score, the Camry garnered the most comprehensive praise from the auto rental industry, with comments such as "most versatile"; "great car, period"; "great all-around rental"; "It is by far the best rental vehicle I have ever come across, factoring in every aspect of the industry"; "I think they are the best-built cars [serving] the car rental industry."
More so than other models, operators pointed out that the Camry is a renter's favorite, citing its "good image to customers"; "customer satisfaction"; "customers love it"; "people request it."
The Camry was voted the most popular rental car in spite of Toyota's recent recall issues. Respondents wrote: "... fewer maintenance issues (except for that pesky sticking pedal business)"; "Customer satisfaction, resale and reliability, even with last year's recall issues"; "Until 2010, it was the most reliable and offered excellent residual value."
Second Place: Ford Taurus (pre discontinuation)
We split the Taurus into two choices, as the model line was discontinued in 2006 and reborn on a new platform in 2009 for the 2010 model year (with a rebadging of the Ford 500 in between). Both incarnations were highly praised by rental operators. The pre-discontinued Taurus took second overall in our survey, while the new Taurus took third.
The original Ford Taurus is viewed as "a classic rental car." Operators praised the Taurus for its low cost to operate, "bulletproof" reliability ("Steady and true. Seemed like the one you could always count on to get you there and back."), as well as its flexibility "as both a mid- and full-size rental." Its model longevity was a plus, as respondents referenced its "familiarity" and "endurance."
"Customers loved the reliability of a vehicle that hadn't changed much in almost 15 years," wrote one respondent. "Very few customer complaints-they knew what they were renting," wrote another.
Third Place: Ford Taurus (new design)
The new Ford Taurus got high marks for its styling, performance and overall quality. The new Taurus garnered comments such as "Customers like to drive this car; it's comfortable, reliable and easy to maintain," and "The model meets or exceeds all our expectations with regards to the customer experience, reliability and functionality."