Photo via  Atomic Taco /Flickr.

Photo via Atomic Taco/Flickr.

Car rental customers who chose a company based on price reported the least satisfaction with their experience, according to the J.D. Power and Associates 2013 North America Rental Car Satisfaction Study released today.

The study, which is now in its 18th year, named National Car Rental as the top pick for customer satisfaction; the company scored 809 on a 1,000-point scale.

Enterprise and Alamo also exceeded the industry average of 775 points, ranking second and third with 799 and 782 points respectively. All three brands are managed by Enterprise Holdings. Overall satisfaction incresed for the fourth consecutive year, rising six points from 2012.

Hertz and Avis came close to the industry average with 773 points and 770 points respectively. Budget (764), Thrifty (751), and Dollar (743) ranked further down the list.

More than one-third (35 percent) of customers said they use low price as a top reason for selecting their rental car company. Overall satisfaction is lowest (756 on the scale) among customers who select based on price. Customers who choose a rental car company based on good customer service ranked highest (828).

"While price is the first filter for selecting a rental car company for most travelers, such other factors as expediency, especially for business travelers, and customer service are what really please customers," said Rick Garlick, J.D. Power's global travel and hospitality practice lead. "Lowest price is often associated with a negative experience."

Customers on personal or leisure travel are slightly more satisfied than business customers (777 to 771) on all factors except the pick-up process. Among the 20 percent of customers who use a counter bypass service, satisfaction with the pick-up process averages 820 compared with 770 for those that use the rental counter.

Customers greeted with a smile from one member of the rental car company's staff is 58 points higher than those not greeted with a smile (693 versus 635).

The study is based on responses gathered between September 2012 and August 2013 from more than 12,382 evaluations from business and leisure customers who rented a vehicle at an airport location between August 2012 and August 2013.

ACE Rent A Car, Advantage Rent A Car, Fox Rent A Car, Payless and U Save were included in the study but not ranked due to a small sample size.


Enterprise Ranks Highest in J.D. Power’s 2012 Customer Satisfaction Study