For a third consecutive year, Enterprise Rent-A-Car is ranked highest in satisfaction among rental car companies, achieving an overall satisfaction index score of 830, according to the J.D. Power 2016 North America Rental Car Satisfaction Study.
Enterprise is followed in the rankings by National Car Rental (813), Alamo Rent-A-Car (809), and Hertz (804). For 2016, overall car rental satisfaction averages 804 index points, a six-point improvement from 2015.
Travelers who rent a car and then combine business and leisure (“bleisure” travelers) are by far the most satisfied with their rental car experience, according to the study.
The study finds that while overall satisfaction is higher among business travelers than among leisure travelers (with satisfaction index scores of 806 vs. 798 on a 1,000-point scale, respectively), satisfaction among “bleisure” travelers (836) — those whose travel is a combination of business and leisure — is the highest among the three groups.
The data show this practice to be more pronounced among Gen Y renters (those born from 1977-1994), who have a growing presence in the rental car market. Cost and fees satisfaction among bleisure car renters is 43 points higher than among exclusive business renters and 49 points higher than among exclusive leisure renters, according to the study.
The 2016 North America Rental Car Satisfaction Study is based on responses gathered between September 2015 through August 2016 from more than 11,300 business and leisure travelers who rented a vehicle at an airport location.
“With such a big bump in satisfaction among ‘bleisure’ renters, it’s certainly worthwhile for rental car companies to take a closer look at ways to attract and accommodate these travelers, perhaps by providing an easy way to separate charges for the business days of the rental from the leisure days, making for easier expense reporting,” said Rick Garlick, J.D. Power’s global travel and hospitality practice. “Appealing to bleisure travelers may help differentiate them from competitors, but it could also foster the growth amongst a new base of loyal customers.”
The study, now in its 21st year, measures overall customer satisfaction with rental cars at airport locations by examining six factors (listed in order of importance): cost and fees; pick-up process; return process; rental car; shuttle bus/van; and reservation process.
“Seeing steady improvements in cost and fees demonstrates that rental car companies are creating greater value for their customers through a combination of improved products and service,” said Garlick. “Stellar customer service at all touch points of the experience makes a difference for travelers in terms of choice, experience, and loyalty. While there is always a segment of renters that cares only about which company provides the lowest price, high service levels drive both value and satisfaction for many customers.”
Here are some other key findings from the study:
- Consolidated Centers: The growing trend to consolidate rental car facilities to a single site does not appear to be impacting the rental car experience. The study finds that 32% of customers rented from a consolidated facility. Although brands have the opportunity to differentiate their service through their own branded facilities, customer satisfaction with their rental car experience is approximately the same for a consolidated site as it is for a branded site. However, shuttle bus/van satisfaction among renters who picked up from a consolidated site is 51 points higher than among those renting from a brand-operated site.
- Reported Problems on the Rise: The percentage of reported problems in the 2016 study is 21%, a substantial increase from just 14% in 2015. However, this high incidence is driven by many of the unranked brands included in the study. Among customers who experienced a problem, the highest increase in specific reported issues is related to optional equipment (e.g. GPS/navigation, satellite radio, and toll pass) in which the problem incidence increases to 16% this year from 10% in 2015.
- Satisfaction by Airport: Among the busiest airports in the United States, Dallas/Ft. Worth International (DFW), Fort Lauderdale Hollywood International (FLL), New York John F. Kennedy (JFK), and Miami International (MIA) perform particularly well in rental car satisfaction. Both Fort Lauderdale and Miami post substantial increases in satisfaction scores among travelers who rented there.