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September 5, 2011

Car Rental Taxes and Fees Explode

Filed under: Autos — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:47 am

Wow, can you imagine renting a car in Boston for only $57 a week during the peak of summer? That is the price that one price checking site found.

Unfortunately, the actual price you pay is nowhere near $57 because of all the taxes and fees that get added to the base rental price of the car.


All the taxes, fees, and surcharges add up to $66.74 — an amount that is more than the price of the car rental itself.

• • •

August 23, 2010

Last Minute Car Renters Benefit from Hidden Price Drops

Filed under: Autos,Internet — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 4:51 am

Unlike airlines that charge customers higher fares the closer to the departure date you make your reservation, some car rental firms actually lower the price as the rental date draws nearer.  They don’t advertise that fact, they just do it quietly.

Example: MrConsumer helped a friend book a 12-day rental starting on August 22 from Logan airport in Boston. At the end of July — approximately three weeks in advance — the total rate including taxes was in the high $400s for Alamo – and that was using a coupon and a group discount.

Exactly two weeks before the start date of the rental, just for the fun of it, MrConsumer checked prices again at Alamo on a new reservation, using a better coupon — $40 off a 10-day rental.  Between the coupon and a new price reduction, the exact same rental dropped to $420.


Not bad, a savings of about $60.

Checking prices again exactly one week before the rental was scheduled to begin revealed another price drop of close to $100. It was now down to $337.


Wow, that’s a total savings of almost $150 compared to the price that would have been charged on the earliest reservation. 

And, checking the rates one day later, the price dropped to $317.

Now, on August 17, just five days before the rental, the price dropped again:


We are now under $300 for the rental, an almost $200 savings compared to the price quoted at the end of July.

It can’t get any lower, can it?


Wow.. as of Wednesday, August 18 — just four days before the rental — the price dropped over $30 to $267. Will the discounts ever end?

Two days before the car rental was scheduled to begin, the price dropped one last time, albeit by only $7.


Just to finish the price history of the rental, the day before the actual rental, the price jumped up to $414.91.  And on the day of the rental itself, the price was $434.68.  Amazingly, the highest price Alamo offered was the first one — for the reservation made over three weeks before the actual rental date. The total savings for MrConsumer’s friend amounted to over $220 by making weekly, and then daily checks of prices as the rental date drew near.

Surprisingly, in this case, it was substantially cheaper renting at the airport than from an in-town location. (The opposite is usually true.) Compounding the problem of high rates is that string of junk fees and taxes that boosts the price substantially, no matter how low the published rate is per day.

Because no one knows if prices are going to go up or down in any particular case, or with any particular car rental firm,  it is still wise to book early (using all the discounts and coupons you can find), but check again repeatedly  as the rental date approaches.  If you find a lower price, book the new reservation, then cancel the old one.

• • •

August 16, 2010

Toyota: Spends $1 Million an Hour on Safety?

Filed under: Autos,Business,Finance — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 4:43 am

Unless you have been asleep for the past month or two, you probably have seen the bright red Toyota commercial touting their commitment to safety:

It says:

“At Toyota, we care about your safety. That’s why we’re investing a million dollars every hour to improve our technology and your safety. It’s an investment that has helped Toyota win multiple top safety pick awards for 2010 by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. No other brand has won more. These top safety picks and all our new safety innovations are available at . “

The average TV watcher will likely take away the message that Toyota cares about safety, has won a lot of safety awards, and is spending a million dollars an hour to improve safety.

Mouse Print* asked the company how they arrived at the million dollars an hour figure.


“The $1 million figure represents Toyota’s total global spending on R&D to enhance the safety and technology of its vehicles. [Toyota] projects $760 billion yen [to be spent in FY2011] on R&D. Breaking down the calculations, 90 yen to the dollar equals $8.44 billion, which works out to $2,318,310 per day or $965,962 an hour, rounded to $1 million an hour. In any event, any fluctuations in the yen would impact the exact final figure.”

The key issue is not so much that they rounded up the figure to a million dollars an hour (exaggerating the amount spent by almost $30 million a year) but rather that the number is TOTAL spending on research and development, not just on safety issues. The company could not provide a number for the actual amount just spent on safety, but it certainly is less than the total spent on R&D, and therefore is not $1 million dollars an hour.

When this discrepancy and interpretation of the commercial was pointed out to Toyota, they responded:

“As the commercials mention, the $1 million figure represents Toyota’s R&D spending on new technology and safety, much of it allocated to quality and safety features.”

If you parse the key sentence in the commercial, it does indeed say that they are spending $1 million an hour to “improve our technology AND your safety.” But by using the term “safety” seven times in 30 seconds, and displaying the words “safety” or “safe” on the screen for much of the commercial, listeners are likely to get the net impression that Toyota is spending a million dollars an hour to “improve our technology FOR your safety.” We don’t think the average consumer would take away from the commercial that the company is spending some number less than a million dollars an hour on safety.

In Massachusetts, we have an advertising regulation that provides:

“An advertisement as a whole may be unfair or deceptive although each representation separately construed is literally true.”

• • •

June 14, 2010

Get a Free (not so) SuperGuarantee on Used Cars

Filed under: Autos,Internet,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:02 am

The folks who bring you SuperPages (yellow pages) are now trying to help you buy a used car via their new site . As an inducement, they promise you a free vehicle warranty with every qualified purchase:

The actual guarantee in most cases is for 90 days or 3000 miles, whichever comes first. It also only comes on cars under $60,000 and nine years old or less. But, you will likely have a costly surprise when you try to make your first claim:


“The Warranty is subject to a $100 deductible per service visit and a maximum liability for the life of the Service Contract of the trade in value of the vehicle you purchase or $3,000, whichever is less.” [See terms and conditions.]

Also, the warranty is not bumper to bumper, but only covers certain parts:


Engine, turbocharger, transmission, transfer case, and drive axle

There is a long list of exclusions (if you are lucky enough to find the actual contract), including one you might not expect on a used vehicle:


Particularly for a just-purchased used car, you don’t always know what’s wrong with it until after you drive it awhile. And a part rarely goes from being perfectly fine one day to being dead the next. So might those less obvious defects be excluded? One would hope that the company behind the service contract wouldn’t use that provision or others to weasel out of paying for particular repairs.

So what company backs up this guarantee? Warrantech. Never heard of them? You should have. The Better Business Bureau in Texas where the company is headquartered certain has, and has given the company its lowest rating.


“The majority of Warrantech automobile warranty complaints center on deceptive and ambiguous language in the contract and refusal to pay valid claims. ” See full BBB report.

Sometimes, you get what you pay for. But you really have nothing to lose other than your “peace of mind” in being protected should you have a claim.

• • •

September 14, 2009

GM’s 60-Day Satisfaction Guarantee

Filed under: Autos — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:01 am


Starting September 14, General Motors is offering a 60-day satisfaction guarantee on any new 2009 or 2010 Chevy, Buick, GMC or Cadillac purchased between now and November 30th. The president of GM in a TV commercial says, “and if you’re not 100% happy, return it, we’ll take it back.”

You must keep the car for at least 30 days, and then you have another 30 days to return it. Don’t expect to get 100% of your money back, but pretty close.

*MOUSE PRINT: Among the many requirements are these:

  • Buyback Price means the actual price you paid to the Participating Dealer for the Eligible Vehicle itself (after any rebates, discounts, employee discounts, or supplier discounts) plus applicable sales taxes you actually paid.
  • The Buyback Price does not include the costs of any taxes (other than sales taxes), licensing, titling or registration fees, insurance, dealer installed accessories, aftermarket products or add-on equipment (other than factory options ordered with the vehicle), dealer fees of any kind, ancillary products including without limitation extended warranties or service contracts, finance charges, any negative equity (the amount by which a loan on a trade-in vehicle exceeds the dealer’s purchase price for the trade-in) or any other expenses incurred by the Buyer in relation to taking delivery of the Eligible Vehicle.
  • Your Eligible Vehicle’s odometer must not have more than 4,000 miles since the Delivery Date.
  • Your Eligible Vehicle must have been registered and insured in the Buyer’s name since the Delivery Date.
  • Your Eligible Vehicle must have no more than $200 of damage as determined by GM or GM’s agent. Such damage may include, without limitation, internal or external scratches, scrapes, dents, odors, rips, burns, etc.
  • Your vehicle must NOT be registered to a business, corporation, partnership, utility, federal, state or local government, rental car company or any other organization;
  • You cannot return an Eligible Vehicle and repurchase a vehicle you traded-in when you purchased the Eligible Vehicle;
  • You cannot trade in an Eligible Vehicle and then repurchase it later.
  • You cannot sue GM over this program — arbitration only.

All in all, GM’s offer is advertised in a straightforward manner, and the “details” are consistent with the promises made and are not unreasonable (but for getting zero back on dealer-added options, accessories, and extended warranties).


See post below for update on the T-Mobile fee for paper bills.

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