It is not easy to find the lowest price on a rental car because companies don’t automatically incorporate discount codes into their displayed rates, so you have to keep trying different codes and different companies’ websites. And even when you think you have found the lowest price, some rental companies have some tricks up their sleeve to bamboozle you.
Case in point: A friend is coming to Boston this week to visit, and MrConsumer agreed to help him find the “best” car rental rate. After using a number of travel sites that compare the prices of various companies, it became pretty clear that Hertz was offering the lowest prices depending on which coupon code promotions you entered into their website.
Here is the top portion of the results search on Hertz’s webpage:
It seems pretty clear that the best price turned up by this search is $162 ($170.73 including taxes and fees). It even says at the top “The rates listed represent the best available rates based on the information provided.” So a booking was made for this $170 car based on MrConsumer’s recommendation.
After a little more poking around, MrConsumer learned that this $170 rate was not in fact the cheapest rate that Hertz was offering.
Here is the (almost) full list of cars and prices on Hertz’ website at the time the above four prices were extracted:
Scroll down the list.
The nearly complete list appears just as it does above with the $162/$170 rate apparently the least expensive option. But if you scroll down to the bottom of the list, to the 10th car listed, a $153 rate appears! What, where did that come from?
It appears that Hertz deliberately creates the impression that the lowest rate appears first at the top of the list, but in fact tucks the best rate farther down the list. (Testing other rental dates and locations, the lowest price was not always on the bottom, but it was never the first, second, or third listing which appear in increasing cost order.)
Mouse Print* wrote to the PR folks at Hertz asking why they did this, whether they recognized the deceptive nature of this ploy, and if they were going to fix it.
The company did not respond.
Just imagine if Hertz can grab an extra $7 or $10 on each car rental by upselling customers one car class above the cheapest car… times how many million rentals a year…