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Welcome to Michael's blog. Michael Andrew, (aka Michael The Maven) is a freelance producer, photography instructor, tech innovator, and when needed, disaster aid specialist. Disclaimer: Michael is a participant in Bhphoto & Amazon affiliate programs that provides an advertising commission if you purchase through links on this website.


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09.19.07         personal  

I just dont like that Vibe


So I arrive last night into Phoenix Airport and proceed to pickup my rental car. No lines whatsoever, just a long clean counter with several happy smiling faces ready to help me. This is what I am talking about! However….this is a different game….

First off…Rental Car companies are huge businesses, they are very, very good at making money. This is the best way I have found to rent a car:

1. Use priceline.com. Unless you have a special offer, priceline.com has been the way to go. They let you bid by cost per day, and usually a bid of $15-17 will do the trick for a full size vehicle. The one down side with price line is once you make an offer you have to pay, and usually you cannot change reservations.
2. Get at least the full size. It seems these are the first to go, so if they don’t have it, you may get a free upgrade.
3. Reserve it in advance, the longer you wait the more it seems to cost.

I did all the above, and am ready to pick up my nice full size Impala as we begin the normal questions:

“Would you like to upgrade to an SUV for just $7 more per day?”

“I know….I get this a lot, I look like I go into an SUV, but no thank you the full size will be fine.”

“Do you want insurance with your rental?”

“No thank you.” (If you are insured and are paying with a credit card, most card companies offer supplemental insurance. In most cases, unless you are like the worst driver in the world, or are renting your car in a war zone, you wont need it.)

“Would you like to pre-pay for a full tank of gas so you don’t have to fill it before you return?”

“No thank you” (Another scam. They have you pre-pay a full tank of gas at the going rate, say $2.75 per gallon. Who can possibly drive a car in such a way that you are running on fumes when you return it? The result is, you will have at least a few gallons left when you return the car, so in essence you are giving them your extra gas, say $10-20 worth, when you have already paid them in advance for a full tank. If they asked you “Would you like to give us another $20 for no reason at all?” You would say “no”….its the same thing with the gas question.

She hands me my information and proceeds to tell me where to pick up the car. She was missing something, nearly all rental car clerks will happily tell you what car you are driving….she didn’t.

I ask “So…what am I driving?”
She smiles and says “A Pontiac Vibe”
A mental siren went off in my mind. A %$#@! Pontiac Vibe?!?!?!?

I have included a picture of this vehicle for your reference. Of all vehicles roaming the earth, the Pontiac Vibe has the biggest identity crisis. It is neither a go cart, car, station wagon or SUV, oddly , it is somewhere in between all. I don’t think I could even fit into a Pontiac Vibe and the only circumstances I would try would be after some sort of nuclear holocaust, this is the last vehicle functioning and you are being chased by zombies kind of thing.

“Miss, I am sorry I have reservations for a full size car, not a..." gag "Pontiac Vibe.”

“A Pontiac Vibe is considered an upgrade, it’s a Mid-Size SUV. I might be able to get you into an Impala….these are my last two cars.”

Wait a second….did I catch this right? She upgraded me for free, after she asked me if I wanted to pay $7 more per day for an SUV and these are the last two cars she has? She was trying to get me to pay for something she was about to give me for free….the problem in this case is if a Pontiac Vibe is an SUV, I am a starting center on an NBA basketball team.

"Uh....a vibe is an an SUV?" I ask

"Yes its considered a mid-size SUV." She said pointing at the picture on her little handy dandy counter card.

"I see...interesting world you live in. Do you have leperchauns and unicorns there too? Because in my world, a Pontiac Vibe is somewhere inbetween a sit-down lawn mower and covered dune buggy. I really would be willing to settle on something as unclassy as a brand new Impala.”

She starts to type away and print out a new reservation sheet.

“You are good ” I say as I pick up my bags “but you are no match for Michael Andrew.”

So in closing…when you get a rental car, bring your A game. Always remember, they will try to get as much out of you as possible. If they try to switch something on you, stick to your guns. They will usually make it right.

Any other car rental scams you guys know of?

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