How often are rental cars really rented?
January 2, 2014 7:23 AM   Subscribe

I am failing at Google, so I apologize in advance for the question. I am wondering what percentage of days rental car companies are typically able to rent a particular car. That is to say: how many days is a specific car actually off the lot being rented per month/year/whatever? I am in the United States, and in North Carolina for those who are exceptionally good at this. I am guessing there is an industry standard, but I am too stupid to be able to find it. Thank you for your help!
posted by flarbuse to Travel & Transportation (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: utilization rates, and that information can be found in the various companies SEC type reports. eg this link for avis/budget showing 68-79% over a year, with average 75%

If you want a particular car/model, that's info you probably won't find. Fleet wide utilization is what would be published. (Similar to hotels occupancy rates -- investors care about how many rooms are filled, not which rooms).

Internally, the data per-car might be tracked, but I think the aggregate is more econo/mid/luxe classes, rather than individual cars.

So perhaps you can be more clear in what you're asking ?
posted by k5.user at 7:47 AM on January 2, 2014

About ten years ago, I worked in the corporate offices of a rental car company (not a biggie like Hertz, but not Jimmy's Rental Car). The answer is.... it depends.

For the big Rent A Car companies (RACs), they generally get the cars new, and hold on to them for about 18 months. Sometimes longer, sometimes less. After about 18 months, you start getting into maintenance issues, so the RACs tend to get rid of the cars before that. But miles matter too--so a car that is only 9 months old but has 13000 miles might get shipped to auction quicker than one that is 15 months with 12500.

I don't remember anything about Utilization, but the goal for Utilization is (obviously) 100%. Generally, thanks to historical information and paying attention to the Chamber of Commerce and local events, the RACs are able to tell how busy any particular city will be during any particular time. For example, Friday is the Cotton Bowl in Dallas. Dallas is not particularly mass-transit friendly, so people will need rental cars. If you have a RAC in DFW (or LUV), you will want to make sure you have lots of cars available, so you will bring them from New Mexico, Colorado, South Texas.

I bring up this tangent because RACs' major assets -- their cars -- are the way they make money, and as such they have entire departments whose job it is to get utilization up to as close to 100% as possible.

Hopefully someone else can back up my (very old) industry information.
posted by China Grover at 7:48 AM on January 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

How to Improve Utilization – And Still Satisfy the Customer from Auto Rental News.
posted by alms at 7:49 AM on January 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

they have entire departments whose job it is to get utilization up to as close to 100% as possible.

Right, but that 75%-ish number sounds like the practical maximum. When a car is returned, it's unlikely that the company is going to be able to turn it around and re-rent it that very same day. There's also the issue of down time for things like cleaning. It probably doesn't take a whole day to clean it--though don't forget that people use rentals harder than cars they own, so there are going to be some spectacular messes to detail--but if it's unavailable when a customer shows up, it'll sit until the next customer comes in.
posted by valkyryn at 8:13 AM on January 2, 2014

Actually, at the small Enterprise location I use for work rentals, cars are routinely turned around and re-rented the same day-sometimes within a few minutes of return-when things are busy.
posted by purenitrous at 10:28 AM on January 2, 2014

I can't give you any solid numbers, but I can share some of the info I have observed and asked from individual rental outlets. If you are curiously locally, or even nationally, call them and ask.

Like everything else, it really depends on the location. I live in a medium sized town with a regional airport. Each class will generally have a few cars available most days, so I would say likely about 70% utilization most of the time. One location just rents trucks and vans, and I believe they told me that most of them are rented about 20 days a month. At the airport, they are closer to 100% most of the time.

I have rented in larger cities with major airports, and I would agree most of the locations at or close to the airports at or above 100%. At Enterprise near Logan in Boston at times the cars come in and park in rows where they are cleaned and checked as you are doing your paperwork and you get whichever car is coming out first. Sometimes you have to wait. At one in Houston they also supply several mega car dealers with their loaners in addition to the airport traffic, so all cars are constantly rotated. Some may have more than two renters a day.

As a side note, many of the outlets encourage you to call them directly and ask them this question if you plan to rent. Most people don't realize that national reservations are sometimes handled by a third party that will always take your reservation. Always. They really don't care if there are cars available to rent or not, so it is always a good idea to call the local office and ask them what the chances of a Class X being available on an average day.
posted by Yorrick at 8:06 PM on January 2, 2014

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