Is there an easy way to rent a car for someone else?
December 12, 2016 9:10 AM   Subscribe

I sometimes need a short-term car rental on behalf of out-of-state employees on short notice. I have no trouble doing this for airfare and hotels, but car rentals have been a unique hassle. Is there an easy way to do this that doesn't put the employee out-of-pocket?

By default my company uses Concur for travel booking, but it does not support pre-paid car rental (you can reserve the car through Concur, but have to pay card-in-hand when you pick it up). When I've tried calling rental agencies directly, they've all told me they can't take credit card payment over the phone and that the cardholder needs to be present at pick-up. I'm assuming that this is how all of them work? (Being a few states away means I can't just swing by card in-hand and take care of it.)

Booking through an intermediary like Hotwire has been a mixed bag -- Hotwire won't let me prepay gas, and the agencies have still required a second card in-hand on pickup for a several hundred dollar deposit from the employee, which is prohibitive for most of them. The employees are often new hires and should be assumed to have basically no money in pocket to cover these things. Is there a better way I'm overlooking? Thank you!
posted by churl to Travel & Transportation (12 answers total)
Best answer: My agency has a contract with Enterprise, and I assume that's how most places do this. I would use an account number to reserve and pay for the car. Not sure if this is workable on a small scale but that's where I'd start.
posted by purenitrous at 9:14 AM on December 12, 2016 [4 favorites]

Are you a big enough fish to be able to get a business account with a company like Budget?
Open a Budget Express Billing Account. All of your travelers’ rentals are billed directly to an established corporate credit card.
Otherwise, can you issue the new employees corporate cards and have them use them for the rentals? Or give them a small signing bonus and make it clear that they're expect to keep it in reserve to cover rental deposits if they don't have a credit card that will work for the purpose?
posted by Candleman at 9:23 AM on December 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

Agreed about the corporate account thing. My former employer used Enterprise and it was notably hassle free.
posted by anastasiav at 9:30 AM on December 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

Another tack - could you guys have company credit or debit cards exclusively for this purpose?
posted by showbiz_liz at 9:56 AM on December 12, 2016 [2 favorites]

Concur definitely supports linking a corporate account(or a dozen) for rental cars, thought you probably need to pay more for it.
posted by rockindata at 9:59 AM on December 12, 2016

The problem here is that the rental company (as standard practice) wants a card in the name of the driver of the car - I've come up against this before. If the driver/employee can physically have a company card (even not in their name) or can call the company and get a card number from them at the end of the rental, this can be done. I have had to rent a car on my card and then switch all the charges to a different card (not in my name) at the end of the rental. It is a massive hassle, though.

Other than that, you have to get into corporate accounts where you are spending enough money that (basically) they trust the company involved more than the driver.
posted by Brockles at 11:08 AM on December 12, 2016

Yes, the federal government does this by issuing "company" credit cards and then paying the bill. I don't think it's that off-putting to have to use a personal card, and then get reimbursed before the bill comes, but then I don't live close to my limit. Some people might, which would cause complications and be embarrassing.
posted by ctmf at 11:48 AM on December 12, 2016

No judgment, just agreeing that the simplest-sounding plan doesn't always work, and I'm not necessarily typical. The company card idea has its own issues with non-travel abuse. Would rental car companies take a pre-paid Visa gift card?
posted by ctmf at 11:56 AM on December 12, 2016

I work for a state university hospital that issues purchasing credit cards to certain employees.

I book all car rentals with Enterprise using this card (admittedly for the same 6-7 employees and in their name), and they must present their license when picking up the car. My purchasing credit card is charged, but they put fill the car with gas before returning and are then reimbursed for the gas purchase through a different reimbursement system.

I think if you went to an Enterprise and explained your situation (with a company CC in hand), they would gladly set up an account for you to do this. You may also be able to explain the filling conundrum to them and have gas also charged to your company CC.
posted by kuanes at 12:50 PM on December 12, 2016

I was flying from Portland, OR to Wichita, KS for a funeral. My connecting flight in Dallas got cancelled, so I had to take a different flight to Kansas City and drive a rental car from there in order to make the funeral on time.

My dad was able to call Avis and reserve a car in my name but put it on his credit card (since I was broke). I showed up just before closing time (almost midnight) and had no problem getting the car.

I don't know if that information will help you, but it worked out for me.
posted by tacodave at 3:32 PM on December 12, 2016

I work for a very large company and the way that they handle this is to have employees that have travel expenses obtain a corporate credit card in their name and then they would reimburse charges to that card (with all the appropriate documentation/receipts/etc. in an expense report).

I've also seen companies reimburse expenses placed on a personal card, which might be an option if you aren't able to set up the corporate card thing, but that obviously comes with the downside of requiring the employee to have a personal credit card with enough available credit to cover the cost until reimbursement.
posted by Aleyn at 5:16 PM on December 12, 2016

Response by poster: Thanks for all your help everybody! Unfortunately issuing credit cards/signing bonuses would be difficult, as the need is very inconsistent and always arises on short notice, but I will take everyone's advice and try to set up a corporate account with a single provider if that's what it will take. Cheers
posted by churl at 9:23 AM on December 15, 2016

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