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Renting a Car is the Most Satisfying Part of Travel

Forget the flight or the hotel, it's rental cars that are becoming the most enjoyable part of the North American travel experience.

The J.D. Power 2018 North American Rental Car Satisfaction Study says customer satisfaction with airport-based rental car companies has climbed to a record high 830 points (on a 1,000-point scale), topping the scores received in the same study for hotels, airlines, and airports. In other words, renting a car has officially become the best part of travel.

“Rental car companies are doing a lot of things right when it comes to customer satisfaction, with some brands making significant gains this year,” Michael Taylor, travel practice lead at J.D. Power, said in a statement.

“Lower prices continue to have a positive effect, but we’re also seeing increased satisfaction with the vehicles themselves, the reservation process and mobile apps,’ Taylor added.

All of which suggests that efforts to streamline the rental process with technology are paying off. The study findings also show that positive interactions with rental car company staff can have a positive effect on customer satisfaction.

Key findings of the 2018 study include:

Record-high rental car customer satisfaction: Overall rental car satisfaction improves by 4 index points to 830 in 2018, the highest level recorded in the 23-year history of the study. The performance improvement is driven by increases in satisfaction in three areas: reservation, rental car; and cost and fees.

Satisfaction higher among app users: Overall satisfaction among customers who use a brand’s mobile app is 58 points higher than among those who do not. Currently, just 30 percent of customers say they use a rental car mobile app. Rental car apps are used most frequently for making reservations (47 percent); getting information (42 percent); and check-in (40 percent).

Staff interactions still matter: Although mobile app usage is associated with higher levels of overall satisfaction, staff interactions still matter. Positive staff touch points in the reservation and return processes are associated with the highest levels of overall rental car customer satisfaction.

The report also ranked the top rental car companies. Enterprise did the best overall in customer satisfaction for the fifth consecutive year with a score of 862. Hertz wasn’t far behind with a score of 848 (which was a 26-point improvement over 2017). National rounded out the top three with a score of 846.

Renting a Car is the Most Satisfying Part of Travel© Enterprise Holdings, Inc. (Courtesy of Enterprise Rent-A-Car)

Thrifty, Dollar and Budget all came in at the bottom of the rankings, with scores of 819, 816 and 811 respectively. The industry average score was 830.

The J.D. Power study is based on responses gathered from September 2017 through August 2018, from 12,068 business and leisure travelers who rented a vehicle at an airport location from August 2017 through August 2018.

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