I screwed up - I need a bigger car

 
Old Oct 20, 09, 2:05 am
  #1  
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I screwed up - I need a bigger car

When I made the reservation months and months ago, I got a great rate on a compact, which is usually fine for just the two of us.

Just found out I've got to cart around 3 more adults. While I guess we "can" all fit in a compact, it won't be very comfortable.

I've checked both Thrifty and every other company for a full-size or even a mid-size, and the price is hugely more if I book it outright. I'd rather take my chances and see exactly what I get at the airport (often they are out of compacts and we get upgraded for free).

But what if we don't - what if the little Caliber is there waiting for us? What would you do?

Actually, I didn't screw up - I got screwed at the last minute. And no, we can't ask the other passengers to pitch in - they are my husband's elderly relatives who suddenly lost the ride they were going to take, so it falls on us.
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Old Oct 20, 09, 5:46 am
  #2  
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Given that the difference in price between an economy, compact, and midsize (when making your initial booking) is usually just a few dollars a day, this is why I always book at least a midsize. You never know what's gonna happen.

But of course, you cannot go back and change the past. So, what to do in this case?

You'll have to negotiate with the rental agent for an upgrade. To get the best price, you have to appear not very needy. If the salesperson knows you really want and need the bigger car, he'll charge you a lot more than if you have a choice in the matter.

Here's what I'd do if I were in your shoes:
  • Have your other three family members stay behind and out of sight. Don't let the rental agent know you'll be traveling with more than just the two of you.
  • Casually ask at the start of the rental (about 30 seconds into the transaction, maybe--after he's had a chance to pull your reservation up but before he's had a chance to establish control of the transaction) what kind of car you'll be getting. If he mentions a midsize or above, score.
  • If it's a Caliber or other compact car, ask, "Is there any chance I could get something a little nicer if I buy a tank of prepaid gas?" (I pick gas, because it's the least costly thing to get and you can use a full tank and actually come out ahead anyway.)
  • If he says no, ask how much more a bigger car will be. This way, he'll know price is an issue for you and will (at least subconsciously) keep the offers lower than he otherwise might.
  • If he offers you a fullsize or SUV, say, "No, that's too much. Do you have anything cheaper?" This will cause him to drop most likely to a midsize and offer it for the best price he can get.
  • Depending on the price he quotes and the tone of the transaction, you can go back and say, "Can you drop that price any more if I go ahead and buy that tank of gas?"

If you play your cards right, you might be able to score the upgrade for probably around $5 per day, though be prepared for $10-15 per day more in a worst-case scenario.

Best of luck!
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Old Oct 20, 09, 8:31 am
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Thanks for some good ideas. I'm Blue Chip, so often go straight to where the cars are, I wonder if that will make a difference. Anyway, it's tomorrow so keep your fingers crossed for me.

BTW, I checked the Caliber on their website and it DOES say it hold 5 adults. And this is not for the whole trip, so luggage is not an issue. It's just back and forth to an outing. So maybe it won't be so bad no matter what happens.
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Old Oct 20, 09, 4:15 pm
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The trouble with the Caliber specifically is that there's a massive driveline hump that runs down the centre of the car. And if that isn't bad enough, there's a rigid cupholder mounted on the top of that hump that isn't retractable. It is technically a 5-passenger car, but realistically it seats 4 comfortably, with seat #5 reserved for someone you're not fond of. Being that you're travelling with elderly family, it could be a concern.

As jackal said, don't give it away up front that you need a bigger car. But keep the hint going that you'd be much happier with a larger car. I did this once when exchanging a car at National this summer. They had a brand new 2010 Mustang GT parked outside, and I was told it would be a $30/day upgrade for the week to get it. I instead told they guy I would just take the loaded Focus parked outside instead, with a bit of a disappointing term. When he knocked down the price to "only $20 per day", I still said it would add over $150 to my bill and I wasn't sure. Eventually, he knocked it down to $10/day, and I was off in a brand new Mustang.

I'm reminded of what one of my good friends used to do. He worked at the Travelodge in Sidney, B.C. As an island town near the ferry and airport, they frequently got stranded travellers who missed the last boat, got bumped from a flight, etc. One of the things he used to look for when a walk-up came in was how they asked about availability. When someone came in and said "I need a room", chances are they were weary from travelling and just wanted a bed to lie down on within minutes. However, if someone said "How much is your cheapest room", he'd usually quote a double bed room and then add a discount to make it sound like they're getting a great deal. For instance, "Oh you're from Nanaimo, you can get our Friends of the Island rate" (I'm not even kidding about that one).

I can't stress jackal's tip enough about asking what you're getting. Since you're Bluechip, all your info will be printed ahead of time. Therefore you can pretty much show up, exchange pleasantries, and then say "So, what am I driving today?" If you start saying "I know I have a compact booked but I was wondering about something a bit bigger", you'll wind up paying more for the Sebring you were going to get anyways. So like jackal said, see what you're due to receive, and if it's something midsized or so, keep your poker face and know that you succeeded.

One last thing that maybe jackal could confirm: I remember ages ago that Bluechip members got 50% off upgrades. So if compact to midsize is normally $15/day, you would get it for $7.50. I actually had this offered to me by an agent in Toronto. From a compact he offered me an upgrade to a Prius, and told me it's normally $25 per day, but since I was Bluechip I would get it for $12.50. I can't find it listed anywhere on the website so I don't know if they still do this.
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Old Oct 20, 09, 6:33 pm
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Now that agent was clever. They realized someone who books a small car that's good on gas is probably, (but not always, as we saw here), not willing to hear a speech on upgrading to a gas guzzler. However, if the agent offers a paid upgrade to a hybrid, they can phrase it that the upfront cost of the upgrade is more than offset by the fuel savings.
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Old Oct 20, 09, 6:46 pm
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Originally Posted by Tuneman1984 View Post
One last thing that maybe jackal could confirm: I remember ages ago that Bluechip members got 50% off upgrades. So if compact to midsize is normally $15/day, you would get it for $7.50. I actually had this offered to me by an agent in Toronto. From a compact he offered me an upgrade to a Prius, and told me it's normally $25 per day, but since I was Bluechip I would get it for $12.50. I can't find it listed anywhere on the website so I don't know if they still do this.
This is an official policy. However, what the 50% is off of can differ greatly!

I've seen a matrix taped to the counter at some corporate locations with official upgrade prices (e.g. start with "compact" in on the left side and trace it over to "fullsize SUV" and you get a differential of $70 per day or whatever). Perhaps some locations do indeed have "official" upgrade rates, and it's off of these rates that Blue Chip members get their 50% discount off of upgrades (in the above example, it'd be $35). In the situations I'm familiar with, though, the going rates for upgrades and walkups are more or less set by the rental agent, perhaps with guidelines from the manager on duty. In those kinds of situations, sure, Blue Chip members can get 50% off of an upgrade...one that's 200% of the charge quoted to non-Blue Chip members!
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Old Oct 20, 09, 10:04 pm
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Originally Posted by Auto Enthusiast View Post
Now that agent was clever. They realized someone who books a small car that's good on gas is probably, (but not always, as we saw here), not willing to hear a speech on upgrading to a gas guzzler. However, if the agent offers a paid upgrade to a hybrid, they can phrase it that the upfront cost of the upgrade is more than offset by the fuel savings.
I've heard that angle many times. In this case, however, I was offered a Focus and was asking what else was available. He listed off several options, Grand Cherokee, Pacifica, etc. I chose the Prius as I hadn't driven one yet. I always try to rent something new every time, even if it's something I might not like.

Originally Posted by jackal View Post
This is an official policy. However, what the 50% is off of can differ greatly!

I've seen a matrix taped to the counter at some corporate locations with official upgrade prices (e.g. start with "compact" in on the left side and trace it over to "fullsize SUV" and you get a differential of $70 per day or whatever). Perhaps some locations do indeed have "official" upgrade rates, and it's off of these rates that Blue Chip members get their 50% discount off of upgrades (in the above example, it'd be $35). In the situations I'm familiar with, though, the going rates for upgrades and walkups are more or less set by the rental agent, perhaps with guidelines from the manager on duty. In those kinds of situations, sure, Blue Chip members can get 50% off of an upgrade...one that's 200% of the charge quoted to non-Blue Chip members!
Very true. What I was getting at, is if the OP is offered a Charger for $20/day more, then can reply "Oh okay, so as a Bluechip I get 50% off that for $10 then, I'll take it." If the agent doesn't mention the 50% scheme, then it should be for the OP's taking. If they say "Normally it's $70 per day to upgrade to this PT Cruiser, but you get 50% off!" then the OP should keep negotiating, naturally.
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Old Oct 21, 09, 3:42 am
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Originally Posted by Tuneman1984 View Post
Very true. What I was getting at, is if the OP is offered a Charger for $20/day more, then can reply "Oh okay, so as a Bluechip I get 50% off that for $10 then, I'll take it." If the agent doesn't mention the 50% scheme, then it should be for the OP's taking. If they say "Normally it's $70 per day to upgrade to this PT Cruiser, but you get 50% off!" then the OP should keep negotiating, naturally.
Don't know how widely known the policy is, though, so such usage may get the OP laughed at by the sales agent.

I did find the official verbiage, though, so the OP could print this and bring it along:

50% off Upgrade Rates *
Blue Chip Members receive 50% off any upgrade. The next time you are picking up your rental, save money AND go for luxury by upgrading from your standard rental choice. Just Ask your Blue Chip Rental Counter Agent what is available – they’ll be happy to accommodate your request! It’s just that simple.*(This benefit is in conjunction with non-corporate / non-government rentals.)
(From https://www.thrifty.com/bluechip/index.aspx)
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Old Oct 27, 09, 4:40 pm
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Ok, I'm back, here's what happened...

First of all, MDW is a zoo (my first time there) - cramped old garage, get there and several people are standing around, some to pick up a car, some to drop off their keys, etc. One harried woman is doing it ALL, incoming and outgoing, so when it was my turn I said "boy, they have you running around today, don't they?" she says "yeah, it's been awful"...they I asked "do you have something nice for me to today?" and she says "all our cars our nice (lowers her voice) except for the crappy calibers...but I've got a brand new KIA Optima for you, you're the first person to have it." She said it was a midsize, I've never driven a KIA but it looked fine, like everyone would fit, so I was happy. They had a lot of these big station-wagon things, not mini vans, I don't know what they were, but that would have been bad with the big step up for the seniors so everything worked out. BUT GET THIS...one of the seniors was not able to go, so we ended up with only 4 people anyway, so everything was fine.

Now I've got another problem with Thrifty coming up next month - our daughter, sil and grandson have just decided to come with us to visit grandma, so now we WANT a mini-van and have a midsize booked (minivans are VERY high in PHX for that trip) so I am going to use a lot of the hints posted above and some others, too. Thanks again all.
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Old Oct 27, 09, 8:53 pm
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Originally Posted by Eujeanie View Post
Ok, I'm back, here's what happened...

First of all, MDW is a zoo (my first time there) - cramped old garage, get there and several people are standing around, some to pick up a car, some to drop off their keys, etc. One harried woman is doing it ALL, incoming and outgoing, so when it was my turn I said "boy, they have you running around today, don't they?" she says "yeah, it's been awful"...they I asked "do you have something nice for me to today?" and she says "all our cars our nice (lowers her voice) except for the crappy calibers...but I've got a brand new KIA Optima for you, you're the first person to have it." She said it was a midsize, I've never driven a KIA but it looked fine, like everyone would fit, so I was happy. They had a lot of these big station-wagon things, not mini vans, I don't know what they were, but that would have been bad with the big step up for the seniors so everything worked out. BUT GET THIS...one of the seniors was not able to go, so we ended up with only 4 people anyway, so everything was fine.

Now I've got another problem with Thrifty coming up next month - our daughter, sil and grandson have just decided to come with us to visit grandma, so now we WANT a mini-van and have a midsize booked (minivans are VERY high in PHX for that trip) so I am going to use a lot of the hints posted above and some others, too. Thanks again all.
Glad it all worked out! Haven't driven the Optima, but it seems like a good size, not too large to maneuver around but big enough to fit everyone comfortably.
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