Car Rentals: Are You Offered SUVs More than Ever Before?

This is completely anecdotal, but a number of people have mentioned to me lately that they have rented a small car only to have the car rental company offer them an SUV for no additional fee when they get to the counter.  My wife had this happen last night at Enterprise and when she balked about the extra gas, they said she only needed to return it half full (well done, Enterprise).  I’m curious – has anyone else seen an increase in SUV upgrades?


  1. I’ve turned down some free upgrades this summer — I wanted the fuel economy and didn’t need the larger car. I’ve also chatted up some car rental agents to ask them whether folks were declining free upgrades. Some said they were, some said they weren’t.

    FWIW, I try to avoid getting the Pontiac G6, which seems to get horrible mileage for its size. The best small car to rent is probably the Toyota Corolla — I could actually imagine owning one. The Ford Focus is a plausible vehicle, by the ride is mediocre.

  2. Outer Space Guy

    I always decline upgrades; I even have my Avis wizard profile include that comment in every reservation automatically.

    I’ve not rented an SUV ever. One time I turned it down on the grounds that Avis would need to indemnify me if I smashed anything as large as that SUV into anything else (I drive a small 2 door economy as my normal car). I honestly don’t think I could have even gotten that Suburban out of the rental car parking space without hitting another car…

    They also once tried to give my the Mommy-van. That also got turned down on the spot. They had to scramble, but they fond me something acceptable after I waited for 10 mins at their counter….

    Avis has now figured out that I’ll accept a compact even if I order a subcompact. Can’t argue with that one….

  3. Yep, at Newark two weeks ago, with Avis; and in Columbus Ohio a month ago. Up until this past week, though, I belonged to their First program for frequent renters, though, so that might have been involved(?)

    Who wants the extra gas tank to have to fill up?

    I remember seeing an article (in the Journal?) about how the rental car companies didn’t invest in fuel efficient cars in the past few years because the margins were higher on larger vehicles. And the major companies, Ford and GM, were trying to offload their larger vehicles through volume discounts. Sigh.

  4. Yes, I’ve had that happen a few times lately, almost always in places where an SUV seems rather silly.

    The most recent occurence was just this past Sunday at SFO, where I had reserved a mid-size (typically, I get a craptacular Chevy Mailbu) and got a Rav4 instead. Now, the RAV4 is much nicer than the Chevy, and the gas isn’t coming out of my pocket (I’m a business traveler, so it’s on the company dime), but still, I am just green enough to get a twinge of guilt over my wastefulness in driving something like that. I mean, who the heck needs 4-wheel drive in the SF Bay Area?