COSTA MESA, CALIF. – Travelers who rent a car and then combine business and leisure are by far the most satisfied with their rental car experience, according to the J.D. Power 2016 North America Rental Car Satisfaction Study.
The study finds that while overall satisfaction is higher among business travelers than among leisure travelers (with satisfaction index scores of 806 vs. 798 on a 1,000-point scale, respectively), satisfaction among “bleisure” travelers (836) – those whose travel is a combination of business and leisure – is the highest among the three groups. The data show this practice to be more pronounced among Gen Y renters (those born from 1977-1994), who have a growing presence in the rental car market. Cost and fees satisfaction among bleisure car renters is 43 points higher than among exclusive business renters and 49 points higher than among exclusive leisure renters.
“With such a big bump in satisfaction among ‘bleisure’ renters, it’s certainly worthwhile for rental car companies to take a closer look at ways to attract and accommodate these travelers, perhaps by providing an easy way to separate charges for the business days of the rental from the leisure days, making for easier expense reporting,” said Rick Garlick, global travel and hospitality practice lead at J.D. Power. “Appealing to bleisure travelers may help differentiate them from competitors, but it could also foster the growth amongst a new base of loyal customers.”
The study, now in its 21st year, measures overall customer satisfaction with rental cars at airport locations by examining six factors (listed in order of importance): cost and fees; pick-up process; return process; rental car; shuttle bus/van; and reservation process.
Overall rental car satisfaction averages 804 index points, a 6-point improvement from 2015. All of the ranked brands post at least some improvement in the cost and fees factor, continuing a dramatic upward trend over the past two years.
“Seeing steady improvements in cost and fees demonstrates that rental car companies are creating greater value for their customers through a combination of improved products and service,” said Garlick. “Stellar customer service at all touch points of the experience makes a difference for travelers in terms of choice, experience and loyalty. While there is always a segment of renters that cares only about which company provides the lowest price, high service levels drive both value and satisfaction for many customers.”
Rental Car Satisfaction Rankings
For a third consecutive year, Enterprise ranks highest in satisfaction among rental car companies, achieving an overall satisfaction index score of 830. Enterprise performs particularly well in all six study factors. Enterprise is followed in the rankings by National (813), Alamo (809) and Hertz (804).
Other Key Findings
- Consolidated Centers: The growing trend to consolidate rental car facilities to a single site does not appear to be impacting the rental car experience. The study finds that 32% of customers rented from a consolidated facility. Although brands have the opportunity to differentiate their service through their own branded facilities, customer satisfaction with their rental car experience is approximately the same for a consolidated site as it is for a branded site. However, shuttle bus/van satisfaction among renters who picked up from a consolidated site is 51 points higher than among those renting from a brand-operated site.
- Reported Problems on the Rise: The percentage of reported problems in the 2016 study is 21%, a substantial increase from just 14% in 2015. However, this high incidence is driven by many of the unranked brands included in the study. Among customers who experienced a problem, the highest increase in specific reported issues is related to optional equipment (e.g., GPS/navigation, satellite radio, and toll pass), in which the problem incidence increases to 16% this year from 10% in 2015.
- Satisfaction by Airport: Among the busiest airports in the United States, Dallas/Ft. Worth International (DFW), Fort Lauderdale Hollywood International (FLL), New York John F. Kennedy (JFK), and Miami International (MIA) perform particularly well in rental car satisfaction. Both Fort Lauderdale and Miami post substantial increases in satisfaction scores among travelers who rented there.
The 2016 North America Rental Car Satisfaction Study is based on responses gathered between September 2015 through August 2016 from more than 11,300 business and leisure travelers who rented a vehicle at an airport location from August 2015 through August 2016.
Enterprise, National and Alamo Brands Earn Top Three Spots
For the fifth year in a row, the Enterprise Rent-A-Car, National Car Rental and Alamo Rent A Car brands have secured the top three spots in the annual J.D. Power 2016 North American Rental Car Satisfaction Study. Enterprise Holdings, the world’s largest car rental company, owns all three car rental brands, which are operated through an integrated global network of 9,600 regional subsidiaries and franchise locations.
The Enterprise brand ranked highest in this year’s study and excelled in all six factors: costs and fees, pick-up process, rental car, return process, reservation process, and shuttle bus/van. This is the eleventh time that the Enterprise brand has received the highest score (in 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2012, 2014, 2015 and 2016). After Enterprise, the National brand ranked second and Alamo ranked third.
The annual 2016 study surveyed leisure and business travelers who rented vehicles at North American airports. Enterprise Holdings’ three car rental brands were the only ones to finish above the industry average.
“When we acquired National and Alamo in 2007, our airport market share in the U.S. accounted for approximately 28 percent,” said Christine Taylor, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of Enterprise Holdings Inc. “Today, our three car rental brands make up more than 37 percent of U.S. airport market share – a direct result of Enterprise, National and Alamo employees all coming together with a shared vision and a collective focus on customer service excellence.”
This kind of corporate culture – backed by a conservative, disciplined long-term approach to managing the business – has helped establish Enterprise Holdings as a world leader in the in the highly competitive car rental and travel industries. In fact, last week, Enterprise Holdings and its affiliate Enterprise Fleet Management announced results for fiscal year 2016 (ended July 31): total revenues grew by
8.1 percent to more than $20.9 billion and global fleet size increased to almost 1.9 million vehicles.
Leadership in the Airport Car Rental Market
During FY2016, Enterprise Holdings and its regional subsidiaries also continued to upgrade airport facilities and refresh vehicle makes and models throughout North American airports, with an average odometer reading of less than 14,000 miles and an age of about six months.
“We know delivering the best car rental service possible at the airport demands a consistent and superior effort on many fronts – and that includes investing in our infrastructure as well as our fleet,” Taylor noted. “Ground transportation options are more diverse than ever before, and we are proud to be able to offer the kind of transportation, service and reputation that both leisure and business travelers are looking for today.”
For example, Enterprise Holdings was awarded Best Fleet and Best International Car Rental from travAlliancemedia earlier this year. The Enterprise Rent-A-Car and National Car Rental brands also tied for highest customer experience among car rental companies in the 2016 Temkin Experience Ratings, and recently took home the top two spots for Travel + Leisure magazine’s World’s Best Awards in the car rental category. In addition, MONEY Magazine awarded Enterprise Rent-A-Car with its Platinum Best in Travel award, and Alamo Rent A Car with its Gold award. Enterprise Rent-A-Car also received the U.S. Travelers’ Choice Award from TripAdvisor.
“Our growth and recognition in the travel industry confirms that superior service and industry leadership go hand in hand,” Taylor said. “Every day, Enterprise, National and Alamo employees work hard to put customers first. And it sure shows.”