My biggest challenge when I’m writing for the world’s leading website of car rental comparison is that I’m not well-traveled. Sure, I’ve been a tourist in different countries and driven thousands of miles for concerts, sporting events, and family vacations. But to be honest, I’ve never been much of a travel expert!
So when the opportunity presented itself – to travel to Orlando, Florida and meet VroomVroomVroom Director and CEO Mike Boyd last month – I jumped at the chance! What’s not to love about a trip to the Sunshine State and the chance to meet someone brilliant who I only knew via email? It was a real honor, but then again, flying and fighting the crowds going to Disney World at Orlando International Airport weren’t high on my Bucket List. I suggested that I rent a car and drive. After assuring my supervisor a few times that I wasn’t crazy and that it would make a good topic for the Car Rental blog, the company agreed and I started planning.
Using the site to save money
VroomVroomVroom really is the quick and easy way to book a rental car. I live in a suburb near Knoxville, Tennessee, which – although home to some 180 thousand people – doesn’t even rank as one of the Top 100 most populated cities in the U.S. But with Vroom, it’s no problem at all to compare prices from 7 national car rental brands, with 21 pickup locations in Knoxville. (In some of the larger markets, we compare 12 brands!)
Using what I’ve learned from the car rental experts of VroomVroomVroom, I knew to book early – I had about 5 weeks until my trip – and I carefully considered renting at the Knoxville airport or somewhere in the city. It’s often much less expensive if you can pay (or bum) a ride to rent away from the airport, because taxes and fees that the airports charge the rental companies are passed on to customers. (And needing someone to chauffeur me around the city? That’s why I got married!)
As expected, it was over $38.00 cheaper to rent a small SUV from an Enterprise location about 15 minutes into the city, compared to the best rate for the same vehicle class at the airport. That was almost $13 a day less! Not to mention the satisfaction of knowing that I got a better deal versus the other national brands for the days I would need the car!
Knowing that our family car insurance policy extends our coverage to me even when I’m driving a rental car – another important tip I’ve learned to check from VroomVroomVroom – I also knew that I wouldn’t need any optional coverage from Enterprise.
Within minutes, my rental car was reserved and I knew an exact, total price that Enterprise would charge. I didn’t have to enter my credit card info to book, and I received a confirmation email and a text message to my cell phone instantly.
Picking up the rental car
Cold winds and a bizarre April snow flurry were in the air when I arrived at Enterprise the afternoon before my trip. I encountered the first – and only – problem I had with renting the car. They didn’t have an SUV available to fulfill my reservation. But the gentleman and lady at the counter offered a free upgrade to a larger model. Not an upsell, and not an attempt to persuade me to accept anything less than what I reserved. Because I had booked in advance, didn’t need to leave immediately, and wanted a specific size of vehicle, they happily offered to rent a returning vehicle. Much to my wife’s dismay, I had no problem with that. She returned me to Enterprise after a short wait, and I received an SUV.
It was still an upgrade. The lady who had helped me earlier smiled and said, “It’s been crazy today. But I hid the keys for you… have you seen the new Chevy Traverse?” I told her no, and she drove it around the building to the pick-up lane. She got out and handed me the keys, adding “It even has those cool cameras when you’re backing up the SUV.”
Then we did the walk-around to check the SUV for any damages. Although the lady was friendly, helpful and nice, VroomVroomVroom has also taught me to accompany the company representative when they inspect for damage, and to point out any damage before signing the paperwork. There was no damage on the almost brand-new vehicle. I declined the additional insurance coverage she offered and happily signed. Printed at the bottom of the page was the impressively cheap, total price that I had been promised when I booked with Enterprise using VroomVroomVroom!
For the next 3 days, the 2014 Chevrolet Traverse and I were going on an adventure!
Sunny Florida, and how to sell more cider
Orlando and its northern suburbs were gorgeous. Although it had been snowing in Tennessee, and bitterly cold as I passed through Atlanta, Georgia, the state of Florida was – as it always seems to be – enjoying perfect Spring weather! I checked into my hotel room, did some souvenir shopping, and drove my rental car to meet Mike Boyd and his lovely wife in Winter Park, a Northern suburb of Orlando. We had dinner at an amazing restaurant called Prato, and talked for a couple of hours about the travel industry, rental cars, and opportunities for VroomVroomVroom in 2014.
Driving my rental car home from Orlando was fun, although who wants to leave sun-drenched Central Florida? I stopped at a roadside fruit stand near the Florida-Georgia state line, intending to buy some delicious, fresh pecans for my wife and sister-in-law. I was greeted as I walked inside by an elderly man, who seemed to suffer from poor eyesight. He gave me a sample slice of a delicious Florida orange. I thanked him, and he kindly handed me a paper towel to wipe the juice from my fingertips. Browsing through the stand, I found some locally bottled peach cider. At $9.00, I thought it best to only take one bottle home. I was looking at a display of $0.99 pecan log rolls when the elderly man shuffled over, carrying 2 more bottles of the cider. “I’ll sell you 3 for $25.00,” he suggested. Honestly feeling pity for this hard-working old timer, I agreed, and placed all of the bottles on the counter along with 2 pecan log rolls as snack fuel for the remaining drive home. The cashier started to total my purchase, when the old man dropped 3 more pecan log rolls on the counter. “5 for $5.00,” he suggested. I sighed, smiled at him, and thanked him.
I drove away in my fancy 2014 Chevrolet Traverse rental car, realizing that the elderly man with poor eyesight saw me coming a mile away!
A Good Friday return
When I returned to Knoxville to drop off the rental car, by pure luck, I was able to meet and discuss my car rental with David Ellis, the Area Rental Manager for Alamo/Enterprise/National in Knoxville. It was Good Friday, and he was quite the character, as you can see from the photo my wife took of us. Mr. Ellis was in the office to give some tasty, fresh snacks to his employees, and he explained to us that he enjoys dressing up for each holiday!
One of the best parts of writing for VroomVroomVroom is that we’re always learning about the ways our customers can save money – and avoid problems – when renting a car. To put the principles to work that we share regularly with travelers in the U.S., Canada, the U.K., Australia, New Zealand, and elsewhere was a cool and rewarding experience for me.
Jason Dickson is a Content Writer and a car rental expert at VroomVroomVroom. His wife will be unhappy that he used the description “chauffeur”.