J.D. Power: Car Rental Satisfaction Rises, Enterprise Again Tops List - Business Travel News

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J.D. Power: Car Rental Satisfaction Rises, Enterprise Again Tops List

November 16, 2010 - 03:40 PM ET

By Jay Boehmer

Travelers for the seventh consecutive year rated Enterprise Rent-A-Car the top rental car brand, according to J.D. Power and Associates' 2010 U.S. Car Rental Satisfaction Study, released on Tuesday. Customer satisfaction scores improved from last year for all rental car brands covered by the report.

The average rental car score this year grew to 750 on a 1,000-point scale from a 733 average in 2009 as satisfaction with costs and fees, reservations and pick-up and shuttle service hit three-year highs.

"Satisfaction has snapped back to levels not seen since before the downturn two years ago," said Stuart Greif, vice president of the J.D. Power travel practice, "and this has been broad-based, with both business and leisure customers."

Greif said "business travelers tend to be tougher graders, but they also tend to be more loyal."

Business travelers indeed were harder on rental car suppliers than their leisure traveler counterparts. The overall satisfaction score this year would have been 738 if J.D. Power looked only at their responses, which comprised about 43 percent of the 11,500 evaluations on which the survey is based. The aggregate score among leisure travelers was 759.

While overall satisfaction largely has returned to 2007 levels, business travelers in particular still rate rental car supplier performance slightly lower than before the recession. In 2006, business customers gave rental car companies an average score of 758, which fell to 740 in 2007. "Then, in the past two years, it really dropped with the recession," Greif said, "In 2008, it was 720, and in 2009, it came up just a little bit to 724. This year, it came back to 738—close to the 2007 level."

Still, Greif noted that segmenting respondents by business customers only would not change the overall rankings in this year's study. "When it comes to the business segment, Enterprise, National and Hertz are in the same order in terms of satisfaction," he said.

Finishing after Enterprise's industry-leading 786 score, based on all respondents, Enterprise's National brand came in second place with 767, followed by Hertz's 762. The remaining players fell below the industry's 750 average, with Thrifty's 713 score firmly at the bottom.

"National does particularly well among the business customers," Greif said, "and Hertz does particularly well among leisure customers. When you look at performance of customers in member programs—those that might have expedited services when they bypass the counter—Alamo, which doesn't rank as highly overall, does particularly well with its members, following just behind Enterprise roughly in terms of satisfaction." Alamo's overall score, 749, fell just below the industry average.

Fielded in September and October, the survey measured on-airport car rental vendors based on costs and fees, the pick-up process, the vehicle, the return process, the reservations process and shuttle or van service to and from the airport.

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