The Truth About Cars » Rent The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Sun, 27 Jul 2014 14:03:49 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Rent Rental Car Review: 2014 Camaro Convertible Fri, 24 Jan 2014 14:00:26 +0000 camaro-egg-door

My rental car got egged! This was a new one for me. It all began when …

I had to fly out for a one-day meeting in beautiful Silicon Valley, Northern California. I arrived the day before my meeting and showed up at Hertz, where I’d asked for a generic mid-sized car and they gave me… (drum roll please) a Jeep Liberty. Yawn. I wandered back to the “Gold Choice” area to see if I could do any better, but nothing seemed worth the bother. But right next door was the “Upgrades” section. As I stood there, staring at the Mercedes and Porsche, a helpful saleswoman came up and started fast talking me. Business or pleasure? Want something really fun? How about the Cayman? Yours for only an extra $300/day. Too much money? How about this Mercedes SLK convertible? Nice supercharger. Only an extra $150/day, such a deal!

What I really wanted was a Mazda MX-5 Miata. I was only staying one night, so I had just one small bag. The mid-60′s weather screamed convertible, and I wasn’t going to be doing anything fancier than driving 20 miles to my meeting. I ultimately zeroed in on this convertible Camaro. For $50/day extra, above the $100/day price I was already paying, it seemed reasonable. Something kinda fun, even if it is the base V6. Sure, let’s do it.


I’ve driven a bunch of GM rentals over the past few months, so I’m starting to know my way around the latest in GM parts bin engineering. The driver information screen in the gauge cluster shows up on all sorts of GM cars. The turn signal indicator has a twist knob and press button that lets you scroll through all the viewing options. (Grumble: a Buick Verano I rented last month was exactly the same as this Camaro, but a Chevy Equinox I also had last month lacked the turn-signal twist/press and instead had corresponding buttons non-intuitively located in the center stack below the cabin air controls.)


GM’s Bluetooth these days is relatively straightforward to set up and does all the latest A2DP music and album art. Watch out, though, if you’re on a limited data plan. The Camaro told my phone to start playing music, which then started chewing up my data plan via Pandora, even though I was listening to NPR on the FM radio. Still, GM specified decent speakers. For cars at this price point, it’s safely above average in sound quality.


I mostly drove with the top down, and I’m pleased to report that the Camaro got something decidedly right: cabin heating. There’s a vent above your left knee that you can point anywhere, keeping you comfortable even at freeway speeds. This is far better than many of the older Mustang convertibles I’ve rented over the years, which would happily cook your feet without doing anything for the rest of you.


I had few opportunities to floor it or otherwise exercise the engine, but I’d say the performance is about what you’d expect from the ubiquitous two-liter turbo fours that are all the rage in the European cars, and the Camaro’s engine runs on regular gas. Overall mileage in mostly freeway, relatively sedate driving, was an indicated 25.4mpg. In comparable driving with a modern turbo two liter, I’d expect more like 27-29mpg.


Too many GM cars these days still have tiny buttons that are hard to press, but the Camaro has two big, chunky knobs for cabin air and temperature. Nice! The buttons next to the screen have no tactile feel to them, though, so you can’t press them easily without looking. Bummer.


As you can see, the trunk space, particularly with the top down, is limited. I can somehow hear Jeremy Clarkson intoning, “See this? It has room… for a bag.”


But what about that egging? Well, I spent the night at a friend’s house in Los Altos, a nice part of town. The Camaro was parked on the street. In the morning? Eggs. Probably half a dozen of them. Honestly, I’m a bit baffled. Does this represent a protest against the overweight excesses of GM engineering? Would they have left a Prius alone? Did I merely park in somebody’s favorite spot? Are we talking about Los Altos gang activity? Does Justin Bieber live around here? Were the eggs free range, and what’s the effect of high Omega-3 fatty acids on the clearcoat? Did they also stuff my tailpipe with Lululemon yoga pants and quinoa granola?


Parking on the mean streets of Los Altos.

The last thing I wanted was to have Hertz charge me a mint to clean up after Los Cholos Altos, so I took the Camaro promptly to a nearby car wash. To a man, everybody there was grossed out. Clearly, they’d dealt with this sort of sticky muck before. It ultimately took two passes through the machine (including a dude with a high pressure spray wand), but all the egg residue came off. When I returned it, I felt obligated to tell Hertz what happened. The lady noted that the car had an eggy smell (I didn’t smell a thing), but charged me the expected price and I was off for my flight home.


Overall, you could buy a Camaro like this (as best I can tell, it’s a 1LT convertible plus the automatic transmission, although I think the frameless rear view mirror is an upgrade item) for $32,735 (MSRP). A base-level MX-5 Miata is $26,775. Curiously, if you take the top-of-the-line Miata (folding hard top “GT”) and add the “premium package”, you also end up facing an MSRP of exactly the same $32,735. If you need the token back seats, the Camaro is your winner. It’s also apparently a little bit faster in 0-60, but if you care about that, you’re spending the extra bucks and buying the V8 (or souping up a Miata, or buying a used S2000, or…). On the other hand, the Miata gets better mileage, is easier to maneuver and park in tight quarters, and has its own SCCA racing series if you’re so inclined. If Hertz gave me the choice, rental Miata vs. rental Camaro, at the same price, I’d have the Miata every time. If I were shopping for a toy car, along with the fantasy garage large enough to hold it and our daily drivers (sigh), then I’d almost certainly buy the Miata as well.


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Peer-to-peer car sharing services found lacking in substantial liability coverage Thu, 17 Oct 2013 11:00:45 +0000 Car2Go in Seattle

In cities where owning a car can be a pain (New York, Boston, Seattle), drivers are opting instead to share vehicles with other drivers, with companies such as ZipCar, Car2Go, RelayRides et al offering their services to help the public get around. All anyone needs beyond the basics is a subscription to the car-sharing service, a reservation, and a drop-off location when they are finished with their errands. Even big-name rental car companies like Enterprise and Hertz are jumping into the new business model for a test drive, Avis having gone the farthest by purchasing ZipCar in January of 2013.

However, the insurance offered by these peer-to-peer rental companies might not all that it’s cracked up to be, with severe consequences should anything remotely catastrophic occur.

Forbes illustrates the problem with the liability insurance offered to subscribers of car-sharing services: An accident that left one driver dead and four others injured in Boston back in early 2012 led to a lawsuit between the four survivors against the estate of the deceased driver, the car’s owner, and RelayRides; the case was eventually settled out of court for an undisclosed amount. With the exceptions of California, Oregon and Washington, automotive insurance polices have not caught up with this new industry, leading to most states offering only the barest of liability coverage, and to potential disasters such as the example given in the article.

Should you find yourself wanting to take part in peer-to-peer car sharing, in particular the kind involving renting out your own vehicle instead of one from an established car-sharing fleet (RelayRides is of the former, for example), Forbes recommends you take out supplemental coverage of $100,000 each for bodily injury and property damage, and $300,000 per accident, with high net-worth individuals taking out more to protect themselves and their assets. In fact, no matter what happens, you may end up needing to bulk up the inadequate coverage no matter the situation. Either that, or stick to the maxim “neither a lender nor a borrower be” when it comes to car sharing.

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Drive After Sandy: Sorry, No Cars Wed, 21 Nov 2012 12:49:46 +0000

Still car-less after Sandy? Thinking of buying a used one? Or rent one over the Thanksgiving weekend? Good luck.

Car rental lots in the Northeast are wiped clean, despite rental companies trucking in thousands of cars, ABC reports.  Mass transit problems, storm loss at rental companies, and a spike in from insurance claims merged with the usual holiday demand and created a perfect storm at rental counters.  “The probability of securing a car for travel over Thanksgiving weekend is slim,”a Hertz spokesperson told Transportation Nation. Pretty much the only wheels available are on moving vans.

If you are really desperate, you may be considering buying instead of renting. It will cost you. Already high used car prices could jump by $700 to $1,000 on some models, says the Wall Street Journal, while incentives for new cars are melting away.

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Beater Edition: Rent, Lease, Sell or Keep Fri, 25 May 2012 13:12:38 +0000

A 1997 Ford Escort is not exactly a rolling testament to the dreams of auto enthusiasts.

But for $300, it beats the ever loving snot out of a Schwinn.

This LX model was a trade-in from one of my customers. Did I rip them off? No. Not at all. One of the cylinders was dead. The interior was as dirty as Hugh Hefner’s mind, and with 221k miles coupled with a 5-speed, it wasn’t about to go on the front line.

But where should I put it?

Rent: Yes, people like small cars and you can always give a good detail to any dirty car. But 5-speeds? I did offer one, and only one, as a rental back in the day. It was a 1995 or 1996 Geo Prizm. I would only rent it out to older folks and would sit with them for a long test drive around town before letting it be sent out. Just to make sure that they knew what they were doing. It worked out real well. But unless I replaced the engine on this Escort, the rental idea would be a non-starter.

A small car like this would typically rent for $20 a day or $105 for a week. Miles don’t matter. Fuel economy certainly does in a semi-rural Southern town where folks have more distance to drive than money in their pocket. So it is possible to make this a rental. Except for one thing.

Lease: A good engine for these things is about as tough to find as a popular American car in South Korea. An inordinate number of these Escorts end up having engine problems between the 120k to 150k mark. Why?

Click here to view the embedded video.

The Escort has an unusually high compression ratio  for an economy car. A low tolerance for bad gas, and an engine diagnostic system which is pretty much the worst I’ve seen in OBDII history. In short, these engines don’t last unless you put at least 89 octane in them and ‘listen’ for issues. This particular one had no check engine light blinking even though cylinder one is now more defunct than an old parrot in a Monty Python sketch.

Lease? $500 down and $50 a week once the repairs are done. But only if I could find a good engine with a prancing unicorn next to it.

Sell: Perhaps, but to who?

There are three types of prospective beater buyers. The ‘cheap keeper’. The ‘cheap flipper’ who would try to nickel you down even if you were selling the car for fifty cents. And the ‘cheap old guy’ who really isn’t in the market for a car at all. But wants to call you up anyway and share stories about his once great ride.

The cheap keeper will sometimes have what I call Craigslist issues. For example, the title of your ad can read.


And the top three questions you will likely get are…

1) Is it a stick?

2) How many owners?

3) Does it need repairs?

if you live in a major city you will also get…

4) Can it pass emissions?

This is where it pays to know someone who already has a good use for this type of vehicle. In my case, I have a friend who owns one of the largest junkyards in the state. Since all the doors and interior components are in good shape, he will likely get a decent return out of it. I also know a few mechanics who are always looking for a cheap ride for the wife, ex-wife, daughter, son, or the friends they play poker with on Friday nights.

I can sell it quick for $450.

Keep:  How cheap am I? Not at all these days. I used to always drive the most fuel efficient car on the lot or the ‘wore out mop’ that I bought for a low price. These days the small things start to get to me pretty quick. My commute may only be all of 5 minutes when I’m not heading to the auctions or other dealerships to load up on cars. But I have found that driving a car that encourages conversation can offer returns far greater than a wore out beater. The 1st Gen Insight will stay due to it’s popularity. This Escort needs to be gone.

So should I fix and rent it? Pray for unicorns and lease it to a stick smart buyer?  Sell it to the more gritty elements of automotive commerce? Or keep it as a rolling version of chick repellent?

What says you?

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Rent, Lease Sell or Keep: 2001 Cadillac Deville Mon, 10 Oct 2011 16:52:52 +0000
I buy a lot of cars from the last week of September thru mid-November. This is a dead zone for the dealer side of the business. We have no major holidays that encourage spending. No Christmas bonuses or tax reasons to spur demand. Plus a lot of the auto finance companies try to liquidate their used inventory so that they can hit their earnings for the year.
A lot gets sold and if you’re quick about it, deals can be found.
This 2001 Cadillac Deville was a dealer queen since day one. ‘Engine needs service’ was on the announcements and a Carfax check revealed 28 visits to the dealership; from oil changes to new struts for the front. I like seeing a long dealership history because it reflects a car that was spared little expense during its time of ownership… and Cadillacs aren’t cheap to keep.

A quick call to the local dealership also lead to my discovering that it needed a front 02 sensor for the ‘Service Engine Soon’ light. I test drove it at the auction for about ten minutes. Let it idle for about a half hour. It was perfect. Buyers are often scared of Cadillacs due to the head gasket blowing nature of the Northstar and the temperamental electronics of these beasts. It leads to serious discounting at the auction. A $2400 bid was all it took to buy this loaded up Deville with 129k miles.

The deal was done. So should I….

Rent: Cadillac Devilles were in abundance at Enterprise Rent-A-Car and Avis for a very long time. GM’s pre-bankruptcy desire to stack them high and discount deep played a big role in this. But there were other attributes that made the Deville a worthwhile rental queen.

For a ‘new’ luxury car, these vehicles were supposedly among the lowest cost for ownership. The Northstar only needed 87 octane. Fuel economy was better than with the Panther vehicles. Most maintenance items didn’t need to be touched during the first several years of ownership. Plus… they were excellent road cars that attracted an older clientele who were willing to pay a premium for luxury.


As a ten year old luxury car the sweet spot on this Deville likely would yield me around $30 a day in the Atlanta ex-urbs. Except for one small thing. No one wants luxury cars with big V8’s to rent these days. If they are headed out of town with family and friends, the minivan will win ten times out of ten. Devilles, Town Cars and Roadmasters have all sat on the lot while the Grand Caravans, Previas and Odysseys pulled the brunt of the rental duties.

This vehicle will not work as a rental.

Finance: Is the sweet spot for well kept Caddies… so long as they hold up. Devilles tend to attract older and more mature folks. Since the intake manifold has already been replaced and the coolant has been regularly serviced, this particular Deville would be perfect for a finance deal.

$1000 down, $70 a week for 24 months. Yes this does represent a strong profit. But there’s also a lot of risk involved as well. A lost job. A major repair issue. Buyers who are liars. Dropped insurance followed by a severe accident. All of these risks and plenty of others lead to serious price premiums whenever you tote a note.

As a consumer with good credit you can easily find better deals. But if you have cost someone thousands of dollars, especially more than once, the finance markets handicap that risk to the point where many simply won’t want to deal with you at all. In my experiences, this vehicle is priced right for the market I serve.

Sell: This dealer kept Deville would likely sell in the $4500 to $5000 range.  Customers love it when you can authentic the maintenance history of a car since day one, and this is one of the very few that offers this edge. In the real world having this information can add anywhere from 15% to 30% towards the bottom line.

The bad side of selling a car like this  is that due to all the rental Devilles that have been unloaded by rental companies through the years, this one will very likely be lost in the shuffle. Just like the minivan market, there is a severe imbalance between the plentiful supply of V8 luxury sedans, and the demand for what’s seen as a gas guzzler for old  or ‘unhip’ people. Yes you can hit the mid-20’s miles per gallon and upwards with a light foot. However today’s buyers of big cars want SUV’s. Most of which get even worse mileage.

Yes, it’s a strange world these days.

Keep: If I were constantly on the highways keeping would definitely be a consideration. The Deville offers a lot of quiet and exceptional comfort for not a lot of money. In fact several of my friends drive them on a regular basis due in part to the fact that you can buy a good one for not too much more than a Crown Vic or Grand Marquis.

Heck, they’re even pretty close in price to the Corollas at the auctions. People ‘pay’ for finance fodder and the Toyondas get absolutely obscene prices these days.  Last generation old school Caddies are the exact opposite, which makes many of them worthy companions for the long haul.


This particular Deville though is a rolling profit of anywhere between $1500 and $5000 for me… and the long-term maintenance on it may go anywhere between those two numbers. These models can be buggy bastards and so I probably don’t want to keep it.

My world as a dealer is far different than your world as consumers. So what would you do? Rent it and heavily market your rides to the ‘Early Bird Special’ crowd? Finance it and roll the dice of risk or return? Sell it for the quick profit and move on? Or keep it so that you can always ride in Cadillac style.

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Rent Out Your Car Via Onstar Wed, 05 Oct 2011 23:21:10 +0000

Onstar may have been pressured by privacy activists into dropping changes to its terms of service, but the telematics service is still betting that people want to be more connected than ever. So much so that it’s going offer a service allowing you to rent your car out to strangers.

A GM press release explains

RelayRides allows vehicle owners to choose to rent out their idle vehicles, with the owner controlling the rates and availability of the car. RelayRides provides an online marketplace and a $1 million insurance policy to make the transaction safe and convenient.

Through innovative technology integration, RelayRides will leverage OnStar to allow RelayRides borrowers to unlock GM cars with their mobile phones. For vehicles that are not OnStar enabled, RelayRides must install a small device in the car to provide convenient access to borrowers. The integration makes all eligible OnStar vehicles immediately “RelayRides ready” without having to install additional hardware…

RelayRides will leverage OnStar technology through a mobile application to allow customers to check for available vehicles, make a online reservation online as well as check future reservations, locate their reserved vehicle via GPS and lock and unlock the vehicle, all through their smart phone.

And GM isn’t just mating its Onstar technology to the “peer-to-peer” car sharing program (which is still only available in San Francisco and Boston), its VC arm GM Ventures “is in advanced discussions with RelayRides about an investment in the company as part of GM’s overall commitment to addressing urban mobility issues.” Car sharing programs have become a big trend in the automotive industry, with Daimler, BMW, Toyota and others jumping on the bandwagon in some form or other. But as might be expected from the company that brought us the Volt, rather than surf the trend, GM is going one step further by leading the industry into the peer-to-peer rental space. And as with all of these investments, it’s tough to see how this makes sense in the long term. In the short term though, at least this might “get butts into seats,” something GM execs say is the key to overcoming what they call “outdated perceptions” of GM products.

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Are You Ready For: Peer-To-Peer Car Rentals? Wed, 08 Jun 2011 15:41:35 +0000

With car sharing on the rise, my home state of Oregon is moving towards changing insurance rules to allow private “peer to peer” rentals by auto owners. The Oregonian reports that HB 3149 is headed for the Governor’s desk, having been approved by the state House and Senate. Sponsor Rep Ben Cannon explains

Most insurance policies prohibit people from using their cars for commercial purposes. This bill says someone can participate in car sharing without having to worry that their insurance will be canceled.

California is the only other state to have passed such legislation, and already Facebook-based peer-to-peer car rental firms like Getaround have popped up to fill the demand. With average car ownership costs reaching $8,000 per year according to the AAA, Cannon argues that research showing that cars sit parked for 90% of their lives proves the need for more car-sharing flexibility. And established car-sharing firms like Zipcar, which operate their own fleets don’t feel threatened by the bill, as they are not expanding beyond urban cores and as Zipcar’s CEO puts it, peer-to-peer rentals validate the car-sharing model. But would you rent your car to a stranger?

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BMW Seeks A Million New… Rentals? Tue, 22 Mar 2011 21:40:02 +0000

Think BMW sells a lot of cars in the US? The German automaker may have registered nearly 20,000 “sales” in the US last month, but according to the analysts at Polk, over 50 percent of its “sales” in 2010 were actually leases. No wonder BMW’s best-seller, the Dreier (3 Series), occupies a nearly unique position on the price-volume frontier. And apparently BMW will continue to look to non-sales for future sales growth, as Automotive News [sub] reports the firm has launched a new car-sharing joint venture in Europe aimed at bringing in a million new customers by 2020. The pitch: sleek new Bavarian metal, as well as the ability to pick up and drop off vehicles anywhere, thanks to smartphone vehicle tracking. But the biggest pitch, say BMW sources, is to people who would never buy a new BMW… or even lease one. And they’re not just talking about poor folks either…

According to BMW sales and marketing chief Ian Robertson, the joint venture with German car rental giant Sixt isn’t so much about gaining new sales but about reaching urban consumers who are no longer choosing to own an automobile. In short, we’re looking at the endgame for automakers in mature markets: whereas leases are a good way to bring more buyers into the luxury brand they desire, this is about reaching well-off customers who simply are no longer interested in owning cars for a number of financial, environmental, and congestion-related reasons. BMW now joins Peugeot and Daimler in offering car-sharing programs in Europe, as consultants Frost & Sullivan project that by 2016, some 5.5 million Europeans and 4.4 million North Americans will use car sharing programs. At least in the dense urban cities of the developed world, car ownership is starting to sound so last century…

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The Ugly Truth About Rental Car Recalls Sun, 27 Feb 2011 16:23:15 +0000

Back in November, NHTSA announced that it was investigating how long it took for rental cars to be repaired under recall, saying

NHTSA understands that there is presently a petition before the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) seeking to prohibit at least one rental car company from renting vehicles on which safety recall campaign remedies remain outstanding.

Because only vehicles made by the Detroit Three are under investigation, they are the only firms who have been asked to disclose how long it takes rental fleets to repair their vehicles. And, according to the Detroit News

GM and Chrysler told NHTSA this week that 30 days after a recall — 10 to 30 percent of vehicles sold to rental car companies had been repaired.

By 90 days, it had improved to about 30 percent and within a year, the number had improved to 50 percent or higher.

Ford did not make its data public, citing the fact that the release of the information could damage it is relationship with rental car companies and result in “decreased sales of motor vehicles to rental car fleets.”

Rental car companies are not legally required to complete recalls before they rent the cars to customers.


It turns out that the FTC petition was filed by the Ralph Nader-founded Center for Automotive Safety, which sought to force Enterprise Rent-A-Car to repair its recalled vehicles before renting them out. The petition stems from an incident in which two women died in an unrecalled PT Cruiser that caught fire. But, argue rental car firm advocates, targeting rental fleet recall compliance just isn’t fair.

Bob Barton, president of the American Car Rental Association noted, that hundreds of recalls and service bulletins affecting millions of vehicles in North America are issued annually.

“In most cases, members place a ‘hold’ on recalled vehicles so they are not rented until the recall work is completed,” he said.

Because rental cars move around so much it can take weeks or months for the company to find out a model has been recalled, thus taking much longer for repairs to be done, advocates said.

Rental car companies generally have better repair rates than consumers, who often fail to get recalled vehicles fixed.

But then, consumers who experience defects because they do not service their recalled vehicles have only themselves to blame. Consumers who rent vehicles, on the other hand. should probably be able to expect them to be free of dangerous defects. If nothing else, complying quickly with recall repairs would help rental fleet owners avoid legal liability. Still, current laws only prevent rental fleets from selling unrepaired recaled vehicles… there are no current laws requiring fleet owners or private consumers from repairing recalled vehicles. NHTSA’s investigation into the matter is ongoing.

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