By on September 11, 2019

We’ve all been there at one time or another — standing in line at the counter of the rental car company. Perhaps you made a reservation in advance, perhaps not, but your fate was sealed the same when a class of vehicle was selected. From there, you were left in the hands of the person working the counter at Rental Car Incorporated.

Today we’re going to talk about the times you’ve lost at rental car roulette.

Your author has not rented that many cars in particular, but one in particular was much worse than the rest. The time was late October, 2017, and the place was Florida. The need was transportation around the St. Petersburg area — a short vacation after a work conference. Conference completed, I returned to the airport to pick up my rental, a “We Choose For You” class at Enterprise. It saves money, but the person at the counter picks a car for you.

The three options presented to me were bleak: A basic white Ford F-150 XL, a basic silver Nissan Frontier, or a shiny red Hyundai Accent. I knew I had some extensive driving to do. After a quick internal struggle, the fuel economy of a VQ40 and the size of a quad cab F-150 seemed less desirable than a small sedan. Accent, then.

The cheery red paint (photo of actual car) was full of orange peel, and the gray interior was unrelenting in its monochromatic attack on the ocular senses. It was equipped with only basic options, and lacked even Bluetooth connectivity on a 2017 model. I was none too impressed with my rental ride; then I exited the parking lot.

The ride around town was compliant enough, although the brakes were a bit mushy and, perhaps as expected, steering was numb. But at freeway speeds the Accent was not a pleasant place to be. The seat was not comfortable for long journeys, and the interior noise level was befitting a car from a different generation. The biggest problems by a mile, though, were the steering and suspension at highway speed. At speeds over 60 mph, the tiny sedan bounced around over undulations in the road and was hard to keep in a straight line. It seemed like the ultra-light steering effort at high speed went a little overboard and eliminated any on-center position. It was very tiring to drive for any distance due to the constant corrections required at the wheel. And since I had to handle it a lot, I noticed the thin steering wheel had a rough edge along its circumference. The cheap rubber was poorly finished.

I was never so glad to turn in a rental car. Unfortunately, I was forced to witness other people returning their Challengers and Sonatas with smiles on their faces and wondered what that sort of happiness might be like.

So tell us about your worst rental car stinker. Could it possibly be worse than a previous-gen Hyundai Accent?

[Images: Nissan, Corey Lewis]

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155 Comments on “QOTD: Losing at Rental Car Roulette?...”


  • avatar
    Pig_Iron

    Just a note in solemn remembrance 9/11.

    • 0 avatar
      Jon

      ___

    • 0 avatar

      One block away. When the towers fell, there was an amazing metallic “crunch”. I walked from City Hall to 87th street that day, about 6 miles…. Lost two friends-some things are better seen on TV. Saudis caused this, and have never been made to pay for it. I’d have nuked the oil refinery SA relies upon, a day later…..with no guilt….

      • 0 avatar
        macmcmacmac

        The Israelis were hip deep in it.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          Unfortunately its like the Kennedy Assassination, there are so many disparate facts piecing something accurate together is difficult. Personally, like Kennedy, I think there are multiple guilty parties of several nationalities.

      • 0 avatar
        ToddAtlasF1

        I was working at Bear Stearns in midtown that day. I walked home to 23rd street while military jets made low passes overhead. I wound up drinking at Dusk on 24th, talking to bartenders I knew. I said that we should nuke Saudi Arabia in the morning and just tell the rest of the terrorist world that the Saudis were our favorites, so keep at it if you want to see what else we’ll do. Some soy-dependent burst out in tears, said he didn’t want to think about the world having people like me in it and walked out. His female companion closed the bar with me that night while worrying about her first-responder father at the WTC.

        I didn’t know anyone well who died that day, which was somewhat remarkable considering my cubicle at DB moved to the WTC in 1999 and I documented a comm room redesign for NYBOT’s trading floor at 4 WTC within a year of the attack. I used to have a stack of the plastic photo ID badges that the WTC issued to visitors. Meanwhile, one of my buddies was a catastrophic claims adjuster at ITG across the street from the WTC. His ex-girlfriend from London just happened to be in town for a meeting on a high floor of one of the towers and was killed.

        It’s odd to think about what happened then, and how a large plurality of Americans didn’t allow it to inform their world views.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          I said something similar in the aftermath although I didn’t specifically name a target. Turning them to glass sure would have been fun but realistically if we had done that who would be there to pump the oil (specifically Ghawar)? I am disappointed such arms were not in limited use simply as a show of power but I suppose the Joint Chiefs felt MOAB was sufficient.

          Incidentally the last time they went to DEFCON 2 was in the early stages of the Gulf War. I suppose they were worried the Soviets might intervene? I can’t think of another good reason.

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DEFCON

        • 0 avatar
          bryanska

          “a large plurality of Americans didn’t allow it to inform their world views.”

          Really? I don’t think that would hold up to a poll. While they may not have reacted similarly to you, they each had a reaction. 9/11 has informed everyone’s world views.

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    I think the worst car I’ve rented was just a few weeks ago in Portland. I showed up at the Alamo lot to pick up a compact. Of course, they were out so we were “upgraded” to mid size. I walked over to the line and saw my choices: 4 Sentras or 1 Corolla. All of them were silver or gray. I’m pretty sure the lady helping us saw my face drop. Naturally I raced for the Corolla. The overarching theme of the entire trip was road noise. I’m over 40 and my ears are pretty shot, but it was so loud driving on the Portland highways that it hurt my ears. I don’t know if it has more to do with the road surface in the area or not, I didn’t ride in anything else while there, but certain roads were almost unbearable.

    Secondly the handling was really unpredictable. I didn’t expect much and my expectations we met. It felt really light in the back and I always felt like I was half a second behind when driving on some of the windy roads which would otherwise have been a lot of fun. I was constantly loading too much at harder bends. I realized several times that I had a death grip on the steering wheel and my hands wound up sore after longer trips.

    Really the only other complaint I’ve had with a rental was ~2012 Kia Optima which I could not get to track straight on the highway. Been fairly fortunate otherwise.

    • 0 avatar
      87 Morgan

      Weird.
      I rent a lot, and have a handful of dreadful experiences. One of the few that stands out was in 10′ or 11′ I think. I rented a car in Billings and had to drive down to through Sheridan WY to Casper WY I believe. I was assigned a green (why I remember the color I have no idea) Corolla at the rental counter. Worst. Car. Ever. It was loud, terrible at speeds over 70 mph (Wyoming is 75) and generally uncomfortable. Maybe the newer offerings are better, but talk about an overrated pile. Hack on GM all you want, but a Buick Century circa 2001 was a far better place to be for a drive lasting longer than 10 minutes as compared to a 10′ or 11′ Corolla.

      • 0 avatar
        crazyforwheels

        Recently my wife had to rent two cars on separate weekends.

        The first car was a 2019 Hyundia Elantra. This was a pleasant car, with low engine noise and wind noise, and pleasant seating. To top it off it gave excellent fuel mileage.

        Next weekend was a 2019 Corolla. Noisy, terrible steering control,a very cheap feel, and worse fuel mileage. It was like Toyota was 10 years behind the crowd.

      • 0 avatar
        SPPPP

        You guys got some bad cars, true.

        The 2009 refresh of the Corolla was a car that truly drove poorly. I detested that car.

        The 2012 Optima was known to have problems with the electronic steering pulling to one side, usually the left. https://www.optimaforums.com/threads/steering-pull-tsb-2011-2013.49057/

        The current Corolla seems decent to me.

    • 0 avatar
      Robotdawn

      This lack of on-center steering I’ve come to associate with almost all rental cars. I don’t know what it is, but whether it is a Camry, Corolla, Altima, Malibu or whatever, they all have this issue. They wander the road like drunken sailors and I don’t understand why. My car doesn’t do this. No car I’ve had this century has done this, why rental cars??
      Roads/Highways out west are much noisier than those back east. I think the lack of real weather allows them to use a coarser asphalt, and then to top it off they can lay it and not have to repave for 30 years.

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        Part of it is that fleet cars are often equipped with terrible tires. Another part is that the tires are often incorrectly inflated. Yet another part is that they are often out of alignment after getting bashed into curbs, etc.

        • 0 avatar
          TMA1

          I think Dal has a good point here. I rented a Malibu to drive across New Brunswick, and the car still had winter tires on the rear. And this was in July.

        • 0 avatar
          Robotdawn

          That’s a good point, the tires could have been anything, and I’d never use anything but matching. Also, I did notice one of the tires on the Rogue was at 49 PSI too.
          I noticed this because apparently you cannot get your actual speed to show in the middle screen on this car. What kind of idiot thought that was good design? Or if you can, what idiot decided to hide it so deep in menus I couldn’t find it in 20 minutes?

      • 0 avatar
        Land Ark

        The Kia was very predictable. It’s like the electric steering just didn’t have a center point. It would slowly drift to the left and I would turn the steering wheel right, no change, a little more, no change, a little more, too far now drifting right. Turn it left, a little more, a little more, too far heading left.
        I was driving in Arizona so the roads were dead straight for long distances so it was a constant dance to keep it in one lane.

      • 0 avatar
        HotPotato

        I’ve noticed this too. The worst I’ve ever experienced was a Chrysler 300C rental. Low miles on it too. Should have been a dream to drive, but that overboosted, overactive steering with zero self-centering made it hard to even keep in its lane on narrow LA freeways. I can’t imagine they’re all that bad, or nobody would ever buy one.

    • 0 avatar
      Mc Lean

      No doubt the car was an issue, but being Portland, one should expect terrible road surfaces. The local politburo has declared jihad on motor vehicles, and enforces it with third world quality roadways. Both native Portlanders, my wife and I became refugees to the state to the north (Washington) two years ago. By the way, how many nose rings did the counter lady at the rental car desk have?

    • 0 avatar
      Vulpine

      Corolla and Sentra class as mid-sized? Since when? Those are compacts!

      • 0 avatar
        gearhead77

        Car size was, at least in my time at Enterprise (though 20 years ago) determined more by what the rental company paid for the car versus its actual class. Used to be Economy, Compact, Intermediate and Full plus Luxury, vans and trucks. Now its Compact, Standard, Intermediate, Full, Small SUV, Small Pickup, SUV, Full size pickup, Minivan, Exotic, Elite,etc.

        Showing my age, a Chevy Corsica would be Intermediate, but a Chevy Malibu would be Full, for example. Of course, they play fast and loose with this stuff depending on demand,etc. Enterprise wanted all of its cars rented all the time. If that meant renting a Deville to a full-size customer for a slight upcharge, so be it. Incentives were provided to managers reaching 100% rentals, especially over weekends.

        • 0 avatar
          HotPotato

          Gawd, I loathe Enterprise’s size classification system. It’s false and deceptive advertising. Every car rental place ought to be required to use EPA size classifications so you can compare apples to apples and be confident you’ll get what you pay for. Albeit a small and inconsequential example, this is one of the many instances where markets can’t work as advertised without some rules of the game applying equally to all players.

    • 0 avatar
      teddyc73

      “Naturally I raced for the Corolla.” Why was that natural?

    • 0 avatar
      cbrworm

      Portland is bad like that. I went there to test drive a luxury-ish car and almost didn’t buy it due to the road noise. Once I got out of the area, everything got silent.

  • avatar
    NTGD

    My loss was nowhere near as bad, just disappointing. The idea was the perfect way to kill time between a flight landing and a cruise disembarking. A nice ride in the Florida sun with the ocean breeze blowing by in a Mustang convertible. I guess a lot of people had that same thought because the only convertible left when I arrived was a Volkswagen Beetle. The experience was still great first time riding in a drop top, but a Beetle is no Mustang.

  • avatar
    ranchero_collectivo

    I rent about 2-3 cars a month for work, and I’ve had terrific luck for the most part with my local Enterprise branch. Of course, if 9/10 cars I get are good…
    A month ago I got a Nissan Pathfinder that I’m pretty convinced was actually cursed. The front driver side wheel bearing was going bad and made this awful whine that sounded like a jet engine as you accelerated, plus the car would shake like a paint shaker when braking and between 40-50 mph. Apart from making my drive that week pretty miserable, all my customer visits went not as well as expected. Hence, cursed. I told them of that when I returned it and they gave me a 50% discount, so that made it for it a bit.
    The worst of all was most definitely a 2017 Nissan Sentra. Mind you, that Sentra replaced a Focus that had 50,000 hard miles, was covered in (someone else’s) dog fur, and had a wheel bearing so shot that the wheel was mere miles from popping off. The Sentra was such a pile of lethargic, sloppy, excessively loud and poorly-assembled garbage that I asked the branch I got it from if I could have that Focus back, or at least something that was not a Sentra. Guess what, all they had was Sentras.
    Afterwards, I pleaded with them to never give me another Sentra. Thankfully, they have yet to give me another Sentra.

  • avatar
    CaptainObvious

    Recent trip – Northern NJ to Bethesda, MD. Had to be there by 1 pm for a meeting.
    Reserved through Enterprise – standard size car.
    Showed up early – wanted to get on the road ASAP.
    All they had left was an F150, Hyundai Accent, and Nissan Versa sedan.
    Pondering my less than stellar choices – I picked the Versa.
    Did the obligatory walk-around with the rep – and he says it’s not vacuumed out, and they can do it real quick.
    Not wanting to wait – I said don’t bother.
    Got the key and left.
    It was just disgusting inside.
    I expected crumbs, etc. but the windows looked like they had been slobbered on by either a team of sled dogs or a bunch of teething infants.
    A totally unremarkable vehicle – no handling, no acceleration, and passable comfort.
    Gas mileage was only in the mid 30s, which was its only slightly redeemable feature. Even though I expected more.
    I probably should have taken the truck.

    • 0 avatar
      sgeffe

      Have rare need to rent cars, but I had paint-protection film installed on my new Accord in July, and needed a car overnight. White Enterprise Versa. Competent, nothing more!!

    • 0 avatar

      I had that choice and did take the 12 person crew cab. It was a sweet ride, there was room for 10-15 passengers-OK I kid.

      Seriously, but for the mpg, it was a huge old school BOF barge. I loved it. For a rental, I’ll always take the truck, I don’t live with it and won’t care about mileage the brief time I have it.

    • 0 avatar

      They make these cars (Nissans, Mitsubishi, Suzuki) for 3rd world countries. Apparently many US states are on the list. I’ve never been as lucky as you to get Versa or Sentra. In most cases it was white Altima and once Maxima. Others like Malibu, Focus, Verano etc were like winning lottery. Nissan is a rental king, no way to avoid it at rental counter.

  • avatar
    FerrariLaFerrariFace

    Three memorable losses and one win while we’re at it.

    Loss 1: Chevy Aveo in Providence RI. Nothing specific, just a piece of shit car.

    Loss 2: Toyota Camry Solara in Greenville, SC. Such a numb driving experience I nearly fell asleep at the wheel, and I wasn’t even tired.

    Loss 3: Dodge Caliber. Do I really need to explain?

    Win! Camaro Convertible in West Virginia. Fun car, twisty roads, top down… didn’t even mind the slushbox.

  • avatar
    Sundance

    Ordered a Golf-class and got a BMW520d with M-package. That was much too fast. Horrible.

  • avatar
    threeer

    Hmmm…thinking this one over, I am noticing a trend in my “disappointments” file:

    1) Nissan Altima. The CVT was so bad, I immediately turned around and gave it back
    2) Nissan Versa Note. Couldn’t get out of it’s own way. They say there are no bad cars…
    3) Nissan Murano (Platinum Edition, no less)…what a cheap, flimsy piece of dung. I can’t believe how much they charge for this cardboard and tinfoil.

    I cringe and die a little each time I am handed the keys to any Nissan product now.

    • 0 avatar
      Robotdawn

      I didn’t like either Nissan on my most recent trip (Altima and Rogue), but the Note we on rented in Hawaii was great. Totally underrated for what it is. 40 MPG over the week we had it and easy to see out of and maneuver.

    • 0 avatar
      HotPotato

      The Versa Note is fine for what it is. The Altima is fine, period. The Murano is straight-up nice.

      I don’t understand why some people have trouble driving a CVT. Put your foot on the pedal. When the car is going your desired speed, ease off the pedal. You don’t have to try to trick it into shifting gears because there aren’t any, as such. If you do try that, it’s going to drive like crap.

  • avatar
    Steve Biro

    Not so much a particular episode but since I never rented cars often it took me a while to get through my head that the rental-car industry has its own unique take on vehicle classes – one not shared by anyone else, ever. If you ask for a compact car, you’ll get a sub-compact. If you ask for a mid-sized car, you’ll get a compact. If you ask for a full-sized car, you’ll get a mid-sized car. What we all regard as a full-sized car is a luxury car to the rental car types. I once reserved an SUV for a specific purpose and got a Subaru Legacy. It had AWD, so it was an SUV.

    • 0 avatar
      TheDutchGun

      Absolutely agree with this. If you book a full-size, you’re not getting an Impala, but something the size of a Sonata.

      Presumably to get people to upsize when the learn what they’re getting.

      I booked a luxury car in Vegas once and the website said Cadillac xts or similar. When I tried to pick said XTS from what was available, they said it wasn’t part of that class. Still got it after a brief “debate” but it was so ridiculous.

    • 0 avatar
      crtfour

      I once reserved in the premium class and got a new body style Impala (didn’t think an Impala was a premium car). But according to this company, the new body style was a premium and the old body style was a full size (both Impala’s).

    • 0 avatar
      gtem

      “Nissan Altima. The CVT was so bad, I immediately turned around and gave it back”

      Oh please, they’re just fine.

    • 0 avatar
      Flipper35

      It might be that some companies are better than others as we rented in San Diego and they did this to us. They gave the classes and examples online, but when we got there we found that our “Camry” example was now a Yaris. Sure, for a family of four and all our luggage. They did upgrade us a class for free to an Elantra that could not track straight to save its life. My mother in law has one so I know they can drive straight, but they must not hold up well as a rental.

      The year before we wanted the “Camry” class and got an Avenger. At least it had room and a big trunk. 4 banger was not all that great.

      • 0 avatar
        gtem

        “My mother in law has one so I know they can drive straight, but they must not hold up well as a rental.”

        I wouldn’t hold that against a make/model. Someone smacking a curb hard enough will do that on just about any modern sedan IMO.

        • 0 avatar
          Flipper35

          Probably so, but you would have to hit hard to move the toe that much, and why didn’t the rental company have an alignment done?

          • 0 avatar
            rpn453

            My guess would be that the rental companies rarely check the alignment – certainly not after each rental period – and nobody had complained yet. Hopefully they checked after you did.

            Of course, many drivers are oblivious even to their own vehicles’ obvious mechanical deficiencies. It could have even been the previous renter who hit the curb.

  • avatar
    RSF

    By far my worst rental was a 2018 Versa Note that I rented in Denver for a drive to Colorado Springs to see an Air Force game. This had to be the most uncomfortable seat ever put into a car, no power, absolutely nothing joyful in this ride. To make matters worse, the next day I woke up to the first snow of the season. Just barely made it out of the parking lot. Those tiny wheels spun their way onto the highway and barely made it up the overpasses.

  • avatar
    jack4x

    I’m already seeing a pattern and I’ll add to it with my own Nissan hate.

    Had a 2016 Sentra as a long term insurance rental while my wife’s car was being repaired after an accident. Talk about a car with nothing to recommend it. Bad CVT, weak engine, cheap interior, etc.

  • avatar
    iNeon

    Couple years back— I’d visited Vegas with a friend and her family for a little Christmastime get-a-way.

    When I got to the airport to get home— Atlanta was shut down for those basement fires, and as I shopped a different flight— I had the inkling to…

    See the USA in a Chevrolet— decided to just bomb home in a rental so I could avail of some of that dispensary good-good.

    Got a fuchsia Mitsubishi Mirage! Jesus Christ. An 8-gallon tank, engine that sounded like it had a broken exhaust manifold— and not even an auxiliary-input for personal music. Clunks like it had no rubber left in the engine mounts.

    I liked it more than anyone should.

  • avatar
    bg

    About five years ago my wife and I reserved a compact sedan for a trip to Chicago. At the rental counter they said they were out of compacts and upgraded us to a Dodge Charger SRT for the same price.

    It was beautiful; a dark lusturous black with heated leather seats and heated steering wheel, perfect for the cold, November weekend. Composed and powerful, it sounded like a purring tiger and had a satisfying, yet composed roar upon acceleration.

    I goosed it a couple of times and the acceleration took our breath away, before I returned to my usual smooth, gentle, chauffer-like driving.

    So what was the problem?

    A cold, freezing rain descended on Chicago after we arrived at the hotel, and continued for the rest of our extended weekend.

    Although it had traction control and multiple driving modes (as I remember) the hair-trigger accelerator, rear-wheel-drive and wide, low profile tires couldn’t even accomplish parking lot maneuvers without kicking the rear end out to the side a half-foot or more.

    Despite my best efforts, on the cold, wet bridge to the hotel the rear tires would spin, the car would begin to fish-tail, and then the traction control would kill the throttle.

    I googled reviews of the car, and one of them said the car allows a satisfying amount of wheel spin before the traction control kicked in.

    On a subsequent winter weekend in Chicago with actual snow and ice we had a simple front-drive Toyota Corolla with the mandated traction control and it proved to be sure-footed and secure.

    For what it’s worth my grand-son in Colorado bought a Charger, but with all-wheel drive. Smart kid.

    • 0 avatar
      Flipper35

      Mopar has or had some sort of deal with Goodyear to put the most awful Goodyear Eagle LS tires on their cars. If it is under 50 and damp they have no traction at all. May not have been ALL the car’s fault here.

  • avatar
    gkhize

    Chevy Sonic in Charlotte. All the personality of a generic can of soup; nothing to look at on the outside, little of value on the inside, not much ‘meat’. The only thing it was good for was keeping you dry in the rain.

  • avatar
    87 Morgan

    Ah the rental car counter roulette game.

    I rent a lot for work and am fortunate in a couple of ways: 1. I tend fo the most part to go to large cities. 2. Am executive elite with National so I can choose my own car, from the nice section. 3. My employer pays for it, so MPG is the last thing I am concerned with.

    With that said, I take the largest vehicle available at all times. Typically a full size domestic truck, next I go with a Dodge Caravan (honest, never had a bad experience in one and they are super comfortable) finally I will pick a full size car. It is the small airports where you have to go to the counter to get assigned a car you can run into the here is your Versa 3 day prison sentence.

    Oddly, the two worst cars of note I have rented were Toyota. A gawdawful Corolla and a 4Runner that every time you stepped on the brakes the nose dropped 4 inches, it almost made me seasick. I learned a long time ago to stay away form Nissan, their is a reason these cars are sub-prime fodder.

  • avatar
    gtem

    Got a 12 passenger E150 Econoline to drive by myself to one of our sites about 45 minutes away on a windy winter day. Got blown all over the road while getting about 12 mpg (headwind on the way up).

  • avatar
    don1967

    The interesting (to me) Citroen we had booked in the south of France was replaced with a Mercedes CLA250, which felt like a cramped version of my daughter’s last-gen Hyundai Elantra.

  • avatar
    don1967

    I almost forgot about the rental we drove through the Rocky Mountains in the mid-1990s.

    Turns out that when you load a ’95 Toyota Corolla with four passengers and their suitcases, and then try to pass a logging truck on a long uphill stretch at high elevations, 80 km/h is the vehicle’s top speed.

  • avatar

    Always Roulette:
    Good-
    Germany. Avis. reserve a 3 series, get a 320d with Sport Package. Sweet and 140 mph legit on Bahn’
    Montana – QX 35, the six was fun on the open road
    California- after an over two hour wait outside LAX, and the shuttle bus would NOT take you BACK to the airport (off site), we were given a very dirty Accord…and then we were tossed out as it wasn’t Our Car. We didn’t care, but the head of the chaotic rental scene rolled out a Q50 and gave us that for the week…so good at the end.

    Germany-rented 3 series or equivalent. The Counter person was convinced Americans can’t drive stick, so gave me the only autobox in the lot at same price…a loaded E Class…notable for white interior and white rugs, with no floor mats…perfect and pristine, Germany is different…

    Bad: Spain to Andorra. Rented a Golf or equivalent. Counter lady tried hard to upsell me to an Audi A6 for only 600 euro extra for the week…do what ?? I ended up with a Renault Teepee, sort of a Ford Transit, because “I was going skiing”. Turned out to be the right vehicle for the job, even if the Renault was forgettable and had a few very odd quirks…manual diesel and brown.
    Montana again. – Chevrolet Impala, that someone had aimed the headlight UP. Every single bro-dozer with alien-quality landing lights flashed me for 200 miles. OK, not the car’s fault, but still.

    New York-after a car accident, rented a Nissan Versa. It was so bad I took it back and got a Chrysler 200, which was meh, but not actively bad.

    Worst actual car I was ever given was a loaner Honda hybrid of some sort..smaller than a Fit…how anyone at Honda signed off on that car amazed me…no power, CVT, and some sort of Hybrid tech ? Not that I could tell….lucky it was one day only.

  • avatar
    theflyersfan

    Most of my horror stories come from being late to the counter or first one at the counter in the morning and cars aren’t cleaned yet (and I’m in a hurry.)

    Chevy Cavalier in Charlotte. Apartment hunting before moving there over 20 years ago. On part of the recently opened I-485. Transmission balks a little bit at highway speeds and then shatters. I had an (expensive) cell phone at the time and managed to get help, and another car.

    There was the Grand Am that when I went to roll the window down, the controls fell into the door.

    The downgrade into a Sentra (after being promised a larger Optima) because I arrived on time, but the Hertz opened late, which was going to make me late, so I couldn’t wait for the Optima to be processed in, cleaned…and then a service code hit and they had to change the oil and do other work. Fine, give me the keys to the (blank)can Sentra.

    The Chrysler 300 in Toronto that, due to a late flight, was the only car available (promised something European) and it wasn’t cleaned, and smelled like one of those urinal cakes in an airport.

    The Thunderbird at a local Hertz (Thousand Oaks) that (again being almost closing time) wasn’t fully cleaned, had bad and bulging tires not discovered until later, and was a major let down to drive.

    …and many, many more.

    I’ve had the best luck renting mid-morning after the initial rush has ebbed, the returns have been processed and cleaned, and the selection tends to be the best.

    • 0 avatar
      R Henry

      @theflyersfan

      I live in Thousand Oaks and agree that our Hertz is awful. The rep there made wait 4 hrs because I reserved a compact and they only had full sized cars in the lot. After my long wait, the rep grudgingly gave me the Charger R/T that had been sitting there the whole time. This is NOT how customers should be treated.

      The Meat Locker restaurant next door is fantastic however.

      • 0 avatar
        theflyersfan

        It’s wild that you had a similar experience with them. Years ago (when the convertible T-bird was still alive), I had made a reservation for one of the premium models, which in the LA area will likely be an Infiniti, Volvo, small Mercedes, or Jaguar X-Type (at the time), to cruise around the LA area when a friend came to visit for the 4th of July weekend. Instead, when I show up there after work, and close to their closing time (thank you 101 traffic), they didn’t bother trying to get one of those models from LAX like they did before. Instead, they pulled out a T-bird that I came to find out later (from the Hertz at LAX) was due to be serviced.
        Fast forward a day and we are in the desert getting gas. That’s when we noticed the tire damage, including damaged sidewalls. The Thousand Oaks office was closed, so I contacted LAX. They said that if I thought I could make it back to LA safely to do so and they would “take care of me.” I did, but it wrecked the trip planned for the day. When I got there, I calmly explained what happened, what we noticed, and at no time lost my cool even though the day was ruined. The manager thanked me for being calm, noticed my Hertz level, and went into his office. He returned a few minutes later with the keys to a new supercharged Jaguar (unlimited miles) and a bump up in my Hertz status. I paid a reduced T-Bird rate and the rest was taken care of. He actually pointed out a rental Aston Martin that he wanted to put me in as a thank you, but it was just rented during the whole process of me explaining what was going on with the T-Bird.
        So, that’s roulette in motion right there! In the end, it was a decent car and cruised LA quite nicely. Of course I had to move to the Midwest a few months later and leave the LA area behind…sigh…

  • avatar
    TimK

    Had a Versa one time as part of an airline promotion. The total rental fee was $0.02 — yes I paid two cents for the car that day. It was a horrible shade of green, ghastly, but for two cents…

  • avatar
    jh26036

    Notable bad rentals in my life:
    – 2000s Grand Prix
    – Pontiac G5
    – Dodge Avenger
    – Chevy Cobalt

    Ones I did like:
    Mid 2010s Chrysler T&C – a really nice van
    Late 2000s Toyota Sienna XLE Limited – who knew cruising at 100mph with 6 adults can be so effortless
    Ford Focus with a DCT (all highway rental, thing got really awesome mpg)
    2019 Hyundai Kona, really got to experience some newer driver assist features

    • 0 avatar
      sgeffe

      Oh yes, I forgot! Was an accident rental after I bumped a STOP sign stanchion in a Kroger parking lot a couple days before I’d had my 2013 Accord for a year! Enterprise gifted me with a Dodge Avenger that was far and away the worst car I’ve ever driven! Wheezing 2.4L four and a four-speed slushbox! Novocain steering, unbalanced wheels (which is what I usually get when I rent a car)! Enough rattles inside to swear one off American cars forever!

      When someone with DUI plates hit me a few years later, the Jeep Compass I had was almost as bad, with the same wheezing 2.4, but with a six-speed transmission, which quieted things enough to make it palatable.

  • avatar
    Maymar

    A couple major disappointments were a 2011ish Altima with seats so terrible I had crippling leg pain after about 2 hours, and a pair of 2017 Sonatas that weren’t great either in heavy snow (absolutely zero steering feel) or sunny weather (enough dash glare to completely lose visibility).

    But I was in Vancouver in 2012, and rented a Dodge Avenger (it was the only thing available when I arrived). It only had 200km, and I figured it’d be fine – it had the refresh, I’d poked around them, and didn’t have much issue. But the engine was, to borrow from Jeremy Clarkson, only good at turning gas into noise. It was both gutless and thirsty – I averaged something like 22mpg on the drive to and from Whistler, a drive which I replicated a few years later in a Hemi Durango that did about 19 or 20. The visibility in the Avenger is awful, with tiny mirrors and an enormous C-pillar. The seats were uncomfortable and misshapen too, and the dead pedal stuck out way too far. I wanted to like it well enough, but it was terrible enough I managed to talk my way out of late charges for being stuck with it.

    • 0 avatar
      jh26036

      I also rented the Avenger in Vancouver, to drive to Whistler. It also got very so so fuel economy. I got mine from Dollar rent a car. Only savior is it had satellite radio. The year was 2011.

      • 0 avatar
        Flipper35

        We have a 14 with the Pentastar/6 speed auto and I get 26-27mpg mixed driving it to work. Our rental had a 4 pot and it was bad.

        For our family the seats are drive all day comfy. The visibility out back still sucks because of the large C pillar and small rear glass.

  • avatar
    ToddAtlasF1

    I once took a family trip down the Pacific Coast Highway in a Ford Tempo. Thanks Avis!

  • avatar
    spookiness

    Haven’t rented in many years. One memorable baddie was a Sunfire sedan. It was everything I loathed about Pontiacs. Loud, but not fast. Rough, firm ride, but didn’t handle well. The steering was too quick and sensitive and keeping it tracking straight at highway speeds was difficult. I didn’t care much for a Malibu Maxx I got once either.

  • avatar
    dividebytube

    I only rarely rent so my experiences are low in volume:

    A rental used for a business trip: a secong gen Dodge Status. It just felt cramped and underpowered, especially with two 200+ pound 6+ foot tall guys in the front seats. Not a pleasant trip but thankfully not long.

    Same with a Saturn third gen S series – I hated driving that thing, once again for business.

    With both cars I had a hard time going to a 4-cyl compact / mid-size since back then most of my time was spent behind the wheel of a Buick Park Avenue or a Roadmaster.

    I was pleasantly surprised by the 2012 Mustang V6 convertible I rented a few years ago. Perfect cruiser for hitting the beach.

    Also surprisingly liked the very base 2019 Jetta my wife and I rented last spring. We got close to 40mpg in the mountains around Asheville with a lot of city driving thrown in. Comfortable and plenty of legroom. My wife and I have discussed buying one – with a manual.

  • avatar
    R Henry

    A well-worn 2012 Mitsu Galant. I wrote a full review that was posted over at Curbside Classic:

    http://www.curbsideclassic.com/blog/driving-impressions/rental-car-review-2012-mitsubishi-galant-grade-c/

  • avatar
    jkross22

    For the most part, rental car companies are varying degrees of suck. Most of their cars are bottom barrel crap boxes barely maintained correctly. Many have warped brake rotors, funky smells unless new and the funky smells are covered up by the overwhelming scent of Febreze. Seriously SC Johnson, you couldn’t create a worse smell.

    I think the right strategy is to ask for the car with the fewest miles or to rent from Turo and hope for the best.

    • 0 avatar
      gtem

      I’ve generally had very good luck with Avis, particularly once I signed up and started accruing “Preferred” membership points. A few years ago I got that Econoline, these days I’m treated to Edge Titaniums, Tahoes, Acadia SLT, with some regular fullsizers thrown in (4 banger Impala, Camry, Optima/Sonata, Fusion Hybrid). Most recent oddball was a Tacoma TRD Offroad, which I really didn’t like very much for an overworked undersized powertrain.

      • 0 avatar
        Robotdawn

        I use National and they’ve been fine. I never end up with the econobox car I reserve, it’s always midsize or better, Camrys Malibus Impalas and Altimas usually. Smaller models are usually Kias or Hyundais, the occasional Subaru. I’ve got no real complaints with any of those makes.
        I’ve had to wait for them to clean the car a couple times, but it’s worth the wait, trust me.
        I think it also matters where you rent. Airports are probably better than elsewhere.

        • 0 avatar

          I’ve never had a car with more than maybe 2,000 miles on it from Enterprise. This Hyundai was new, even though it was awful.

          My other rentals from them have been well-equipped.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            Enterprise, National, and Alamo are all the same company, marketing to different audiences, and they interchange cars. I think the most miles I’ve ever seen on a National rental was a first-gen Cruze with nearly 40,000. To GM’s credit, that one drove quite nicely.

          • 0 avatar
            sgeffe

            Enterprise is insurance rental/we’ll bring the car to you, National is the “Emerald Isle” for business travelers?

            Is Alamo for leisure/family?

    • 0 avatar
      HotPotato

      I have rented my car out on Turo. Recently I rented a car for myself via Turo while in Vegas: an old “fat Jetta” with the inline five. Kind of shocking how well built it was, how nicely finished the interior was, how roomy it was, and I liked the growly torquey engine: VW did well with this car when it was new. But of course this one wasn’t new: it had about 100k miles on the clock, worn-out strut bushings, a glowing idiot light on the dash, and the owner hadn’t “had time” to clean it out from the slob who’d had it before. Still, Turo is a neat way to drive a car you’ve “always wondered” about…and/or to avoid the Christmas markup at the usual rental counter.

  • avatar
    SC5door

    1. Chrysler Sebring—something was broken in the front suspension. When I took it back after going around the block, they noted that it was just at the dealer for this same problem.

    2. Buick Verano—it lived a hard life honestly doing time on city streets of Chicago. Once I got out of city traffic and onto the highway, I was horrified that the steering wheel was violently shaking due to a bent wheel or severely off balance wheel. Knowing I had to drive pretty far with it I called the customer service line and was told to take it to the nearest location on my way out of town. I ended up dropping the car at a location and was given a QX30 (which was filthy dirty due to the last person driving it to the steel mill). The QX30 was better than the Verano, but the rental company decided to send me the bill for the bent rim on the Verano. I ended up fighting with them for several weeks as they wanted me to pay up for a new rim and tire—which the tire was a Fuzion on the left front and all the rest were Continentals.

  • avatar
    Nick_515

    WIN: Mustang Convertible in San Diego. Don’t care that it was a v6… we loved that thing. So much fund bombing down I5 with the top open. It was the perfect car for the perfect place with the perfect temperature.

    Modest win: Successfully argued at MPLS that a Chevy Spark (previous gen) was not a compact and could not handle the highways of the Twin Cities. Was given a now-previous gen Elantra. It wasn’t a great car, but it was a good car.

    Terrible loss: Someone dented our car, and insurance gave us a rental, which was a Versa. I feel like someone punished me for five days for allowing our car to be dented.

  • avatar
    tankinbeans

    I’ve never rented a car, but have gotten loaners on occasion. The absolute worst was a local Ford dealer, mind you I used to have a soft sport for Ford and gave them plenty of my money, who gave me this ratty a$$ 2004ish Focus station wagon. This would have been 2010 give or take. It was a car taken in on trade and likely auction bound since it was in such poor condition. The seats were torn, the thing reeked of cigarettes and there were plenty of burn marks up and down the sills, the carpets were worn through, and transmission was a disaster. I was never so excited to get my whale back, a 2006 Grand Prix (name was Moby Dick).

    A close runner up was a 1995 Saturn SC1 that constantly felt like it was about to fling me off the road with random, rubbery jerks at the steering wheel.

    Of the loaners, I’ve had that weren’t lot poison, the lowest on my list was a 2004ish Accent. It performed as it was intended, even gave me warmish feelings about Hyundai/Kia, but merging on to 494, in front of a semi, already straining the engine, but needing a little more oomph was a bit panic inducing.

  • avatar
    MBella

    Worst rental I had was a Corolla as some mentioned above. It was also while my company car was in the body shop, so I was stuck with it for a month.

    Weirdest was one time in Bend OR. Reserved an intermediate car. Get there and my options are a Suburban or Armada. Ridiculous overkill for just myself to drive into town and back to the airport the next day.

    • 0 avatar
      sgeffe

      I would have just asked for ANYTHING that wouldn’t have cost me a king’s ransom in gas!

      In 2003, an ignoramus lady sideswiped my 2000 Accord coming out of a Panera Bread. Car was in the shop for a month. Enterprise gets me an F-150 4×4 with the Triton 5.3, which was fine for a couple days — until I watched the gas gauge! So they put me in a first-gen Focus. Pleasant enough, but no cruise control! (First-world problem, yes!) But a week into the stint with the car, I drove from Toledo to Cedar Point in Sandusky, an hour away. After arriving home, my right foot was hurting something fierce; perhaps the throttle-return spring was set too tight.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    I’ll echo the hate for the Sentra. I just got back from a short trip, by myself on business, just one person in the car, and I still picked a Toyota Sienna rather than get stuck with another Sentra. I don’t mind Altimas or Maximas, but the Sentra is just another level of bad.

    I don’t lose too often, though, because of the National Emerald Aisle. There’s usually at least one decent car there, and very few stations notice if you take a car from the Executive aisle rather than the normal Emerald one.

    Best recent Emerald Aisle surprises: Camry V6, loaded LaCrosse with HiPer, surprisingly not-bad Pathfinder when I needed 7 seats. Missed out on a Camaro SS one time because I had my family along.

    Worst vehicles relative to expectations: Hyundai Sonata, new Jeep Compass, and that one Dodge Charger that couldn’t track straight.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    I rent quite often and also have a membership in a ‘car sharing’ organization.

    The worst being a Kia Optima whose head restraints pushed my head and neck so far forward that I returned it within half an hour, suffering from a blinding headache.

    Had one counter person who provided me with a nice ‘surprise, a full sized Dodge Ram. He was ‘doing me a favour’. Unfortunately I was making a long journey, on my own with minimal luggage and wanted something fuel efficient.

    Generally I whenever possible I will try to find a way to get ‘upgraded’ or even ‘downgraded’ into a Caravan. Never had an issue with them. Do everything ‘adequately’. However Caravans are quite often the most expensive rental on the lot, in the Toronto area.

    • 0 avatar

      I really didn’t want that Tahoe LT when I reserved a full-size car, as I had no need for all that extra weight and cylinders.

      But I wasn’t gonna choose the Grand Caravan or Journey. Blech.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      I had a Pacifica recently. It was astonishingly nice.

      I am so thankful that Hertz has mostly gone to the “pick whatever you want” model. I get so much less dreck now, and the occasional surprise.

      • 0 avatar
        Flipper35

        We are renting a Pacifica for a trip coming up. Had one short term as a service loaner a while ago. Might be our next purchase.

      • 0 avatar
        sgeffe

        Is that in the rows at the airport, I.e., whatever is the Emerald Isle for National, at Hertz?

        The weirdest thing, as has been said, is that the class of car at the rental lots is a size down from what is implied! A Camry or Accord isn’t full-size!

        And Hertz used to rent mostly Fords back when O.J. was their pitchman, and National rented GM products. Where was Fiatsler back then?

  • avatar
    volvo

    Picked up rental car at neighborhood office of national chain. Had to wait about 1/2 hour while car which had just been returned was cleaned.

    Got in and TPS system said 50 lbs all 4 tires. Went back to the desk and said I thought the system was broken and wanted them to note that.

    They sent out a young man who worked behind the office washing, cleaning and checking fluids.

    He looked at the display and said no that was correct and showed me on the tire sidewall where it said Max pressure 50 lbs. and that was what he had inflated them to.

    What to say. I drove slowly to the nearest gas station and set the tires at 34 lbs which is what the door sticker said. Needless to say the TPS showed 34 lbs. Double checked oil and brake fluid which was OK.

    Nice kid but those jobs should not be entry level or at least the employee should be able to demonstrate some knowledge of cars.

  • avatar
    eggsalad

    When you think you’ve won, but you’ve lost…

    In 2014 I planned a road trip to taste the barbecue of the southeast. This involved a one-way rental from Ft. Lauderdale to Atlanta. Sixt was new in the US at the time, so their price was literally half of what the majors wanted.

    I booked a Hyundai Accent class car. When I got to the counter, the rep told me they had a MINI Cooper that needed to get back to Atlanta, and would I mind? Heck yes!

    Except I learned the hard way that a MINI isn’t really a good road trip car. It’s cramped and really doesn’t have a good highway ride. Premium fuel, please, or you lose what little performance the base, automatic car has, and also about 8mpg.

    I’m certain I would have been happier with an Accent.

    • 0 avatar
      gtem

      I had a rental Mini to drive from Indianapolis to Cincinnati and back, in the winter. It sucked. Coworker and I in winter jackets were comically crammed in there, choppy noisy ride, mediocre power with annoying delivery. Yes an Accent would have been superior.

  • avatar
    NeilM

    Milan, Italy in 2014 for a driving vacation in the Alps and Dolomites. I had reserved a “BMW 3-series or similar” from Hertz, which turned out to be a VW Tiguan 2.0 diesel. Sure, brothers from another mother, right?

    But here’s the laugh: the Tiguan turned out to be great. Decent handling, boatloads of torque for blasting by slower traffic in the mountains, and a 7-speed paddle shift dual clutch gearbox. Yeah baby!

  • avatar
    nsk

    My first job out of college in 2005 was with the Enterprise in downtown Atlanta. We often didn’t have enough cars to service all the reservations, so we’d try to push people into bigger or smaller cars, e.g. “Your kids will love the F-150,” or “The Neon gets great mileage.” The absolute worst car we regularly rented was the Grand-Am, which was slow, ugly, had horrible ergonomics, bad fuel economy, and tended always to be abused by renters.

    On my first day at the job, an assistant manager and I went to an impound yard to pick up a Magnum that had been “converted” by a renter. I got to drive the Magnum back to the branch. The interior was littered with a couple half-full vodka bottles, weed residue in the door pockets, burn marks, and, inexplicably, clothing.

    A couple months later, a tow truck dropped off a Grand Prix that had been seized as evidence in a criminal case. Apparently vehicle forensics investigators don’t clean up cars when they’re done with them. On the passenger seat there were bullet casings and blood. It smelled horrible inside. We called a detail guy who spent a couple hours with the car. Re-rented it that same afternoon.

    I would just comment that we did maintain the vehicles. There was a code in the system called LOFR (lube, oil, filter, rotation) that would pop up every few thousand miles. We would send the cars to a local Firestone shop that would do the work. It was the long-term rentals like cargo vans and corporate account full-size cars that we couldn’t maintain because the renters didn’t want to swap them out.

    • 0 avatar
      gearhead77

      I worked at the Big E as a lowly car washer for a few years in the late 90’s- early 2000’s. My impound lot car was an Acheiva that never Acheiva-ed cleanliness ever again. Weed residue, milk in the carpet, dirty diaper under the seats. Down 3 qts of oil. Professional cleaning still never got “that smell” out of the car.

  • avatar
    Hummer

    Everyone here is well aware of my worst.

    I landed at O’hare about a year and a half ago on a cold rainy day, I had to drive through Chicago down to Joliet. I get to the rental counter and I had optioned for a mid-size, which apparently means micro-car to rental agencies, again I’ve gotten used to this. They show me 2 Kia Souls and a Renegade, considering I’m not an 18 year old female with blonde hair and no credit, nor am I a 75 year old Grandmother I didn’t want to be stuck in either. I didn’t really need to say anything as the gentleman showing me availability sensed the issue without ever looking at me and offered me a Malibu (apparently an ‘upgrade’). Lame car but at least every man passing me on the road isn’t going to look into the car expecting a 18 year old blonde cutie to be driving as with the other cars.

    That car was horrible in every way, anxiety inducing acceleration that would not reach speeds without full throttle for long periods, fuel economy that compared to my 6.2L sedan, stop-start that requires precious time to reactivate at every stop light that it wasn’t games at. Transmission slow to react which coupled with all the other issues just made the drivetrain seem archaic to everything else available for the last 30 years.
    There were zero redeemable features to this car.

    • 0 avatar
      gtem

      ” anxiety inducing acceleration that would not reach speeds without full throttle for long periods,”

      Sounds like you had a malfunctioning car or have some serious operator-related issues…

      • 0 avatar
        gtem

        Fun fact: Malibu 1.5T is 2 seconds faster to 60 than your beloved H2 (8.2 vs 10.2 seconds).

        • 0 avatar
          Hummer

          Difference is one of them has torque and moves with a lot more ease and a lot less peddle action. The other has no midrange, or upper end power and shuts off at every stoplight like a 1978 jalopy. I will give it props for getting exactly twice the MPG, if that’s an actual feat for an engine 1/4 the size.

          • 0 avatar
            gtem

            If the Malibu required full throttle to reach “speeds,” given the 8.2 vs 10.2 times, this would certainly imply that the H2 would need full throttle as well to attain the same speeds in a similar (except slower by 2 seconds) time.

            I don’t disagree that it’s a thoroughly mediocre powertrain, I’ve experienced it several times now, but there’s no need for such overstatement IMO.

          • 0 avatar
            Hummer

            I honestly don’t believe I’m over stating it, if I’ve ever been “triggered” by anything in my life it was this godawful powertrain, I have zero doubts it could beat an H2 in a drag race unless that H2 were either a duramax convert or supercharged.

            Having a tiny power band that, while able to translate to that 8.2 second 0-60 time, does not translate to a pleasant driving experience. I can put the H2 at half throttle and it will gain speed at a very comfortable rate with little engine noise for a 7,000lb living room. The Malibu required that I keep the throttle completely depressed for similar increases in speed lest I want the transmission to immediately find the highest gear and end my increase of acceleration.

            Flooring the H2 immediately results in the lowest usable gear being found and no hesitation to gain speed, whether I’m at 0 MPH, 40 MPH, or 70MPH. The result is that I increase vehicle speed to complete my maneuver or reach highway speeds to merge into traffic.
            The Malibu is the opposite, when it’s floored a general assembly of committee members from all over the state are convened together to discuss the appropriate gear and how to rev match the engine to the resulting gear. The result is that my chance to pass the car in front is flummoxed, and I better pray I don’t get rear ended merging into traffic because Betty in front of me in her 3800 Buick was able to speed up at last moment to merge appropriately, but the Malibu’s 1.5T is still stuck wheezing away from the 35MPH approach Betty made onto I-40.

        • 0 avatar
          dal20402

          I think what Hummer is really saying is that he prefers V8 noise to four-cylinder noise (understandable) and the noise the Malibu is making makes him more reluctant to push down on the pedal.

          • 0 avatar
            Nick_515

            wrong, dal. What Hummer is (always really) saying is that HE IS A BIG HONKING MAN, not some silly blonde cutie.

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            Sounds like virtue-signaling of a different kind to me.

          • 0 avatar
            Hummer

            I’m actually 6’2” and 180lbs so no, not really a big man, I just like vehicles that are made for real living human beings. No car enthusiasts can drive a Current gen Malibu and come off with a positive vibe, it is a horrible pile. If you take offense to that then it’s on you.

            And no, I wouldn’t want to be seen in a cute ute, that seems like a typical mindset of any male, particularly if other options exist on vehicles. Granted a Renegade or hamster car shouldn’t be considered a midsize option either as both are decidedly not midsize.

          • 0 avatar
            sgeffe

            The auto-stop in those things has got to be horrid inside the car, because it sure sounds sucktastic outside the car!

        • 0 avatar
          ajla

          A 6.2L H2 (from ’08 or ’09) should be considerably faster than a Malibu 1.5T.

          caranddriver.com/reviews/a21946008/2018-chevrolet-malibu-15t-test-review/

          caranddriver.com/reviews/a15150100/2008-hummer-h2-short-take-road-test/

          • 0 avatar
            Hummer

            As much as I love Hummers… of all kinds… I’ve never driven an 08-09 H2 which in my opinion is the models peak, they solved the interior quality issue, brought a model refresh that buttoned up loose ends on the exterior design, moved away from the very good LQ4 3/4 ton derived 6.0 married to the weak-link 4l65e to the also very good civilian 6.2L and coupled with the 6 speed – fuel economy took a nice jump that actually made it fairly efficient for its weight and aerodynamics.

            Had it survived until it’s original end date of 2014 I would certainly have one, though a used one isn’t out of the question, they just hold their value *too well* when they don’t have tons of miles racked up.

            I just looked that article up, I didn’t remember the 08s were at 7.1 second 0-60 times. That’s impressive compared to what I’m used to in my trucks. That’s probably similar to my 4Runners 0-60.

          • 0 avatar
            ajla

            Sometimes C/D and Motor Trend get a little rosy with their acceleration times, but they are useful for the sake of comparison and that rosiness likely also extends to the times they got from the Malibu.

          • 0 avatar
            Arthur Dailey

            Well @Hummer, I am a male, multiple sport jock and am seriously considering acquiring a Kia Soul as my next vehicle. But I am very secure in my masculinity, and don’t view vehicles as phallic symbols.

            Yet I still really, really want a Mark IV restomod!

            So does that mean that in reality I am just ‘cheap’?

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Soul is cool, just don’t start wearing a purse and you can keep all of your man cards.

          • 0 avatar
            Hummer

            Get what you like, @39 I want something fun and engaging, all the time. You being a bit older, maybe that isn’t your cup of tea, won’t stop me or every other guy on the road from checking at that cutie blon… oh. Take it as a compliment.

            I certainly don’t view vehicles as a phallic symbol either, but regardless of what some say, there are masculine vehicles and effeminate vehicles, it’s human nature to stereotype them and nothing will ever change that. Besides I’ve never seen a chick car come with a V8, RWD, stickshift so manufacturers seem to know who they are marketing to as well.

            I’ll rock the hell out of a minivan though, no better way to show off your virility really.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            @Hummer

            Point me in the direction of the chick driving the RWD V8 automobile, transmission notwithstanding. Now that sounds like a wild ride.

          • 0 avatar
            ajla

            “But I am very secure in my masculinity”

            No need to brag.

          • 0 avatar
            Hummer

            I’ve met a couple chicks like that, I thought they were all wired too wild to tame. Stick shift, fast car and all.

            They are far and few between without a doubt.0

          • 0 avatar
            Maymar

            You’re so concerned about being seen in a Kia Soul you declined it to take a car you absolutely despise, but you’re not compensating for anything? It’s a rental car, and no stranger cares about you a millionth as much as you think they do.

          • 0 avatar
            Hummer

            Would I also be compensating for something if I didn’t want to walk around with a dress and make-up? Let’s get real I’m not saying anything ground breaking or anything that most everyone else isn’t already thinking.

            Also I didn’t know the Malibu was as bad as it was, that was my introduction to that torture device. Had I known that I would have requested to pay more for just about anything else.

          • 0 avatar
            Arthur Dailey

            @Ajla, since the media/cultural figure I most resemble in dress, lifestyle and background is Al Bundy, is that considered ‘bragging’?

  • avatar
    readallover

    Worst: Mitsubishi Lancer that felt like the front end was lifting anytime I went over 60 – not fun on freeway road trips.
    Dishonorable Mention : Dodge Caliber seats like wooden benches

    Best: For $10 more a day upgraded to a Cadillac XTS my son slept the whole way.

  • avatar
    Vulpine

    Can’t say I ever had a “bad” rental, though some were better than others. My most questionable one was a Hyundai Elantra, about four years ago, with a weirdly twitchy electric steering. Oh, no trouble at all controlling it but especially on 90° turns you could feel the wheel twitching under your hand as it wanted to straighten out and even on the highway you would get the occasional twitch as though testing your grip.

  • avatar
    Menar Fromarz

    I love this thread. WAY better car reviews than the actual reviews.
    My worst was in the late nineties I Cheeped out and got a “rent a wreck” first gen Hyundai Accent from some place in Scarberia in Toronto.
    Made some kinda funky rod knock sounds upon starting it.
    Said to dude; “seriously?”
    He says it’s “fine”.
    Made it less than 20 miles on the 401 eastbound. A giant clank, smells of fuel and oil and rolls to stop. Rod thru block.
    Called dude, is reaction was priceless: “how far did you get?

    Rental cars like that make life WAY more enjoyable and memorable. ShitBox Rentals FTW!

  • avatar
    gearhead77

    I drove a Prius C from Cleveland to Pittsburgh. No cruise control and Hybrid Synergy drive weirdness were unpleasant at best, made worse by rain. 90% highway and averaged 30mpg. Dreadful car and yes, I get that C means “City”, so expressways aren’t its thing, but wow. I’ve driven a regular Prius in the same method and it was much better.

    • 0 avatar
      sgeffe

      Cannot do any type of freeway slog w/o cruise!

      After doing an hour on the Ohio Turnpike in a 2003 Ford Focus, I filled a dishpan with ice and shoved my right foot in it! The throttle-return spring was a bit tight!

      First-world problems, as I said above!

  • avatar
    Acd

    2017 Jeep Patriot from Enterprise as an insurance rental for 2 months while the back end of my VW Passat TDI was being repaired after being rear ended a few years ago. I wouldn’t even take these things when I was traveling and renting cars by the day or week. Uncomfortable, slow, lousy gas mileage, noisy, this POS did absolutely nothing well. The gas pedal mainly controlled the noise coming into the cabin, the radio looked like it came out of a 1985 Plymouth Reliant, everything about it was awful. I would have rather driven my son’s 22 year old Volvo 850 Wagon than this almost brand new car.

  • avatar
    Eric the Red

    Bad: Rented a Nissan Sentra. FIRST time ever rented. Seemed like it was going to be a decent car until night time. No interior lights. My wife says I didn’t know how to turn them on and since it wasn’t my make of usual vehicle I assumed she was right. Navigating in the dark on a strange island isn’t easy. When I turned it in and mentioned the issue the lot guy he said “it isn’t you, a lot of them came in with bad fuses and the lights just don’t work”! No safety issues there at all.

    Good: Renting a Chrysler Sebring convertible and putting the top down and cruising down to Key West. Beautiful drive and the top down made it all seem perfect.

  • avatar
    geozinger

    June 1995, my sister has a massive stroke. She lives in Charlotte, I was living in Atlanta at the time. My wife and daughters were out of town in our good car, so I went to the airport and got the first car they could get me into.

    Unfortunately, it was a Ford Fiesta. It’s about six hours between Atlanta and Charlotte. I wringed the living crap out of that car, but it took it. No one was more amazed than me.

    My sister has since recovered and I have never had that much bad luck renting cars since…

  • avatar
    Goatshadow

    Infiniti Q30. The worst rental I’ve ever had. It was nearly new, but still god-awful. Cramped inside, poor seating position and visibility, and an eyesore. Crippled infotainment and it drove like something weighing twice as much. Worse in every way than a Versa.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    I landed in Dayton, OH, today. Not a Hertz Choice location, unfortunately, so they assign you a car. I got a mid-spec Impala (“premium” class…). The Sat radio is expired, and it pulls to the left. Seriously thinking about returning it as I actually have a couple hundred miles to drive over the next few days.

    I came here from San Antonio where I had a Chrysler 300S for a few days. Much, much, much better.

    The worst car I have had in many years was a Sentra a few years ago. It was a last minute emergency trip to Savannah, GA, and it was literally the last car Hertz had. And it suuuuucked.

    Back in the day at my previous job I had to use the company Avis account. An endless see of ’90s GM garbage. I couldn’t single out any one of them as “the worst”, because they were all horrible.

    The best? I scored a Corvette at SFO once from Hertz. Also rather enjoyed several Hemi Chargers and Challengers in the past couple of years. Not something I would EVER buy, but fun to rent. I bought a Fiat 500 after renting one, ditto a BMW 2-series.

  • avatar

    I rent cars all the time; at least once a month and even review them; http://www.roorentalcarreviews.com

    Maybe I’m strange, but I enjoy each one. There’s no roulette or disappointments. I’m as happy with a Versa as I am with a Tesla. It’s exciting to be something different and unique.

    There’s a responsibility from car fanatics to understand each car’s purpose and review it in context. A Mirage is not going to set the streets on fire, just as a Mustang isn’t going to be a family hauler. I step back from each car, think about its target audience, it’s price, it’s strengths and weaknesses, and think outside of my realm if it appeals to the demographic it’s aimed at. Seriously, there’s really no bad cars today.

    Regardless, there’s been a few cars that I had to turn away. Back in 2015, I declined an Accent. Not because of the car, but it reeked of cigarettes and had so many stains. I was going to get lung cancer just from a weekend drive. I was switched to a clean Mirage and was happy.

    The other fail was way back in 1999, when my parents rented a Pontiac Bonneville. The transmission kept slipping and would hardly take off from a stop. From a standstil, it struggled. Once on the freeway, it was fine. We limped on the 250 mile drive and made it, but we sweated it at every stop.

    Otherwise, I’ve enjoyed the hundreds of cars that I’ve had

  • avatar
    CobraJet

    My worst rental was years ago in Baton Rouge. It was badged as a Pontiac Lemans but was a small Daewoo. After driving for two hours I could barely crawl out of it because it was so uncomfortable.

  • avatar
    ptschett

    I’ve not rented for myself, but some experiences:
    -college-shopping, long ago: my dad & I go to a prospective-freshmen event at a college in east TX that I wanted to attend (and later did attend, but only for a semester), and dad gets a ’99 Mercury Cougar V6/auto (brand new at the time, the Contour-based New Edge-styled coupe) for a rental. We had almost a whole day from the end of the event till our flight home, so we took the Cougar for a drive well south into western Louisiana, and I got to drive it for a bit on a curvy road through a state forest (though of course I wasn’t supposed to, being 18); when we got home to South Dakota and left the Sioux Falls airport lot in my ’96 Thunderbird it felt like the T-bird had suddenly been transformed over that weekend from a decent-driving car to a floaty barge.
    -when my ’05 Dakota was newish but due for a few hours in the dealer shop for fluid changes: the shop manager got tired of me moping around the showroom and gave me the keys to a 4-banger Stratus sedan. I didn’t expect a 2.4L I-4/4-speed auto car of that era to be as decently quick as that car was.
    -much later in the Dakota’s life, on a multi-day shop stay for suspension work: I was given an Avenger loaner with the 3.6L Pentastar and the 6-speed auto. No big deal, I’ve driven that powertrain in the Caravan at work before, right? …but, the Avenger’s hauling around about a half-ton less seats/roof/glass than the Caravan. At least when accelerating the experience wasn’t much different from my parents’ series of Northstar-powered Cadillac STS’s.
    -last Christmas: my sister comes home for a visit, rents a Camry, and promptly scratches the rental’s clear coat in the driver door against the lump of concrete that’s meant to be protecting a gas pump. In an effort to help, I take the car to the farmstead’s shop a few miles away from the house to have a controlled environment for trying to ‘buff out’ the scratches. I put something like 5 miles on that 4-cylinder/8-speed Camry but it was quicker and more responsive than I’d have ever expected it to be.

  • avatar
    TDIGuy

    Has to be the overall rental experience we had when my wife’s car was in the body shop after a collision. The towing company gave us the only rental they had… A newish base Mazda 3 sedan, which wasn’t bad overall, but so base it didn’t even have cruise control. It was late and the tow truck guy apparently made some promises that weren’t actually in the contract. For example if we didn’t go with their shop, we had to return the rental to them, 250Kms from home. We really needed the space of my wife’s SUV and our insurance would cover it so later that week we found the rental company in some industrial mall behind an airport and traded for the SUV the promised us… A 6 year old Mazda Tribute with over 100K on it! That was all they had besides Mazda 3s. Since our rental contract was for a week, we were stuck.

  • avatar
    gearhead77

    I just had a Sentra as a rental and didn’t find it *that* terrible to be honest. Nothing I would buy, but competent transportation for the “Turn the Key, Point A to B” crowd anyway.

    But I remember when economy car meant Geo Metro or Ford Aspire too. A Yaris seems like luxury compared to those things.

  • avatar
    gearhead77

    I recently rented a pickup to drive home from DC to Pittsburgh. A truck because it was the cheapest per day rate and as we all know, 4 hours mostly highway in a modern truck is not a penalty compared to four hours in a compact car objectively, if you don’t mind paying for gas. There’s a reason big trucks are everywhere, even though they’re so expensive. A full size car with a bed.

    The kindly Enterprise rep offered a choice between a V8 Ram Classic and a Frontier. Having only experienced the Ram in Pentstar form, I wanted to experience the Hemi. “But sir, the Frontier is a smaller truck, the mileage will be better for all that distance.” He was surprised when I still said I wanted the Ram.

    If I had to buy a full-size truck, it would probably be a V8 Ram, it was that good based on this experience. And real world mileage, the Ram was probably a bit more thirsty, but not by much over the Frontier. But seeing as though the Frontier isn’t much different than the last Frontier I rented circa 2008, I couldn’t imagine 4 hours in it versus a Ram.

    Sometimes you win at rental car roulette. I’d take a Charger or 300 because of positive experiences with them as rentals.

  • avatar
    MeJ

    I think what I learned the most from this article/comments section is:
    1) Hummer, Arthur, and Alja like to argue!
    and
    2) I’ll never buy a Nissan in my life.

    • 0 avatar
      Arthur Dailey

      It gets worse:
      1) I have a Nissan in my driveway, and quite like it. Enough that I may add another, unless I get a Soul.
      2) Last week I bought a ‘borsello’, which I now carry everywhere. Has made my life easier. And if I do get a Soul, it would accessorize it nicely. :-)

    • 0 avatar
      Hummer

      I like a good debate now and then. But if I keep one person from buying a high blood pressure inducing Malibu, then i will feel accomplished. God awful car that does not belong in the 21st century.

  • avatar
    JohntheNole

    In Oct ’18 I reserved a full size from Budget for pickup at Baltimore-Washington International (BWI) Flight arrived early but experienced a 50 minute wait to get to the counter at the off-site rental center. My full size turned into a Subaru Crosstrek. Not happy since I had to drive 138 miles from BWI to Ocean City MD. in an unfamiliar vehicle. My first drive in an AWD, first Crossover, and first Subaru. Budget got a less than positive review but the little Crosstrek was a nice, enjoyable drive. No plans to ever use Budget again but from the large string of comments, not sure there are any rental agencies that performs better.

  • avatar
    pwrwrench

    Plus 4 (or whatever the count is) on the Grand Am. Someone crossed a double yellow line and wrecked my van.
    While it was in the body shop the other driver’s insurance paid for rentals. This was the mid 1990s.
    First Enterprise gave me a Ford Aerostar. I was glad when they asked for it back in less than a week. Suspension and ride were poor. It probably suffered from a trend I have noticed on many vehicles. Apparently in an effort to get a cushy ride soft springs are used. Which then have to be preloaded a lot to get a proper ride height. Then small bumps and cracks in the road are magnified. Larger bumps and cornering feel mushy and wallowy.
    Next was a Maxima which was fine except a previous driver had hit something with one of the headlights. One mount/adjuster was broken. Hit a bump just right and it would be aimed at Jupiter.
    Enterprise wanted the Maxima back within a week as it was above my pay grade. Then came a Mazda Protoge which was also fine.
    Eventually Enterprise wanted that back for “service” and replaced it with a Grand Am. Later I concluded that the Grand Am was the Purgatory that you had to go through if your car was in a crash. Had it for the longest time of all the cars.
    Seats were uncomfortable, the S O would not ride in it. She insisted that we take her Toyota if we went somewhere together. The cruise control did a lot of weird things so I only tried it a few times. Worst was the freeway performance. If you needed to accelerate from 60-65 mph you had to carefully work the throttle. Full on would cause the trans to downshift 2-3 gears followed by the engine over revving while the car actually slowed slightly. After a second or two the trans would up shift and you would start going faster. It was irritating and unsafe in SoCal traffic. By getting the pedal at just the right place, not 1mm more or less, acceleration would occur at an unspectacular pace, but at least you were not slowing down and waiting for something to happen.
    Wanted a different car, but Enterprise said no. Until the Grand Am was due for “service”.
    Then came the Mercury version of the Escort wagon. Which was fine except whoever had it previously smoked some awful cigars. Every time I parked it, I opened all the windows and the back hatch. The stench was just starting to go away when I got the van out of the body shop.
    A few years later the shop was out of business as the insurance companies got tired of paying for rental cars while the customer vehicles sat in their parking lot for months before they worked on them. The insurance companies went after the shop for the rental fees which bankrupted them.
    And of course all those rentals had the tires overinflated.
    More recently, rented a Ford Edge. So nice thinking about buying one.
    A Mazda CX-7 was awful. Rode like a forklift even after lowering the tire pressure 2 psi below the sticker. The tires were about 12 psi above the sticker. Might be part of the reason that its not sold in the USA anymore.
    Latest was a Jeep Renegade. Similar to the CX-7 the ride did not improve much when lowering the tire pressure to the door sticker. Steering was twitchy at center, but also mushy when cornering.
    Lots of other problems. Still wondering how/why any vehicle company would sell something like that.
    Maybe younger drivers that have less experience won’t know the difference. They are sold at a low price for these days.
    The tire pressure thing is not just at rental places. I have seen it come out of many service/tire/repair/dealer shops. More than once I have caught someone looking at the tire sidewall and inflating to the “Max pressure”. When it is pointed out to them that there is a sticker on the door jamb with the correct pressure they react like you are lecturing about the perturbations in the orbit of Neptune caused by Pluto.


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