When I’m unimpressed by the regular retail car rental rates, and can’t get Priceline or Hotwire to make me a deal I can brag about, I check the Euro-centric rental car consolidators — even for rentals in the U.S. (See here for an earlier post on this trick.) I’ve been a fan of sites like AutoEurope, even for non-European rentals, for fallback situations.
So I was interested, at first, when I learned that AutoEurope would start offering vacation packages, in addition to car rentals.
I had never really thought about this before, but car rental companies don’t really sell vacation packages. Airlines and hotels do, of course, and agencies have long offered them, of course, but since rental cars have always been an afterthought — after the flight and hotel, at least — the rental agencies haven’t really pushed the vacation package angle from their own sites.
And to be fair, even with this announcement by AutoEurope (a consolidator), the car rental firms — the ones handing over the keys — are still not in the package game.
But my interest in combining a discounted car rental with a discounted hotel room was quickly quashed when I saw how the site actually works. For starters, you can’t search for packages up front. You search for a car, and then they offer a hotel as an upsell. Lame.
But even worse, since offering packages, some rental rates aren’t even bookable anymore. For example, I searched for an upcoming trip to Atlanta, to test-drive the feature. A car rate (and not even a great rate…) popped up, with caveats:
Of the two search results, both featured the caveat. Car-only wasn’t even an option.
I thought it was a fluke. Then I ran other searches — different dates, different cities, “any class” car … it happened every time, for every car. Lame, lame, lame.
Why not let the consumer choose to just rent a car?
Sorry, AutoEurope, but what could have been an upgrade is a serious downgrade instead.