US car hire problem: Why is a 12 seater van so much cheaper than a car? Or have I done something foolish? | Australian Frequent Flyer
Australian Frequent Flyer

Welcome to Australia's leading independent Frequent Flyer and Travel Resource since 1998!
Our site contains tons of information that will improve your travel experience.

Joining AFF is fast, simple & absolutely free - register now and take immediate advantage of these great BENEFITS.

Once registered, this box will disappear. And you will see fewer advertisements :)

Login Now to remove this and all advertisements (GOLD and SILVER members)
Not a member? Register Now for free

US car hire problem: Why is a 12 seater van so much cheaper than a car? Or have I done something foolish?

Dr Ralph

Enthusiast
Joined
Jan 21, 2014
Messages
10,691
Qantas
Bronze
Virgin
Red
Flights
My Map
Some strange things happening with advanced car rentals for me.

Have been searching for a while and don't understand why, but it was $1000 US cheaper to pre book the following vehicle now with Hertz as compared to any other vehicle that can currently be booked other than what looks to be something smaller than a Mazda 2:


Ford Transit 12 psgr or Similar Fullsize Passenger Van

Minivan, SUV and 4x4 Car Rentals | Hertz


I just don't understand how a 12 seater van can be so much cheaper than any other car! If it was more than a normal car I could understand.

The current price is just under $4000 US for a 60 day rental. A VW Jetta was over $1000 US more for the same time period!

I've booked the 12 seater van, just in case nothing else cheaper comes along. But I'm very much hoping that something else that I like/want/would be happy with will come along before the booking is due to start on August 2.

If something else doesn't come along then what do you think the chances are when I arrive to collect the vehicle ( truck!) that they'd allow me to swap it for something else that was smaller in size and more 'car' like? I know that I've had upgrades before but this would effectively be asking for a down grade in my view.

No money has changed hands, this is a pre booking only. I can cancel with no penalty.

There will be only myself and Mrs Dr Ralph plus 4 suitcases on the trip which will be approximately 7,000 kms in total over 60 days.

Not sure if I've made a significant mistake or not but I have canvassed the small possibility with Mrs Dr Ralph that we may be touring middle America in this vehicle.
 
Last edited:

Dr Ralph

Enthusiast
Joined
Jan 21, 2014
Messages
10,691
Qantas
Bronze
Virgin
Red
Flights
My Map
No special license required? Here, an 11 seater is okay with no special license if I remember correctly.
I'll double check but I don't believe so. I did some checking and watched a few YouTube clips and appears that this vehicle is commonly sold to families and isn't considered to be a commercial vehicle.

UPDATE: Just called Hertz in the US. 15 people or more and you need a special licence. Under that and all is fine. So I should be ok. After all there are only so many people I am happy picking up along the way :)
 
Last edited:
Joined
May 1, 2013
Messages
339
Flights
My Map
I've booked the 12 seater van, just in case nothing else cheaper comes along. But I'm very much hoping that something else that I like/want/would be happy with will come along before the booking is due to start on August 2.
Dr Ralph if you are planning 60 days away, please ensure all loose ends are tied up here before leaving. It is of vital importance that the posting of Coles and Woolies GC deals continues without a hitch. I swear any time I read a catalogue I miss the GCs, so rely heavily on your hard work.

And enjoy your trip:)
 

Dr Ralph

Enthusiast
Joined
Jan 21, 2014
Messages
10,691
Qantas
Bronze
Virgin
Red
Flights
My Map
Dr Ralph if you are planning 60 days away, please ensure all loose ends are tied up here before leaving. It is of vital importance that the posting of Coles and Woolies GC deals continues without a hitch. I swear any time I read a catalogue I miss the GCs, so rely heavily on your hard work.

And enjoy your trip:)
Haha. You may be on your own for some time :)

I will be in the US for around 90 days in total between now and the end of the year.

Im hoping there aren't any great gift card deals whilst I'm away!
 

VPS

Established Member
Joined
Apr 2, 2011
Messages
4,574
Qantas
LT Gold
Virgin
Platinum
Flights
My Map
I wanted to hire a car in Birmingham UK last year that I had to book last minute to go to a funeral. The 8 seater van was about 20% cheaper than anything else. When I got there they went to get the car and the guy came back and said do you know what you've ordered and I said yep. He said do you really want it and I said no but because it was cheaper so he offered to go and get something else for me. In the end they didn't have anything else but offered to swap it in a couple of days for no charge which is what I did
 

Dr Ralph

Enthusiast
Joined
Jan 21, 2014
Messages
10,691
Qantas
Bronze
Virgin
Red
Flights
My Map
I wanted to hire a car in Birmingham UK last year that I had to book last minute to go to a funeral. The 8 seater van was about 20% cheaper than anything else. When I got there they went to get the car and the guy came back and said do you know what you've ordered and I said yep. He said do you really want it and I said no but because it was cheaper so he offered to go and get something else for me. In the end they didn't have anything else but offered to swap it in a couple of days for no charge which is what I did
Seems fortunate you were able to swap it.

Im renting from Dallas, so I expect there will be a large range of vehicles on hand. In Dallas for 5 days so would be available to swap if opportunity arose.

Any idea why your 8 seater was cheaper?
 

juddles

Suspended
Joined
Aug 2, 2011
Messages
5,436
Qantas
Platinum 1
Flights
My Map
Hmmmm - interesting one.

I am NOT an expert, so these thoughts are given in the spirit of ideas only. I have booked quite a few cars in various countries, but my main experience by sheer volume has been here in Australia (for the past few years I have booked cars almost every week as for various reasons it is actually better for me than buying a car)

What I have learnt, and I expect that this applies to the USA and other places too, is that the car rental industry is quite similar to airlines, in that pricing does not always make sense from the outside, but does from within. They are simply trying to be super efficient. Effectively they will sometimes sell things at what appear to be incorrect low prices, but are actually them just trying to keep everything moving (a machine that is parked is losing money - learnt that from the earth-moving business) Hence some weeks when renting from my local Avis they will have a full-size sedan at a lesser cost than a small car.

As an example, pertaining to your case, a large specialist vehicle like a Transit may usually command a much higher price than a sedan, but if on average they only have that vehicle rented out two or three days a week, then to secure a full-time two month booking at a reduced rate will actually make them more money. The converse of this is that they may be able to squeeze more money out of a particular sedan by doing short term rentals than by having it locked into a long lease at a reduced price. In my experience it is ALWAYS cheaper for me to book a car for a week, then another week, and so on, than booking the same car for many months.... (When I do this the staff at the Avis let me keep the same specific car if I like it, but have to physically go in and sign off/on the weekly contracts)

So anyway, the mere fact that you have a "higher class" vehicle cheaper than a "lesser class" is not surprising. But do as you have been doing - checking licensing requirements and so forth. Also, double check that the larger vehicle does not have different daily mileage restrictions/costs, as this is something that is common with the bigger or "commercial" ones.

Finally, if you stay with the booking, but really want a more normal car upon arrival, you may well not get this. It may logically seem to be requesting a "downgrade", but due to the above, it may well be something that they cannot offer you. ( a bit like when you get a car on a seven day special and you decide to drop it off a day or two early - that can actually cause an INCREASE in the rental charge )

So as I say - it is just like the airline industry - loopholes or opportunities to be taken advantage of, but also trapdoors that common logic would never see coming....
 

VPS

Established Member
Joined
Apr 2, 2011
Messages
4,574
Qantas
LT Gold
Virgin
Platinum
Flights
My Map
Seems fortunate you were able to swap it.

Im renting from Dallas, so I expect there will be a large range of vehicles on hand. In Dallas for 5 days so would be available to swap if opportunity arose.

Any idea why your 8 seater was cheaper?
The mid size sedans were heavily booked so I guess it was just supply and demand. I did hire it for two weeks and took it back a day earlier and they wanted to charge me more (as per @juddles but they had already made a minor error which was only a few pounds and I was going to ignore but after gentle persuasion (or possibly I'm not going to ring someone next week, I'm not leaving until you fix it ;)) they saw the error of their ways and I got it for the price I had originally booked. I have to say Hertz at Birmingham were fantastic including driving me to the train station and just went out of their way to be helpful
 

Dr Ralph

Enthusiast
Joined
Jan 21, 2014
Messages
10,691
Qantas
Bronze
Virgin
Red
Flights
My Map
Hmmmm - interesting one.

I am NOT an expert, so these thoughts are given in the spirit of ideas only. I have booked quite a few cars in various countries, but my main experience by sheer volume has been here in Australia (for the past few years I have booked cars almost every week as for various reasons it is actually better for me than buying a car)

What I have learnt, and I expect that this applies to the USA and other places too, is that the car rental industry is quite similar to airlines, in that pricing does not always make sense from the outside, but does from within. They are simply trying to be super efficient. Effectively they will sometimes sell things at what appear to be incorrect low prices, but are actually them just trying to keep everything moving (a machine that is parked is losing money - learnt that from the earth-moving business) Hence some weeks when renting from my local Avis they will have a full-size sedan at a lesser cost than a small car.

As an example, pertaining to your case, a large specialist vehicle like a Transit may usually command a much higher price than a sedan, but if on average they only have that vehicle rented out two or three days a week, then to secure a full-time two month booking at a reduced rate will actually make them more money. The converse of this is that they may be able to squeeze more money out of a particular sedan by doing short term rentals than by having it locked into a long lease at a reduced price. In my experience it is ALWAYS cheaper for me to book a car for a week, then another week, and so on, than booking the same car for many months.... (When I do this the staff at the Avis let me keep the same specific car if I like it, but have to physically go in and sign off/on the weekly contracts)

So anyway, the mere fact that you have a "higher class" vehicle cheaper than a "lesser class" is not surprising. But do as you have been doing - checking licensing requirements and so forth. Also, double check that the larger vehicle does not have different daily mileage restrictions/costs, as this is something that is common with the bigger or "commercial" ones.

Finally, if you stay with the booking, but really want a more normal car upon arrival, you may well not get this. It may logically seem to be requesting a "downgrade", but due to the above, it may well be something that they cannot offer you. ( a bit like when you get a car on a seven day special and you decide to drop it off a day or two early - that can actually cause an INCREASE in the rental charge )

So as I say - it is just like the airline industry - loopholes or opportunities to be taken advantage of, but also trapdoors that common logic would never see coming....
Good suggested re unlimited mileage. Have confirmed this is fine.
 

juddles

Suspended
Joined
Aug 2, 2011
Messages
5,436
Qantas
Platinum 1
Flights
My Map
Dr Ralph, I am sure you have probably thought of these things, and only you know your needs and desires, and I do not know what sort of trip you are doing, but the idea of a much-larger vehicle brings with it some possible pros and cons:

Pros:
- fun
- sheer space to spread out in - ie not having to pack perfectly before every move
- comfort (generally better the bigger the vehicle, but not always)
- versatility - ie if visiting friends you can all go for a day or overnight trip together

Cons:
- fuel consumption
- road tolls (can sometimes be higher)
- ease of driving, especially on unfamiliar roads
- inability to use drive thru services
- much more restricted parking opportunities
- a perhaps greater risk factor of scrapes / damage to the vehicle

From time to time I do rent light trucks and big vehicles, and they do bring with them those cons - but I have also worked out that although they require more attention in driving (like keeping within your lane on a highway), they can also often be very comfortable, and with huge windows and greater height, can give a much better view of the countryside.

Last thought - not sure if this is relevant - but perhaps check with your travel insurance that you are covered driving what could be in some jurisdictions or company eyes a "commercial vehicle" ?
 

Community Statistics

Threads
86,080
Messages
2,061,924
Members
53,405
Latest member
Poh
Top