CC Question: What Was The Worst Rental Car You’ve Ever Had?

rental cars

Let’s face it. Renting a car can be an overall unpleasant experience. Paying an often obscene amount of money for use of a car that in one way or another can’t compare to your own ride. If you rent one on vacation, it’s even more unsettling, having to get used to both a different car, and different roads you’ve never navigated.

Though I am under the age of 25, therefore unable to legally rent a car with the possible exception of Zipcar, I have accompanied my mom on many trips to Enterprise, among other agencies over the course of my life.

Some of our rental car experiences have been bad because of customer service, and the gimmicks they play to try to squeeze as much cash out of you as possible. “No I don’t want to pay more for your extra insurance! I have my own insurance that covers me fine!” “I don’t need to pay double for a full tank of gas either!”

cheap seats

But most often, it is the car itself. Regardless the size of vehicle you rent, more than likely it’s the most primitively-equipped base model, with hard bottomed seats, upholstered in “easy to clean” cloth that’s rougher than sandpaper. Despite this, the car is rarely completely clean on the inside. I usually am able to find some trace of the previous renter. The oddest one of these traces I’ve ever encountered were footprints on the inside of the windshield.

Among the most miserable rental cars I’ve had the misfortune of riding in on multiple occasions, has been the Chevrolet Impala. From it’s floaty ride and unsupportive seats to its rubbermaid-grade interior, reeking of horrible plastic smell, it is the epitome of the rental car.

Now the worst rental car experience I’ve had was at the Norfolk, VA airport in 2008. Choosing Dollar Rental because it was the cheapest, we had reserved a “Dodge Charger or similar”. As soon as my mom turned down Dollar’s extra insurance, the service rep who lacked any basic customer service skills became even more snippy, and slammed down the keys to a Kia Optima on the counter. I immediately spoke up, telling her that an Optima was not in the same size class as a Charger, but she angrily retorted, “This is all we have”. Frustrated, my mom and I made our way down to the garage, and were more than shocked at the state of the car we were given. The taillight was busted, covered over in red tape, the fake chrome on the grille was peeling off in multiple places, and there were numerous scratches all over the exterior. Not wanting to be accused of doing all the damage, we went back up to get our money back (we had to deal with the same woman at Dollar), and went over to Enterprise where we got  brand new Pontiac G6 instead.

So tell me, what was your worst rental car or rental car experience?