Have rental car companies been given a free ride on fees?

For the past few years, airlines have taken the lion’s share of vitriol and downright anger from consumers, consumer advocates, and some politicians, for the new concept of unbundled fares in the aviation industry.  From checked bags to pets to seat assignments to extra leg room to antlers, airlines have been the punching bag of the free market.  But what about rental car companies?  Oh, you say, but when I book a rental car all taxes and fees are up front and accounted for.

Oh really, just to name a few, how about an early return fee?  No show fee?  Late return fee?  Credit card hold?  Cash deposit?   Additional driver fee?  Frequent traveler surcharge?  And some companies leave you guessing as to how much a damage waiver will cost.  How much for that extra liability insurance?  Oh, and want roadside assistance coverage?  Good luck finding that out.  Some companies flat out say that all information can be found at the desk at rental time.  What?

And yet for the most part the airlines have taken the beating.  We at TruPrice have often stated that we’re all for companies making money.  But what’s in the secret sauce that has allowed the rental car fees to drive mostly under the huge shadow of the airlines?  Is it the law of gross tonnage?  Or is it just that we’ve been paying them for so long on rental cars that we don’t even rant about them anymore?  And we wonder why the airlines are following the same tact.

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