Tuesday, August 26, 2014

An Enterprise Rent- A- Car Adventure

We rented a car to go to UCSF this last weekend. The last time I rented one was in the early '80s and that didn't go well. Couldn't afford it but my truck has some issues. I decided to try Enterprise Rent-A-Car. They have an office here in Eureka down on 5th Street and a friend gave them rave reviews. They also had the smaller, economy  type cars of the type I'd prefer. If nothing else, maybe we could save some money on gas?

My first concern was that they weren't open on Sundays when we'd be leaving. We'd have to pick up the car on Saturday which probably meant an extra day's rental. I was hoping by talking with them they'd be able to cut me some kind of deal. I gave them a call.

The gal I spoke to was nice and gave me the basic info. At first I was left with the impression we'd have to rent the car for four days, even though we really only needed it for two or three, depending on how they tallied the days. Pick up on Saturday, then returning it Tuesday since they'd likely be closed by the time we got back Monday night.

She surprised me by saying it would only be three days rental so long as we picked it up around 2pm on Saturday and brought it back before 2pm Tuesday. That was still one more day than needed, but better than two extra days. Cool! They rent them on a 24 hour schedule rather than days.

I went ahead and told her we'd like a car, mentioning the Chevy Spark they showed on their web page. She didn't seem to pay much mind to the type of car and just took some info from me including my address and phone number.

Went down on Saturday just before 2pm to pick it up. When we got there I had a pretty strong feeling we wouldn't be getting the Chevy Spark. I couldn't see anything resembling a small car in their lot. In fact, very few cars at all. Most must have already been already rented.

Two guys were standing just inside the door of the office. I figured they must have been just walk- in customers who hadn't made reservations. Those with reservations go to the front of the line and the guy behind the counter immediately turned to us and asked if we had a reservation. I told him I'd guessed that was what we'd done on the phone a few days earlier.

I gave him my name. He checked the computer and verified the information I'd given them
earlier. Then he asked for a driver's license and credit card. As he filled in more info he said that we'd be getting a Chrysler 200. He didn't even mention the Chevy Spark. I didn't bother asking. We checked our receipt later and noticed they'd charged the same rate that we would have paid for the Chevy. Good enough.

After some back and forth with the girl working with him, the guy says they're changing plans and were going to give us a Toyota Corolla. That was the car that just drove in the lot, having just been returned. I just shrugged my shoulders. Whatever. We just need a car.

A minute or two later he says there's been another change and we're back with the Chrysler 200. Ok. I didn't like the black Toyota anyway.

Within 10 or 15 minutes he'd pretty much handled all the details and we went out to inspect the car with him. That's to record any damage already present on the car. With just a few barely noticeable scratches, it looked as if it was new. After a few more last minute instructions and signing the rental agreement, he gave me the key and I drove the car home.

As far as the car, a couple things I was disappointed in from the start. First, it was bigger than I'd wanted. It seemed almost as big as my truck. I was hoping for a small enough car to use the Compact Car parking at UCSF if necessary. Not with this one.

I was worried about gas mileage, too. Once I got home I went online and checked the supposed mileage of the Chrysler 200. They showed it as between 30 to 35mpg on the highway, depending on the exact model. That's better than my truck's even if I could get close to the lower range.

Despite looking almost new I was still bugged by the appearance. I guess it was just too ritzy and too high class a car for a bum like me. It made me feel out of my element. It did have an automatic transmission and that was like a breath of fresh air, especially for driving in the Bay Area.

I was also a bit leery of the controls. How do you turn the headlights on, run the air conditioner and all the other things you normally take for granted? Luckily, all the controls were pretty easy to figure out right away with a couple exceptions.

First thing in the morning I went to open the trunk and there was no keyhole, but I quickly found a marked button on the dashboard that opened the trunk.

One thing I didn't like is only the driver's door can be opened by the key. I guess you have to open that door first before you can open the others. What if you just want to take something out of the passenger side (and that became an issue)? I still don't like that.

Something I thought about briefly but forgot to ask about was whether it had an alarm system. I didn't think about that again until we stopped at the One Log House in Piercy. I locked all four doors using a button on the driver's door. When I came out and put the key in the driver's side door the car alarm went off.

Yikes! Hope I didn't screw something up. The alarm on my truck can disable the vehicle if you don't reset it right. I just opened the door and stuck the key in the ignition. The noise stopped with no further problems, but I didn't use that button that locks all four doors again.

A couple other issues of concern:

I thought I'd heard a strange noise earlier on when we started out and I put the car in reverse. I gave it no further thought until Monday morning. We started backing out of our parking spot at the Villa Inn and there was a loud scraping, grinding sound the whole time we backed out. Loud enough that the Inn's manager who was walking across the parking lot stopped and turned to see what it was.

Once I turned and pulled forward the noise stopped. I stopped next to the manager, explained it was a rental car and had no idea what the noise was. He said he thought I was dragging something. We both looked under and around the car and couldn't see anything that would have caused the noise. I drove off to UCSF hoping that wasn't going to happen again. It didn't. I'm guessing it was something in the transmission, but a non- issue in the end. Hey, we made it back.

Another weird thing was at least twice, maybe three times, I found the engine hood unlatched. I have no idea how that happened. I knew where the hood latch was and I hadn't touched it. Maybe just a loose latch that popped open easy but things like that make me wonder what else might happen if I pressed the wrong button in the car accidentally. 

At the end of two days we made it back with no problems. In fact, when we got home Monday night there was a message on our answering machine from one of the gals at the Enterprise office just calling to check if everything was ok with our rental. Nice touch.

After topping off the gas tank (they charge like $5.00 a gallon if they fill it up) I took the car back in Tuesday morning. The gal at the desk grabbed my file, took a quick look at the car including checking fuel level and mileage. Then we went inside, she printed out a receipt and told me they'd remove the $200 security deposit they charged to my credit card when we picked up the car. That was it. 

Simple enough and I was pleased. I might well rent a car from them again next time we head to the Bay Area, assuming we can afford to do so.

Here's my freshly typed out Yelp review on Enterprise Rent-A-Car.


At 12:23 PM, Anonymous Eel River Ernie said...

A few months back I had a rental car from Enterprise while my truck was at Harper's for repair. The staff was great but we played musical cars very similar to your experience. Also, most of the cars in the lot at the time were pretty scratched up and looked like someone had used them for deer hunting.

At 12:30 PM, Blogger Fred Mangels said...

I don't know that there were more than 5 cars in the lot when we got there (not many more when I took that one back today). I'm not sure if all the ones in the lot were rentals, either.

That Toyota they said we might be taking looked a bit dirty, from what I could see, but it just drove in the lot. The Chrysler looked almost brand new and had obviously been washed within the last hour.

I'm sure they have a mix of old and new cars.

As an aside, I'm sure whatever I found lacking in the Chrysler, I likely would have found some things I didn't like with the Chevy Spark, as well, had we given one.

At 8:20 PM, Anonymous Professorlocknload said...

Good that you had a smooth transaction with Enterprise. They have always gone above and beyond the call of duty for me.

By far they are the most hassle free of all the agencies out there.


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