Leading up to our recent trip to Texas, which involved a rental car, I couldn’t help but flash back to our rental car experience from a few years ago. We “reserved” some kind of a compact car, only to have them “upgrade” us to a boat of a Buick. In addition to the terrible gas mileage, we had quite a time maneuvering that behemoth around the narrow streets of Carmel-by-the-Sea. That said, we managed without incident.
For our most recent excursion, we again reserved a compact car, and I was ready to put up a fight if they gave us an “upgrade.” We arrived at the counter and presented our reservation. After going over a few things (like declining their extra insurance and signing away our first born child — why does renting a car stress me out so much?), the customer service rep offered us the keys to a Dodge Caliber.
Now, I could not picture this particular car in my head, but I don’t exactly equate “Dodge” with “good gas mileage.” Since I wasn’t familiar with the car (which is in fact a compact), I responded somewhat dubiously.
Me: We want to get something small with good gas mileage.
Service rep: This is one of our smaller cars. [Looks through a couple of sets of car keys in his box.] [Then, in a voice that sounds like he doubts we would really want what he’s about to offer . . .] The only other thing I have here is a Toyota Corolla.
Me: [Very excited, but trying to stay calm] And we could have that for the same price?
Service rep: Yes.
Okay, I didn’t really say that, but I was doing a major happy dance inside, which only increased when we found our super cute, late model, bright red ‘Rolla waiting for us in the lot. We suppressed our enthusiasm, guessing that a preference for small foreign cars might be less than popular in the land of gigantic American brand trucks.
Our little car performed nicely, though we didn’t realize until the return trip that there were actually two main drive settings on the automatic transmission (D3 and D). We accidentally discovered “D” on the way back, which apparently equates to overdrive, and wished we’d discovered it sooner due to better gas mileage. Either way, we did better on the MPG front in the Corolla than we would have done in the Caliber.
Perhaps this positive experience will leave me a bit more relaxed the next time I face a car rental. In this case, one little question netted a better car with no extra cost — now that’s my kind of upgrade!