3 Companies Own 95% of Car Rental Brands

When renting a car, we all know that there are the big, national brands or the small independent companies to choose from.

Although there are many car rental brands, there are actually only three major companies. Enterprise owns both National and Alamo. Avis owns Budget, Payless, and Zipcar. Hertz owns Dollar and Thrifty. Together, these three companies account for 95 percent of the domestic car rental industry, according to Neil Abrams, president of the Abrams Consulting Group, a leading car rental consulting firm.

“Consolidation in the industry has certainly, from a strategic standpoint, changed the landscape,” Abrams says. “Where you had eight independent brands at one time, all fighting for terrain, now each of these three rental companies have brands in each of the pricing tiers: high, middle, and low.”

Ultimately, the greater cost efficiencies afforded to larger companies, mainly in acquiring and holding automobiles, benefits the consumer. Yet on price, the small, privately held companies may save renters money.

“There are many brands that aren’t household names,” Abrams says. “They’re good companies, and valued companies, that have the same cars at every different price point. They may suffer a little bit on service and convenience, but you can save a lot of money.”

In fact, consumers get just as much satisfaction from small rental-car companies as they do from the big ones, according to the J.D. Power 2014 North American Rental Car Satisfaction Study. That survey asks 12,000 respondents to rate their experiences, including the reservation process, pickup, return, and cost.

Accoding to Jennifer Corwin, client services supervisor for J.D. Power, the study doesn’t compare the large and small companies directly. Still, satisfaction with small rental-car brands is “consistent with what we see across the rest of the industry.”

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