Travel Pet Peeve: Airport Rental Car Locations

cheapest car rental
Written by Charlie

When it comes to travel pet peeves, one of mine is with the actual locations of airport rental car counters. Not always where they are supposed to be!

Like most travelers, I adapt to things on the go. Things happen and I have learned to roll with it. But, there are a few things that I have in my travel routine and how I book things that can mess me up sometimes. Airport rental car locations are one of those things and one of my travel pet peeves.

Travel Pet Peeve: Airport Rental Car Locations

When you rent a car from an airport location, there are two ways that they are typically listed – on site and shuttle. The larger airports (mostly?) all have shuttle locations where they will pick you up at a designated area in front of the airport and take you to the rental car center. Smaller airports will have many rental companies on-site with some of the budget companies having shuttle service.

Picking Actual Airport Locations

When I rent a car from an airport location, I always select the on-site company. Most of the time it is because I do not have the time to go through the shuttle process but it also has to do with the fact that I hold elite status with major companies and they are mostly located on site.

So, if I see a company with a much lower cost, I check to see where they say they are and then reserve. On a recent rental, I was reminded of how much it annoys me when a company shows themselves to be on site but they are actually a shuttle ride away.

Airports and Dollar’s On-Site Locations

I was renting a car from a regional airport and had found a better price from Dollar. Nothing on the rental page showed that they were off-site, in fact, it said they were located at the airport. With that, I went with them. I was in a hurry and dropping off another rental car at the airport so I was expecting it to take no more than a few minutes to be done.

… Nope!

When I went into the airport, I saw all of the regular car rental companies with their offices – but no Dollar. I went up and asked one of the other places where Dollar was and was told that they were actually off site. I went and found the call box area and called over to them. I was told that the driver was already at the airport and to go outside to be picked up.

Except, there was no driver outside. After waiting for 15 minutes, I went back in and called again. I was told he would be there in 10-15 minutes. Nope, it took 20 minutes before he showed up. After a short ride, we pulled in near the penitentiary and up to the Dollar rental offices. I commented how disappointing it was to find that they were off-site, especially since their website portrayed that they were at the airport. The response – “Yeah, we get that a lot.”

After finishing up, we were pointed to another lot next door and given our car. Total wasted time? 40 minutes more, at least, than if Dollar had been where they said they were.

After the journey, I went back to the website to see if I had missed something. I found that if you choose to pre-pay, it will tell you that it is a shuttle ride. Otherwise, paying at the counter only says that it is at the airport. All in all, not a very happy experience with Dollar in this instance and I will certainly avoid the this Dollar rental location in the future.

What Should Change

Yes, Dollar does use the airport location for many of their reservations (even the larger airports that are off-site), probably similar to the way hotel’s list their property as an airport hotel when they are 15 minutes away. But, with hotels, it also shows the address right there and you can adjust. With Dollar, even the confirmation did not say anything about calling to be picked up or anything about their actual location. They should start including that information to make it easier for customers but I doubt that will happen.

Which airport rental companies have you found to actually be off site when they show airport locations?

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About the author


Charlie has been an avid traveler and runner for many years. He has run in marathons around the world for less than it would cost to travel to the next town - all as a result of collecting and using miles and points. Over the years, he has flown hundreds of thousands of miles and collected millions of miles and points.
Now he uses this experience and knowledge to help others through Running with Miles.


  • which airport location is it? it’s ok to call it out as is. there is no offense to call out a mis-service. Lucky tells which airline miscues.

  • I was in Key West and needed a car for a couple of days. This was in the middle of my vacation, not when I initially arrived in Key West. I called National to make a reservation and was told that Their office was at the airport and I would need to go there to sign papers. I was staying on Roosevelt and it was really hot that day so I called a cab to get me to the airport, instead of riding my bike to the other side of the island. I get to the airport, and after finding no counter, am told that the National is offsite. A shuttle comes to pick me up and takes me to a location ON ROOSEVELT that is 1/2 mile from my rental house!

    • That stinks! That is the thing, getting that information makes up for not being onsite. I could have just driven to the off site location if I had known and you could have walked! 🙂

  • I just hate the whole process of having rental locations off-site to begin with, for the reasons you mentioned.

    I do a lot of business in OKC and that used to be one of my favorite airports to fly into. You literally walked out of security, rode an escalator down, and walked across the street to get in your car and go. It was unbelievably easy.

    Now they have moved all the rental facilities a mile away and you have to wait for the shuttle. In the grand scheme of things it’s clearly a first-world problem. But it easily adds 20 minutes both in picking up the car when you arrive and in dropping it off when you leave. Believe it or not, that extra 15 minutes can be a big difference between whether I can wrap up my project and get back to my family on the last flight out or have to spend an entire extra night out of town.

    And given the exorbitant “airport fees” and taxes tacked onto airport location rentals, it’s just the icing on the cake for them to push all that logistical hassle on travelers so they can have their airport set up in a way that I’m sure is only more convenient to whoever has a financial stake in pushing travelers into having to ride a shuttle out to middle-of-nowhere to get their cars.

    Also, so far the Atlanta airport is the worst of the worst I’ve experienced. A long walk to a tram…which takes you to another tram…which takes you I don’t-even-know-where to the rental facilities. Ridiculous.

    • It has been a while since I rented from them and definitely don’t plan to again! With National, Avis, Hertz and discounts, I never really need to look around anyway.