I typically rent cars from the big car rental companies that I have elite status with. Not only does it help me to get some great upgrades and benefits, that can be very advantageous and cost-saving, but it can help with the whole customer experience as well.
Why I Will Not Rent From Payless Again
Due to the fact that I have this elite status (but more likely because I mostly rent from the larger rental car companies), I have rarely had a dirty car. Sure, I have had a car with some little patches or stains but I have found that the cars I typically rent are pretty clean and almost like new. Not only that, but I also tend to get some pretty good customer service.
First Time Rental with Payless
Because of my typical rental patterns, this description of the dirtiest rental car I have had in the US may not be as bad as cars you have had before but it was certainly my worst. Also, the experience with the company was far from the great ones I usually have and the whole rental made me certain that I will not rent from Payless again.
Why Did I Rent From Payless?
I was in Phoenix visiting family and I had been using rental cars on and off. I needed another one for a couple of days as my wife and I were going away on a little getaway. The problem was that all the major car rental companies were completely sold out! This is Phoenix in February on the week that MLB Spring Training kicked off so not a big surprise as to why!
This left me with having to rent with the one company that still had cars in stock. And that company was Payless Car Rental. I had never rented with them before (and will likely never rent from them again) but they were relatively cheap compared to prices around that time anyway – and they were only the ones with cars!
The Dirty Details
I rented the cheapest vehicle they had – an intermediate SUV. It ended up being a Mitsubishi Outlander, not a bad vehicle! The problem came when I got in the vehicle. The tan seats were filthy with stains and the smell of cigarette smoke was definitely in the car. This was strange because they, like other companies, say they charge at least a $250 fee for cleaning if you smoke in the car. My guess was the charge was assessed but the cleaning was never done (based on the interior condition of the vehicle).
Not only were the seats stained but they also had what looked like cigarette burns in the backs of the seats. The front seats also had weird stains and I found food (very old food) on the floor in the back seat as well as hotel receipts and grocery store receipts throughout the car. Based on the dates on the receipts, it was likely not thoroughly cleaned in weeks.
When I opened the passenger door when I got to the house, a hotel receipt fell out of it. That did not give me the sense that this car had been cleaned from the last renter!
I had planned on taking photos of the entire interior to show how dirty it was but I was in a hurry and only snapped one.
The Condition of the Vehicle
Unfortunately, it was not just the interior that was a problem. As I was driving later on and approaching my family’s house, I had to slow down for speed bumps and started hearing loud creaking noises coming from the front suspension. Not only that, but the vehicle’s tires were worn down quite a bit.
I have never had issues like that with previous rentals from other companies!
Dealing With Payless
Car Rental Reps or Insurance Salespeople?
Now let’s get to the dealing with Payless. There was a very long line (took me about 45 minutes in line) to pick up the car but I again acknowledge that this was due to no other companies having any cars left and that Phoenix is like this anyway at busy times.
When I finally got to the front, the rep turned on the hard sell for insurance. I told him I had it with my card and he started pushing the liability insurance and telling me I was not covered from that. He kept pushing it for a couple of minutes after I first started saying no but I finally gave in because I have dealt with similar companies internationally and they always found something they would try to pin on you later for insurance reasons and I simply didn’t want to deal with that.
Dodgy Answers on Total Costs
I asked a couple of times if the amount he was quoting me extra for the two days was the total and he said yes. Except, when I got the receipt, the amount was quite a bit higher! I asked why and he said it tax. I told him I had specifically asked him if that previous amount he had quoted me was the total but he said that they don’t include tax in that amount originally because they don’t control the tax (a 49% tax altogether, by the way).
This was not just with me either! I heard the other reps selling the insurance hard and telling people things like Arizona is one of 4 states in the US that does not recognize this insurance or that insurance, etc. I also heard them upgrading people to bigger, better vehicles only to hit the insurance thing again by saying that their cards/insurance would not cover that vehicle because of the size.
Returning the Car and Learning More About Payless
Because of how dirty the car was, I made it a point to return to the counter to make sure I was not going to be charged anything extra, including for the smoke. I had to wait 15 minutes at the counter for them to finally get it logged in and then they closed it out and assured me that I was fine and I checked over the receipt then.
But while I was waiting, I was talking to the rep (nice guy, by the way) and he was telling me how that location was actually going to run out of cars that day by 4:30 in the afternoon! To make it worse, they had 200 reservations for people picking up cars after that point – and they would have no cars to pick up! He said that if they had made the reservations through Orbitz (or similar), there was fine print that the reservation did not guarantee they would actually get a car.
The problem, he said, was that the system would let it oversell a bit in the first place but also that many people were calling and extending their rentals because it was cheaper to do that than to bring them back and rent again.
From the dirty, creaking car to the pushy agents and the company’s handling of overselling cars, I never plan to rent from Payless Car Rental again. I understand that their parent company is Avis but I have always enjoyed positive rental experiences from Avis. From Payless, definitely not even though it was just this one rental.
As I looked more at them, I found out that the BBB gave them an “F” rating last year due to over 800 complaints. Check out this ABC story from last year that talks about the BBB even wanted attorneys in four separate states to investigate Payless and their parent company Avis. Yes, Payless may have the cheapest rates up front, but it appears that you truly get what you pay for with them…
Have you ever rented from Payless Car Rental? What was your experience like?