Car Rental Programs

The car rental industry (or car hire as it’s referred to in Europe), is large: the U.S. market is estimated at approximately $21.5 billion and is highly consolidated, with the top three players – Enterprise, Hertz and Avis – alone accounting for about 84% of total revenue, and an even larger percentage of the industry’s profits (when profits are to be made!).

In Europe and elsewhere around the world, the car hire industry is smaller in relative terms, and much less concentrated, with thousands of smaller operators (some with only 1-2 vehicles) in aggregate account for the lion share of industry revenue.  Another significant difference between markets is that car hire companies tend to segment themselves based on the type of customer they look to attract. For example, whereas both the 1st and 2nd tier players in the US and Canada operate airport and city /town rental locations to serve the needs of both business and leisure travelers, international markets tend to see the ‘big brands’ like Hertz, Avis, Sixt, Europcar, etc., concentrate more on the business traveler and therefore operate many fewer off-airport locations, while alternatively, the 2nd and 3rd tier operators focus more on leisure travelers and destinations, and rarely operate on-airport rental sites.

You may have read in the business press (or experienced first-hand as a result of operating your travel affiliate business) that the travel industry is highly competitive, sometimes cutthroat and often referred to as being commoditized.  These dynamics and descriptions certainly fit the car rental industry, as for many years, the car rental space has been undergoing a Darwinian war, where ultimately the end-game is nothing short of ‘a battle for the survival of the fittest’.

Regardless of the differences in market structure and the magnitude of the industry’s competitive intensity, there is money to be made by Travel Affiliates in the car rental vertical. Most of the big and medium-size players have Affiliate Programs (the current notable exception in the US and internationally is Hertz), and all of these programs are to a large extent very generous, and the car rental companies market them aggressively (this latter point is particularly true in Europe).

Here are Travel Dividend’s top 12 picks for car rental / car hire Affiliate Programs; if you are a Travel Affiliate and you are not selling any of these merchants, you may want to revisit your existing product strategy and assess how promoting car rental services to your clients might benefit your top and bottom line.

?   Alamo – When Alamo was first launched, it was focused on the leisure traveler.  Although it has grown significantly and also has been courting business travelers for years, today Alamo is still pretty much leisure-centric.  In fact, it boasts that they are “the largest car rental provider to international travelers visiting North America,” which if true, could only be achieved on back of leisure – and not business – travelers.  They also claim that because of its strategic alliance with Europcar (see Europcar’s affiliate program below), “they have created the world’s largest car rental network.”

Positioning claims aside, two of the best features we like about Alamo are:

?   Travelers of any stripe are assured of always getting the best available car rental rates when they book on the Alamo website

?   Customers that click on the option to ‘Prepay & Save’ get an automatic 10% discount off the quoted rate

Click here for more information on Alamo’s travel affiliate program.

?   Avis – Some of us old fogies remember Avis’ old marketing campaigns from the 1970s…”We’re number two…we try harder.”  Well, almost 40 years later, while they no longer use that marketing mantra, they can’t claim that distinction, because despite all of their ‘hard trying’, they slipped years ago into the ‘number three’ position (behind Enterprise and Hertz).

That doesn’t take away however, from the quality of this company, and the products and services they offer. First though, let’s note that there are ‘2′ Avis: Avis Rent-A-Car System LLC, and Avis Europe Plc.

Avis LLC operates more than 2,100 locations in the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Latin America and the Caribbean, and has a US fleet alone with more than 200,000 vehicles. It is also important to note that Budget Car Rental is owned by the same investor group as Avis LLC (see Budget’s affiliate program information below).

Their affiliated (but separate shareholder owned) Avis Europe operates an additional 2,900 locations in Europe, Middle East and Asia.

One of the attributes we like best about Avis is that their customer business mix is 60% corporate and 40% leisure, which means they know how to meet the needs and demands of each of these unique types of customers.

Check-out Avis’ travel affiliate program…we think it’s a winner.

?   Auto Europe – One of the largest and oldest car rental booking agency and consolidator services provider in the world, Auto Europe today has expanded from its original roots as a European market specialist to provide value and service driven travelers with cater for Europeans looking for car hire worldwide. Its network of partner rental companies spans Europe, Australia, South East Asia, South America, the Caribbean, Middle East, North Africa, and South Africa, with over 4,000 locations.
Auto Europe also provides chauffeur and transfer services, prestige and sports car rentals and motor home rentals. Their reputation has been built on providing customer with competitive rates and great service.  TD thinks that Auto Europe’s corporate philosophy is reason enough why travel affiliates should consider working with them: “If you think that there is something more important than a client…then you need to think again.” Get more info about Auto Europe here.

?   Budget Car Rental – A wholly owned subsidiary of Avis Budget Group, Inc (the same folks who own Avis Rent-A-Car System LLC), Budget is another of those 2nd tier players who have a solid network (1,800 car rental locations in the U.S., Canada, Latin America, the Caribbean, Australia and New Zealand), a modern fleet of about 110,000 vehicles that span the gamut from sub-compact to classic cars, and a good customer proposition.

They focus more on the leisure traveler (about 70% of their business comes from vacationers), and they’ve won their fare share of industry awards and accolades (two that particularly stand out for TD are: ‘One of America’s Top Corporations for Women’s Business Enterprises – 2008′ presented by the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) and ‘Leading Provider of Outstanding Car Rental Deals, 2007′ from Travelzoo.

We think US Travel Affiliates should take a close look at Budget…as should Affiliates in the UK.

?   easyCar –  The brainchild of Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou, best known for creating easyJet Airlines, one of the first low-cost airlines in the UK in 1995, easyCar takes the low-cost travel model and applies it to the car rental broker model.

Since achieving huge financial success with the low-cost air travel model, Stelios (as he likes to be called) launched a number of  ‘easy-branded’ companies under the banner of his easyGroup portfolio, including: easyHotel (budget hotels), easyBus (airport transfers), easyOffice (low-cost, serviced office rental for small businesses), easyPizza (yup, you guessed it, cheap, no frills pizza), and easyCruise – (cruises where the passengers clean their own cabins and can use the cruise ship to get off/on at different ports, much like a bus or a train).

Launched in 2000, easyCar, which is an aggregator and broker of small and large car rental companies around the world, is “built around the same principles as all [the] easy brands – the promise of outstanding value for money.”  TD agrees…here are several unique selling points that often make easyCar a good choice for consumers (and a travel affiliate’s customers):

?   No hidden costseasyCar keeps everything transparent; their rental pricing includes collision damage waiver and tax, so the customer knows up-front what the final cost of the rental will be

?   Free unlimited mileage…can save the renter a bundle of money, depending on the type of rental, rental location/destination and time of year

?   Geographic coverage…available in more than 60 countries around the world, with a network that includes 2,400 locations in popular downtown, airport and holiday destinations

?   Its all ‘net’… reservations can only be made via the Internet

Want more information about their travel affiliate program?  It’s ‘easy’, click here!

?   Enterprise Rent-A-Car – A one-time bit player that focused on the insurance replacement and special occasion renter segments of the car rental industry, Enterprise slowly but surely took its ‘small business philosophy’ and penchant for customer service to build the largest and most successful car rental company in the world.

How big is Enterprise?  Here’s one way to look at it: as mentioned earlier, the US car rental industry is estimated at about $21.5 billion in; Enterprise’s revenues for the same year were $7.1 billion, while the number 2 player, Hertz, generated $3.9 billion for the same period.  What makes this even more remarkable is that Enterprise today remains a family-owned business.

The scope of Enterprise’s operation is also pretty impressive: they operate more than 7,000 rental offices (on-airport, in cities and resort destinations, and neighborhoods) in five countries, and boast a rental car fleet of more than 713,000 vehicles, including more than 120 different makes and models.

Statistics aside, the thing that impresses TD the most about Enterprise is the number of accolades it has won over the years…here are a couple representative examples: In a national study of rental car companies, Enterprise has been ranked number one for customer satisfaction 7 times, and they received Travel + Leisure’s coveted ‘Green Travel Company Award’ in 2008 for promoting responsible tourism.

Enterprise’s travel affiliate program is pretty special as well…see for yourself here.

?   E-Z Rent-A-Car – The company that brands itself as “The Best Value in Car Rental” may be just that, but only if you are looking to rent a car in California, Nevada, Colorado, Texas, Georgia, Florida and Alaska.  If your need a car rental in the other 43 States, then you need to look at another vendor.

E-Z Rent-A-Car also has operations in Jamaica, Barbados, St Marten, Costa Rica, Mexico, Canada, the UK, Ireland, New Zealand and Kuwait.

While their current network may be an impressive achievement based on their humble beginnings with 9 late model cars in Orlando, FL back in 1994, the have a ways to go to catch-up with many of the 3rd tier players.

Nonetheless, their pricing in the markets they compete in may be attractive enough for you and your customers to consider. Take a look and decide…

?    Europcar – Long the number one car hire company in Europe, Europcar has an extensive network than goes well beyond Europe – 160 countries to be exact – with more than 220,000 cars in its fleet (these statistics include the Company’s wholly owned subsidiaries of National Car Rental Europe and Alamo Rent-A-Car Europe).

In addition to the existing strategic alliance that Europcar had with Alamo and National companies in the US, in October they announced a four-way deal with Enterprise.  Here’s an excerpt of the press release:

“The agreement, which took effect on September 3rd, enhances a transatlantic alliance entered into by Europcar in November 2006 with National Car Rental and Alamo Rent-A-Car. Enterprise purchased the National and Alamo brands in North America In August 2007.  Together, Europcar and Enterprise offer a fleet of more than 1.2 million vehicles at more than 13,000 locations in 162 countries to form the world’s largest car rental network.”

Perhaps more impressive is their value proposition to Travel Affiliates.  Here’s what they have to say on their UK website about why you should do business with them:

“The entire Europcar web presence is structured around encouraging our visitors to make their car rental reservations online, so as an affiliate to Europcar, all you need to do is send your targeted visitors to us, and we will be waiting to convert them into customers.

Paying out commissions at a generous £0.30 per lead, you should have no trouble in achieving an excellent conversion rate on the traffic you send to us so sign up today and start benefiting from the service that we can provide for your visitors.”

We say you should take Europcar up on its offer…click here to get started!

?   Holiday Autos – Based out of the UK, Holiday Autos bills itself as the “world’s largest and leading leisure car hire broker” and became the first auto rental broker to offer fully-inclusive pre-paid car hire.

Part of the Group, which itself is owned by The Sabre Group (which incidentally is also the parent of and, Holiday Autos works with top local car hire operators around the world, fashioning these relationships into a large global network (for example, Alamo, Avis and Hertz are some of their top suppliers). In the process, they have won many of the travel industry’s top awards for leisure car hire in the UK, Germany, and Switzerland among other countries.

Travel Dividends is passionate about sustainable tourism and is a big supporters of travel companies that look at ways to lower their and their customers’ carbon footprints.  We are especially supportive of Holiday Auto’s (and’s) Carbonwise carbon-offset scheme.   We hope you are, too.

Click here for more information about Holiday Auto’s travel affiliate program and environmental program schemes.

?   Kemwel Car Rental – An independent car rental consolidator that also operates an in-house travel agency, Kemwel is another veteran travel company (been in business for more than 70 years) that has built its reputation on service and value.

Its car rental consolidator/broker business has access to more than 750,000 vehicles located in more than 4,000 cities and destinations in 60 countries around the world.  Besides offering low rates, they have a ‘best negotiated rate guarantee’ for car rental rates (including a price match guarantee), their all-inclusive price quotes includes all taxes and fess (no hidden charges), and don’t charge penalties for amendments or cancellations.

Kemwel is also big in the student and faculty travel niche, offering big discounts to qualified renters in these sub-segments.

Want to learn more about Kemwel travel affiliate program? Then click here!

?   Sixt – Starting out in Munich, Germany with 6 cars in the 1912, Sixt has grown over the years into an international company.  Today, the Company operates in more than 85 countries worldwide, with some 1,684 rental offices (544 in Germany), and offer a wide range of automobile makes and models, as well limousine rentals, minivans and trucks.

Sixt works with five partner affiliate networks: Adbutler, Affilinet, Tradedoubler, Vitrado and Zanox.

Click here to sign-up for Sxt’s travel affiliate program.

?   Thrifty Car Rental – Wholly owned subsidiary of the Dollar Thrifty Automotive Group, which also owns Dollar Car rental.  Thrifty operates in some 70 countries, with more than 1,061 locations throughout the US and Canada, the Caribbean, Central, and South America, Africa, Europe, the Middle East, and AsiaPac.

Unlike its sister company Dollar Car rental, Thrifty offers a travel affiliate program, ‘Connect the Dots’. Click here to join.