Please check out this update to the story.
> Read More: This Is Why People Hate Rental Car Companies…
A story from consumer advocate Christopher Elliott caught my eye detailing how a man was purportedly charged $932 for returning his car to Terminal 1 instead of Terminal 2 at Minneapolis St. Paul Airport (MSP). But I think there is something else going on here.
One-Way Car Fee, Not Wrong Terminal, Explains $932 Fee From Thrifty Car Rental
A consumer contacted Elliott, who writes the nationally-syndicated Travel Troubleshooter column, complaining about a $932 charge from Thrifty Car Rental. He claimed he was charged the $932 fee for dropping off his car in the wrong terminal at Minneapolis, which are 3.8 miles apart.
“A $932 charge for such a short distance and honest mistake is too harsh and abusive.”
Elliott agreed and helped the man get a refund.
One small problem: it isn’t clear to me he was due a refund.
First, Thrifty doesn’t care if you return the car to Terminal 1 or 2 at MSP. Its website and contract do not distinguish between the two drop-off points. Second, the column also notes the man picked up the car in Santa Ana, CA and returned it in Minneapolis.
That’s called a one-way rental and always carries a hefty drop-off fee. Elliott just didn’t get it, buying the consumer’s mistaken belief that the fee came from returning to the car to the wrong terminal.
“It’s true, car rental companies routinely charge extra fees when you drop a vehicle off at the wrong location. But almost $1,000 for four miles seems excessive. That works out to $245 per mile. Come on!”
But a little detective work would have quickly solved the problem.
I went to Thrifty’s website and searched for a one-way car rental from John Wayne Airport in Santa Ana (SNA) to Minneapolis Airport (again, there was no difference between Terminal 1 or 2, the only option was MSP Airport).
Note the deceptively-low bolded price for a one-week rental and the total taxes and fees below. What could cause the price to go up so much?
Aaha! A one-way drop off fee…at a price of $932.
Mystery solved. Even to the very dollar…
You see, the problem was not that the man was charged for $932 for dropping off his car at the wrong terminal. Instead, he was charged $932 for picking up his car in California and dropping it off in Minnesota. That is standard amongst rental car companies in the USA. Whether he was informed of this fee in advance is a totally different question.
Why so high? Thrifty charges 49 cents per mile between origin and destination for its one-way fee and there’s quite a distance between the two airports:
Do you ever wonder why so few people trust the media? Perhaps it is because even mainstream travel writers often appear not to due their due diligence. The first takeaway is that it is very pricey to rent cars on a one-way basis. The second is that a man was not charged $932 for returning his car to the wrong terminal at MSP. There’s something else going on here.