Unlike with other areas of the travel industry, I am not particularly discriminating when it comes to rental cars. I see little distinction between any of the major suppliers and have found no particular reason to be brand loyal. As such, I typically book my cars through Hotwire.com and thereby end up with whoever is undersold that week. Most recently, it was Alamo.
Recommend this product?
I'd used Alamo before, but not recently. Since we were going to Orlando and Alamo is the official Disney brand of rental car, I was pretty pumped because I assumed this meant something - perhaps higher quality cars or better service? At any rate, I knew there were several Alamo locations right on Disney property in case we had a mechanical emergency or something.
Mr_chelledun and I paid $9.00 per day plus tax for a midsize car at a weekly rental rate. I considered this an exceptionally good deal, but my mom managed to get an almost identical rate for her car using online discount codes, so google around. Booking directly with the company meant that she got Alamo Insiders (loyalty club) points while we did not.
Getting one's rental car at MCO is always a debacle. However, while the line at the Alamo rental counter was as long as the rest, it did move fairly quickly. Our agent's efforts to sell insurance, upgrades, and/or add-ons were less aggressive than usual, and after a little haggling we actually ended up accepting an offer to rent an SUV for the whole week for an additional $15.99. What can I say, we packed heavier than we anticipated. She also threw in a free car seat rental. We would have preferred to just rent a base, but unfortunately there was not one that worked with our Graco Snugrider, so we made the best of things.
In-garage service was less impressive. While there were plenty of employees standing around who had presumably been tasked with the job of guiding customers to their chosen vehicles, we ended up stumbling around aimlessly looking for the SUVs after being given confusing directions by two different agents. Upon asking about the location of our car seat, we were directed to a large pile behind the ticket counter. We had some difficulty figuring out which seats were appropriate for our 7 month-old but no one seemed particularly interested in providing guidance.
Returning our car was a pain free process. We filled our tank, pulled into the garage, handed the keys off to an agent, and were on our way.
There were not many different types of SUVs available. After exploring the available Kias and Jeeps, I settled on a Hyundai Tucson primarily because I liked the bronzy color. As we started to load up, Mr_chelledun asked if the car smelled smoky to me and I had to concur that it did, slightly. However, a sniff test of the SUVs on either side revealed that they had an almost identical odor, so we stayed the course and hoped it would dissipate. Unfortunately, it did not - in fact, the stench got worse every time the car was parked in the hot sun for any length of time. We probably should have just visited a Disney area Alamo and swapped the car out, but ended up talking ourselves out of doing so due to a busy schedule and the fact that all the cars we sniffed at the airport seemed to have the same issue.
Mama_chelledun also had some problems with her rental. She stuck with a midsize car and picked out a Ford Focus, which my family considers to be sort of the holy grail of rental cars. However, shortly after leaving the airport she learned that the head rest was stuck in an unorthodox condition and the lever used to adjust it was not functioning properly. She ended up stopping at an International Drive for a quick repair, which did solve that problem. However, upon arriving at our hotel, one of the first things she said to us was, "My car smells like smoke!"
I will note that we ended up being pleased with our infant car seat/base combo. It was very clean and, as with our regular travel system, the seat detached easily from the base so it could be carried into shops and restaurants. The angle of the seat seemed more ergonomically correct than our regular one and Baby_chelledun logged plenty of hours snoozing away in it.
Overall . . .
Considering that Alamo is the "Official Rental Car of the Walt Disney World Resort," we expected an experience at the Orlando airport to be top-notch. Unfortunately, while the price was right, our cars were stinky and customer service was a mixed bag. There was nothing about Alamo that changes my stance on brand loyalty in the rental car context, and I'll continue to get my vehicle from whoever will give it to me for the lowest price.
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