Should you choose the smaller, family-run local rental car company or go with the big global brand for some good old "peace of mind"?
“I went with this local car rental but my experience was not good. So, I think I’ll go with one of the big brands next time. Just to be safe.” If I had a dollar for everytime someone on the online travel boards said something along those lines, well, I probably wouldn't sweat as much when I look at those monthly statements.
So, which is better?
The local companies that have smaller fleets but better prices?
The big global rental brand that charges a little more but runs the ship with "iron-clad bureaucratic excellence"?
It’s not really a -one over the other- type of scenario. It’s like saying franchise restaurants are better than privately-owned restaurants. Not even the Colonel himself would agree with that statement.
Hertz, Sixt, Europcar, Avis and all those other big global brands are franchises, meaning they license out their brand to private individuals around the world. These individuals operate these brands in different ways. Some of these private individuals might do an excellent job at it, adhering to protocols and quality control set forth by the franchiser while others might cut corners or trim off some of the quality for a bit of extra profit.
The functionalities and individual properties of these branches are exactly the same as with the local brands, except the local brands often need to work a little harder because they’re not riding on the back of a big, established brand. In the end they’re all just companies.
Let’s take a look at the Google ratings for some of the big car rental brands in Iceland.
- Hertz Iceland: 2.8 stars out of 5. (33 reviews)
- Sixt Iceland: 3.3 stars out of 5. (133 reviews)
- Avis Iceland: 3.1 stars out of 5. (21 reviews)
- Europcar Iceland: 3.9 stars out of 5. (56 reviews)
- Thrifty Iceland: 4.3 stars out of 5. (31 reviews)
As a comparison, let’s take a look at some of the most popular local car rentals in Iceland.
- Go Car Rental: 4.7 stars out of 5. (52 reviews)
- Lava Auto Car Rental: 4.7 stars out of 5. (114 reviews)
- Lagoon Car Rental: 4.4 stars out of 5. (170 reviews)
- Lotus Car Rental: 4.8 stars out of 5. (113 reviews)
- Star Car Rental: 5 stars out of 5. (20 reviews)
- Blue Car Rental: 4.3 stars out of 5. (353 reviews)
The upside of using a big brand rental would definitely be the massive fleets they usually have, which may decrease the likelihood of you not getting the car you booked. But, the local places tend to be a bit more welcoming, friendlier and often willing to go an extra mile for you.
The point I'm trying to make is that you should avoid grouping car rentals into two categories like big brands or locals and rather approach each one with a critical eye. Do your research and pick the one that appears to have the best reviews.