If you thought airlines had wacky rules, try renting a car.

Like airlines, car rental companies don’t think twice about changing your rate. Except that they sometimes raise the price after you’ve driven off the lot.

Like airlines, car rental companies are astonishingly creative with their fees, from additional driver add-on costs to premiums for customers aged under-25. There’s even a down-to-earth equivalent of the cramped regional jet: Car rental companies are quietly redefining their vehicle sizes in an apparent attempt to lift their profits.

It seems that just about the only thing car rental companies don’t have in common with airlines is — well, cars don’t fly.

Before I continue my rant about the state of the car rental industry, I want to acknowledge the industry perspective on this. Times are hard. Fees are a way of raising revenues. What do customers expect, free cars?

Point taken. To which the average customer would say, “Just raise your rates.” Which would be an equally valid point. As a service to you, here are six of the most absurd car rental practices you’re likely to encounter today.

1. Let’s play a price game
Those airfare games are nothing — nothing! — compared to what a car rental do.

Ilene Rachford, a retiree from Dayton, Ohio, rented a car at the airport on the eve of a big storm recently. The agent handed her the keys with a warning: “He said the rental charges for returning the car after Monday were just under $1,000 a day,” she recalls. That makes airline prices seem almost reasonable.

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  • Elliott

    Christopher Elliott has been called one of the world’s leading travel experts. But his focus isn’t on the destination, or ev…

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