Isn’t renting a vehicle at the airport is cheaper, faster, and less of a hassle? This is almost always the standard accepted train of thought for anyone whom is renting a vehicle that is using flying as their primary means of transportation. Though it is traditionally accepted as being all of those things – most will find that in only rare cases is it true. But why?

Airports, though governed by the Federal Aviation Administration are, the the end of the day, still businesses that are in operation to make money. The manner in which airport facilities make money is by charging anyone whom is using their services for any reason whether that is airlines that land and take-off, restaurants and hotels that lease space, or auto rental companies that lease space, run shuttles, and store vehicles. What all of these things mean is that it costs money for any business that operates in any fashion with an airport. The more services that business offers in conjunction with the airport, the more money they are required to spend. So how does the consumer know what’s what?!

Since the topic of this blog is auto rentals, we will maintain focus on fees associated with auto rentals as they pertain to picking up and returning at or around an airport. In order to offset costs of doing business at the airport, on-airport auto rental companies will charge a “concession fee” to their customers to defray the rental or leasing costs that are paid to the airport for their facilities. This would include desk space, vehicle parking spaces, washing/staging facilities as well as general expenses incurred by said company doing business with the respective airport. The second is generally known as an “airport fee” or “recovery fee” which is charged by the aviation authority for the privilege of being able to service customers on property or to pick up and return customers (for off-airport auto rental agencies).

So let’s take a look at a few areas that question addressed:

1. Cheaper – sometimes. Since a majority of the auto rental agencies that operate on-airport premises are nationally-known companies, they are likely operating at small margins and extremely high volume. If you are looking for anything outside of a compact or mid size car, you will probably pay a hefty premium. Though this is not always the case, it is the norm more often than the exception.

2. Faster – depends. If you consider the amount of time that it takes to stand in line, complete your paperwork, walk out of the terminal and to the parking garage, find your vehicle, not to mention all the while toting around all of the luggage you’ve been traveling with, it may not benefit you. Most off-airport facilities have a shuttle with a driver that will load your luggage at the airport at pickup and unload it when you get to your vehicle at their office.

3. Less of a hassle – also depends. If you don’t care about personalized attention both during the rental process and after and don’t mind being treated like a number and herded through a maze until you get to the rental desk, then by all means, rent at the airport. If you like walking in and being one of few (if not the only one), called by your name, shown your vehicle and how to operate it, and have all of your luggage, etc, loaded without any expectations, give an off-airport rental facility a chance.

Lastly – do your homework. If you haven’t heard of a company, it doesn’t mean that they aren’t reputable or reliable. Check their ratings and reviews online. Call them directly and decide whether you like the people you are talking with. Do they sound like they want your business? Do you feel like you want to give them yours? If not, ask for a manager and let them know!