In the past, when you dropped off your rental car at the Hertz, Avis, Budget, Enterprise, or other car rental company’s airport office, it got cleaned. Maybe not right away, but someone dug out the wrapper your kid stuffed between the seats, wiped down the interior, washed the exterior, found the sunglasses you left behind in the side compartment, and likely sprayed deodorizer before the rental made it to its next driver. But now, travelers looking to drive rather than risk crowded, limited flights are needing a whole new level of clean—one that prioritizes minimal human contact when picking up the car and ensures that everything from the steering wheel to the key fob to the gas caps are thoroughly disinfected.
“Historically, we may have assumed that car cleanliness is a foundational expectation that we do not need to inform our customers about in great detail, but in light of the current pandemic, we believe it is critical that our customers understand our process and the lengths that we take to ensure a safe and healthy experience for our employees and customers,” an Avis Budget Group spokesperson says. Other rental car companies have done the same, publishing extensive lists of the high touch points that are getting additional cleaning. Across the board, these include: the steering wheel, steering column controls, all console, cup holders, touch screens, radio controls and climate controls, all air conditioning vent exhausts in the vehicle, all door handles, lock/unlock controls, all seat belts and buckles, trunk grab handles, gas caps and doors, and key fobs.
We checked in with the major car rental companies to see just what else they were doing to ensure drivers feel safe getting into their rental cars. Here, what you can expect from Hertz, Avis, Budget, and Enterprise.
Avis and Budget
Besides cleaning all of the aforementioned touch points in each car, Avis and Budget (owned by the same parent company) are switching up when the car itself gets cleaned. Previously, the car was always cleaned before its next rental—but it wouldn’t necessarily get cleaned immediately, i.e. staff might move it around the parking lots before it made it to through the sanitation procedure. Now, the companies are “cleaning and disinfecting the vehicle after each customer return and before our employees get in the vehicle to move around our lots,” in order to protect its employees as well as its customers from any germs the previous driver may have left behind, a spokesperson says.
They’ve also instituted new cleaning product requirements, to ensure all cars are being disinfected at the same level. Previously, Avis and Budget left it up to the individual locations to choose its disinfecting products based on what was available in their area. That’s not the case anymore: “We have since ensured consistent supply and usage of the same products across locations that we know are CDC-recommended and EPA certified to be effective against the human coronavirus responsible for COVID-19,” the spokesperson says.
Once you’ve gotten your rental car, a few things have changed too. When you go to leave the lot, the companies are limiting exposure between employees and drivers, offering paperless rental agreements at most locations and asking drivers to show their driver’s license to lot guards through the closed window rather than pass it over. And on return, you will simply drive your car into the return lane and continue on your way—a digital receipt will be emailed to you. (Reminder, always take photos or notes of any dings on the car when you pick it up and again when you leave to avoid any disputes, regardless of the rental company—and especially when you are using contactless pick-up and drop-off.)
Enterprise has listed a 20-plus-point cleaning checklist on its website to assuage drivers’ concerns that expands on their existing cleaning procedure. “While we’ve always had a very formal training process in place that instructs all employees on the proper cleaning of a vehicle, employees are now being trained to implement new and more comprehensive mandates that include enhanced cleaning guidance for vehicles, shuttles and branch locations, as well as social distancing practices,” the site says.
They’ve also implemented curbside rental pick-ups, so you don’t have to enter the locations themselves—and will also deliver your rental to you, while maintaining proper social distancing measures. At airports in particular, they are also limiting the number of passengers on shuttle buses to allow for social distancing. (The buses are sanitized at least once a day, Enterprise says.)
In addition to its 15-point cleaning checklist, all cars that have been sanitized are being marked with a “Hertz Gold Standard Clean” sticker over the driver-side door, which will only be broken when the car’s driver accesses the rental for the first time. (That means the driver’s area is disinfected as a last step when it’s been moved to its final location.)
If you sign up for Hertz’s free rewards program, you can also skip any line or face time at the counter and head straight to your car. At locations equipped with Clear, drivers can also take advantage of contactless pick-up, with a facial or retinal scan to prove their identity before they head to the lot. If you don’t want to go to a Hertz location at all, the rental company has recently introduced neighborhood delivery and pick-up. And like Avis and Budget, you can drop-off your car and go on your merry way, with a digital receipt and limited to no interaction. (Just remember: pictures.)
We’re reporting on how COVID-19 impacts travel on a daily basis. Find all of our coronavirus coverage and travel resources here.
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