Contest! Win a Year of National Emerald Club Executive Elite Status (closed)

a green sign with white textIf you rent from National on a regular basis, you will really appreciate this giveaway. Emerald Club Executive Elites get a ton of benefits, including:

  • E-receipt – no need to wait for an agent when returning a rental.
  • Emerald Club Executive access – a special aisle of larger or premium cars to choose from.
  • Free rental day after five rental credits
  • Free days can include any vehicle size or class
  • Guaranteed availability with 24 hours notice

Normally, you would have to rent 25 times in a year to qualify for Executive Elite status. Today, all you have to do is write a comment to this post answering the following question: What is your most memorable car rental experience? Best, worst, or most interesting? I will randomly choose the winner Wednesday the 25th. Only one entry per person.

I have two memorable rentals, and incidentally they both involve my trips to Ohio. The first one three years ago, I got lost in the middle of the woods on the Ohio-W. Virginia border on the way to the town where my meeting was being held, and then had to drive through a snowstorm on the way back. The second time, last summer, the car was hit by a hit and run driver in a parking lot while I was enjoying margaritas. Oy.

What’s your story??


  1. Nothing too memorable other than just missing on the BMW convertible at HNL a few years ago as I saw the guy before me in the line pick it up!

  2. Picking up a car at SJC a few years ago, I was delighted to be given a Prius which I had never even been in before. Much fiddling and many attempts later, I got it started and enjoyed feeling very virtuous as I drove around. Next morning, again, I couldn’t get it started until suddenly we had success. Several more starts and several more frustrating attempts until a visit back to the rental office provided the answer – you had to have your foot on the brake as you pressed the Start button.

    Spool forward a few days and I was at dinner with younger and cooler relatives and their friends. I was doing my usual bit of impersonating some dinosaur from a previous era when a guest’s cell rang. It was his girlfriend, who couldn’t get her Prius going in the rental lot. I talked her through it and gained maximum street cred and even some cool for the rest of the night.

  3. After months of driving small, no-fun-in driving-those cars, I got a Saab! I scored that fun car off a double upgrade, and the lack of the appropriate class of cars on the lot. I drove that car for nearly 2000 miles in 10-days for work, for the cost of an intermediate. I probably won’t ever get that lucky again!

  4. One time on a trip to North Carolina, I randomly selected a Rav-4 that had 6 miles on it! I’d never driven such a new car before and I loved the car and it’s newness.

  5. When the new Mustang model (2006?) first came out, I had a three-day, 1200+ mile rental planned and had booked a low-end rental. Much to my surprise, I was upgraded to a brand-new Mustang. Almost no one had seen these cars in the “wild” yet, so it was a real head-turner for the whole drive there and back — highlighted by flirtatious encounters with gas station attendants, waitresses, and even a cop!

  6. Finding out I was on the block list for some reason and not being able to get my rental. It was a pain to work out because two different departments kept sending me to the other.

  7. I think my most memorable rental car experience occurred before we even left the lot. A couple years ago, I was travelling with my father right after I was of age to rent a car. We got up to the Hertz counter and the line was HUGE. My dad quickly told me how disappointmented he was. He went on to say that he was going to surprise me with box seats to a baseball game, but there was no way we were going to make it. Little did he know, I was Hertz #1 Gold Club member. So we skipped the line, got our car, and made it to the stadium in time for the singing of the national anthem.

  8. Several years ago I rented a car (from National!) to go on a long road trip. I got like over 33 mpg in a Malibu or something and was astounded. Turns out the alternator was not working and was not drawing any power from the engine. Hence the great gas mileage. Problem was, after one day, the car wouldn’t start because the battery never got recharged. National replaced the dead car with a new one, but I got like 22 mpg on the way home.

  9. A few years back I had the worst (and therefore most memorable) car rental experience of my life. Rented a car in Denver, in late December, to drive up to the mountains to ski for a few days. Didn’t think too much of the fact that the car had Florida plates, until we were up in the mountains and I tried to use the wiper fluid. Nothing came out. I thought perhaps it was just empty, so we bought some new fluid and tried to fill it up. Well, the fluid immediately overflowed the container. Turns out that they had not bothered to winterize the car at all, including not bothering to put low temp wiper fluid in. It was frozen solid. Fortunately it was pretty dry in the mountains on that trip so I didn’t have a huge need for the fluid, but it was pretty annoying and could have been quite dangerous. They did wind up giving me a one-day refund on the rental, but I didn’t use that company again for several years. I did finally try them again last winter, in Denver again, and they tried to give me a car with Arizona plates. This time I knew better and insisted on getting a different car.

  10. Love National. Finally a car rental operation that give you a little respect and doesn’t attempt to oversell. At least that is my experience.

  11. I was got upgraded from a compact to a brand new cherry red Mustang convertible which was great except that it was the middle of January in New Hampshire. No putting the top down then! But I still had fun driving it and sending a picture to my 16 year old son.

  12. The first time I rented a car, I spent at least 20 minutes finding every little ding, scratch and speck of dirt on the car. I’m sure that the rental employee wanted to kill me. Now, I don’t even bother looking. Maybe I need to find a happy medium!

  13. I was on my first business trip on my own to SFO. I was 23 and had just paid off all my debt so I was only living with a debit card. I get to SFO at 10pm and the rental car company will not give me a car without a credit card. Of course, I couldn’t get a hold of anyone at the office. I ended up going to an off site rental place that let you pay with cash. The car wasn’t the best but it got me where I needed to be!

  14. Getting a convertible for a week in Las Vegas on my 10th anniversary. Unfortunately, it was late June and so hot that we didn’t put the top down more than one time.

  15. I learned to love country music in my rental car. I rented a tiny car in Denver and needed to drive to New Mexico. About 50 miles outside the city and driver’s side window broke. It was a beautiful day and not raining, thank goodness. The only stations I could get were country stations, so I cranked up the music and drove down the long lonely highways with all the windows open. I felt like I was flying. This was the real America, and one of my most memorable road trips.

  16. We were thrilled to get upgraded to a Mercedes while renting in South Africa. Our driver couldn’t believe his luck. We drove 2 hours to Lesotho which is where we were staying. Next morning we were out early to deliver 300 pairs of shoes to needy children at a school. Got to the car and it was totally dead. Something in the computer died. A couple of hours later we arrived to very tired and impatient waiting children. I can honestly say I’ve never been so happy to have a small simple Toyota that got us from point a to point b.

  17. Rented a Toyota Camry via rental agency Apollo while in Auckland, New Zealand. From “downtown” to rental office, took roughly 4 hours, take bus, lost a bit, visited some AA office (or AAA-roadside/travel club equivalent), finally took cab. Roadtripping southward to Queenstown and a bit beyond. Ouch, taking the vehicle onto the InterIslander ferry cost an arm and a leg. On the way back via a scenic drive (State Highway 6), saw a vending card for crawfish. Left-turned, which happened to cross over a railroad tracks. Bang! Car stuck due to the crushed rocks between and on the sides the railroad tracks. Thirty minutes to escape the ballasts! Though, safe only with the help of the crawfish vendor and her kinfolks (house nearby with a pickup truck). Friendliest people around, I’ve learned! Hub cab of rental vehicle disappeared a night or two later. Called in to order parts from a dealership enroute. Driving through some beaches that allow cars on and through amazing rain forests! Best road trip ever, though! Took lots of pics that I will cherish for a long, long time.

    My NZ roadtrip was worth every mile of it, unlike the one I took while in England. 30-60 minutes driving in circles to find ways out of London LHR. First time driving on the left. Hit and dented an SUV within 30 minutes of driving off the rental office. Way too confused about those “round-abouts” (they drove me nuts and my newbie drove other local drivers crazy!) Didn’t know how to fully optimize/operate GPS, so ended up driving backroads and nameless, unpaved roads for over 8 hours to a destination that only required only 2.5-3 hours by express way. Took vehicle on a ferry to cross the English Chanel from Dover. Nice ferry ride, but Calais in France was totally boring (since I didn’t intend to go there shopping for booze like the folks who cross the chanel). Driving in France was somewhat more comforting (they drive on the right!) Though, I didn’t buy required stickers and headline adapters to legally drive in this French town. Still a bit nervous. Did a bit a damage to the Saab 95 Aero driving in England due to my nervousness on narrow roads and backcountry’s bushes… In short: Beautiful car, but terrible trip!

  18. Driving in a rented “beater car” (it was “the best we have”) from Cancun to Chichen Itza. Going through the small and very poor villages our car tagged us as pretty well off and we were always surrounded by locals wanting to sell us rugs and baskets. Unfortunately we really didn’t want either, although we would have been happy to pump up the local economies.

  19. I’d say my most memorable renting experience was driving a motorcycle (for the first time in my life mind you haha) on the crowded chaotic highways of Saigon as a 20 year old. I almost crashed into oncoming traffic right out of the gate!

  20. I rented from National at MSP and headed to my hotel downtown. Checked in, stayed the night and headed off to my client’s office for the day. As I got ready to head back to the MSP, I realized I didn’t have the car keys. I went back to the client, no keys. Searched my bags, no keys. And finally ran back to the hotel. Sure enough, they had a note that my keys were found in the room. After several calls, the manager informed me that the housekeeper accidentially took them home and it would take them over an hour to get them back. I didn’t have enough time. So I called national and they arranged to have someone come pick me up and get the keys back from the hotel so I wasn’t charged for lost keys! I love National!

  21. 20 some years ago – Down in Florida during college break, stuck with a Crown Vic. Pulled over by the police at two in the morning, told the cop the steering was loose. He insisted that we wait for the rental car company to bring a replacement. Took three hours.

  22. We pnce drove a rental van from Swaziland to Jo-burg, South Africa. On returning to Swaziland the Swazi border personnel insisted we pay a car importation tax even though the van was registered in Swaziland.

  23. My worst experience was a Hertz car rental. Was traveling to a National Park. After a while I realized the car doesn’t have good brakes, the tires have no tread left and the car sways at any speed above 40!

  24. I found a camera under the seat once. Someone had documented their honeymoon in graphic detail. The best part was the reaction of the folks at the counter when I returned it. Priceless.

  25. A few years ago, I decided to rent a GPS along with the rental car. For the first few days, I was too insecure to rely on it completely, and would constantly refer to my mapquest print-outs and compare them to the GPS. Finally, I gained enough confidence that I was relying completely on the GPS, on the way into Boston (which in my experience is the world’s scariest place to drive when you don’t know where you’re going). As I approached my exit, the GPS died. Completely. Turned out that the cigarette lighter didn’t work, and the GPS lost its charge completely. I was so scared to be suddenly in Boston with no idea where to go. Fortunately, I was able to find my mapquest print-outs and am therefore NOT still lost in Boston.

  26. Renting a car in Scotland a few years ago, I learned the hard way that only having one spare tire can be a problem! Long story short, we were on vacation on the Isle of Arran, and late one Sunday evening, managed to drive a little too close to the side of the road—the next thing we knew we felt a thud and a heard a huge bang as the side-curtain airbags deployed.

    Turns out we had clipped a sharp rock protruding into the roadway, which managed to instantaneously slice *both* driver-side tires! The car immediately dropped a couple of inches, causing the airbags to deploy. The good news was nobody was hurt. The bad news was that we only had one spare tire! Moreover, it turns out there were only two tow trucks on the entire Isle, and one didn’t work Sunday nights.

    Luckily, a passing motorist called in the incident, and the cops called the tow truck driver, who (several hours later) happily hitched up the car and offered the two ladies in the car a ride. As to myself and the other gentlemen, he suggested we get busy using our thumb as there was no more room in the truck! Happily, the police offers knew of the tow truck driver’s penchant for attractive female tourists, and picked up the two of us about a mile down the road and dropped us off at our guest house—after driving us to the only open restaurant on the Isle to pick up takeout Chinese!

    The next morning, we were forced to buy a new tire, take the car on the ferry back to Glasgow airport, where the rental agency swapped out the car, but only after charging us for two more tires, as the one we found on the Isle was not manufacturer spec. Moreover, turns out that LDW does not cover tire damage! (But did, happily cover the airbags.)

    Many lessons learned on this particular trip…

  27. Rented a car at DIA and had to wait 4+ hours b/c they were “sold out” despite a guaranteed reservation. Never rented with that “cut rate” company again.

  28. My most memorable event is from a couple years ago, upon bringing a rental back to the airport after a short trip. Unknown to me, this car company had a policy that if you drove less than 75 miles you needed to show gas receipt as proof of filling the tank, even if the tank was showing as full. Well we drove exactly 70 miles on this trip, stopped at the gas station on the way back to the airport, and when we arrived the return agent tried to tack on the fee for the price of filling the whole tank (I had tossed the receipt at the gas station). Thankfully I eventually had the issue resolved by a manager behind the rental counter, but only after a long-time and a lot of hassle.

  29. My most memorable moment came on a trip with my father in Arizona last year. He and I travel there a few times a year to go to baseball games during the summer and to search for new ghost towns to find. Well, this trip was a bit different because we needed a four wheel drive vehicle since I had the bright idea of looking for a town way out in the wilderness. So hey, we got an X-Terra. Let me just say, always check the amount of tread on the tires BEFORE you leave the rental agency, which I forgot to on this trip.

    The town was was called Nuggett. As we started off, the “directions” I had scrapped together from the internet were not so clear to say the least. Follow this road here until it ends, turn here at this creek, follow creek for a ways, bla bla bla. Finally found the dirt road we were looking for. Didn’t look to bad 🙂 Dad, definitely had a blank look on his face because I am always pushing the car farther than it should go. So up in the mountains we go. Let me tell you, this place was hard to find. Finally, a couple hours later, when I think I am getting close and the trail is not looking so good anymore, I hear a POP. Oh crap!! Dad just looks at me and grins because he thought we should have stopped looking for this place two hours back. So I stop, get out and look at the rear tire. This thing is shredded!! So, my first instinct is to get my phone and call AAA. No service or data where we are and it is getting dark!! You could hear the crickets, it was soooooo quiet. I thought I went back in time 100 years, which is the effect we were looking for, just not the way it happened. To top it off, we did not see one car or person in the hours of driving, so no chance of a passing car here!

    Well, time to change the tire myself (hoping there was one). I couldn’t get it down. It was stuck. No time to panic, hmmmmm. So after about 30 minutes kicking and beating on it, the tire finally falls to the ground and a quail eggs rolls off the tire. This car must have been in storage for a while for a bird to make a nest on the tire. Hell, I couldn’t believe it was still on the tire after the trek in the mountains (probably a dozen, but 11 fell off. LOL). As I am on the ground, the ants the size of grasshoppers caught a whiff of me and thought I was going to be their next meal. Time to hurry up and get this new tire on and get the hell out of Dodge!

    Spare tire on, a few ant bites and ONE DIRTY CAR, we headed back to civilization. Never did make it to the ghost town, which I later found out using Google satellite images, I was literally right around the corner. DAMN IT!!! Time to head back to get another car. You should have seen the look on the peoples face when we pulled in, priceless. It was so dirty, the blue paint was not longer visible. It was brown. Stepping out of the car, the gentleman who processes the return, comments and chuckles about the car. So I said there was a bit of road work going on next to our hotel. LOL. Next, I told the people inside the office we needed a new car because ALL the tires were bald! They said no problem, got a new car and we were off!! No charge to us, yay!

    Moral of our story, always when doing a walk around when getting a rental car, double check the tread on the tires!!

    And to this day, I am determined to go back and find that damn town, although my dad said I will be going alone if that is the case!

  30. Getting my first rental car and driving at 3 in the morning to see my parents-also getting pulled over and asked if I had been drinking! Not a good start to my career!

  31. Rental a Ford Expedition with 7 of my college buddies for a bachelor party. Drove from NYC to Montreal for a weekend of debauchery. Good times.

  32. My best memory with National was once that
    I rented a Toyota Sienna in Gainesville,FL.
    I had to make it to a meeting the next day in Champaign, IL.
    So I drove alone and for almost 16 hours straight to Champaign, only stopping for gas.

    I made a total of 926 miles in one day, and kept the receipt as a souvenir of something I won’t be able or would like to repeat ever again.

  33. We were in Ireland on a week long drive around. One night, at a hotel in the countryside, someone stole out hubcaps. When we returned the car to the station, they said it happens all the time and they had spares so it wouldn’t be a problem.

  34. Just Waiting to turn 25 so no more underage fee which I think is one of the most absurd rules…Not all under 25 year olds are crazy drivers.

  35. My first convertible rental… it was a crappy Eclipse but it was in Miami.

    I was feeling all kinds of good. 🙂

  36. Back in 1989, I went to New York for my first business trip. I had a rental car reserved up with Hertz and flew into LGA at 11:30 PM. The agent told me that I can’t have the car because I’m not 25. I tried to argue that my birth date was on the reservation so they should have not have confirmed the reservation. I lost that argument and had to wait an hour to catch a cab to my hotel.

  37. When my car broke down on Christmas Eve and I got the last available car from the airport.

  38. Getting a complimentary upgrade to a Chevy Tahoe suv in Toronto. Nice, big vehicle for a large group!

  39. My most memorable experience is having just gotten back from Vegas where I was upgraded by National to a Mercedes C300, I arrived at Long Beach Airport of all places, and was also upgraded to a Mercedes C300… nothing like enjoying a week in LA in a great car. National rocks! 🙂

  40. My trip was not as enjoyable as Benjamin Price as above. We rented a car in Vegas and we got there and the agent gave us the keys for a convertible mustang. My wife was pregnant at that time so we wanted something like an SUV. So the agent drove over a nice Infiti FX35 – it was luxurious and nice.

    – naroowal

  41. I was in Montreal (YUL) last October and got “upgraded” to a Jeep Liberty. This brand new SUV had manual windows and locks, and had no manual adjustments for the side mirrors. I didn’t even think they made cars without power windows and locks.

    I was so upset over that “upgrade” that I tried to get another car, but that was the only vehicle left in the lot. Another problem was that the car didn’t display kilometers on the speedo (and I was driving in Canada), but fortunately my GPS could convert my actual speed for me, so it wasn’t a big issue.

    I had to drive to Quebec, and it was not a pleasant drive. Nearly 2hrs of rough riding and poor gas mileage to boot. Absolutely the worst rental I’ve ever had with National.

  42. My worst experience with National happened just last week at ATL. With executive selection I jumped into a new Jeep Cherokee with less than 6,000 miles. On the second day of my rental I open the back door to put my laptop bag on floor. I look up and there’s blood splatter all over the headliner. I felt liked I stepped into a First 48 crime scene. Who checks the headliner? I mentioned it to the return agent who looks in the car says oh and walks away! From now on bluetooth, leather and sirius won’t be at the top of my wishlist.

  43. I had flown into St. Louis and drove a rental car to the University of Missouri 100 miles away for event I was working. It had been snowing and a large snowstorm was supposed to hit the area starting around 8am Sunday morning. I had a flight home just before noon and I absolutely had to make it home that day. So Saturday night I changed my flight to the early 6am (on Southwest thankfully) one and made the decision to check out of the hotel around midnight and drive to St. Louis and just take a nap in the car until the airport opened. So I check out and go get in the car and discover that the wiper blades have stopped working. Try everything I can think of and they are simply stuck up and will not swipe back down. Now it’s 12:30am, it’s snowing, I have no wiper blades, a 6am flight 100 miles away and the local Hertz wasn’t open on Sunday. So I made the somewhat terrifying decision to drive anyway. It was probably the hardest drive I’ve ever done and took 4 hours to go 100 white-knuckled-middle-of-the-night-in-a-snowstorm miles pulling over ever so often to manually wipe the windshield. When I got to the Hertz at STL and told the lady the wipers didn’t work, her only response was “oh”. I don’t rent at Hertz anymore!

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