Earlier on, when renting a car, one had to make an advance booking. Special models, if they were to be had at all, had first to be fetched from the branch. One could of course just turn up without booking beforehand, indeed, then one had only a modest or no choice at all. The man on the street only had anything to do with car/van-rentals when moving house with the help of friends.
How different is this today? Apart from rental cars, one also rent cars privately, in the internet one can find out about their condition by reading what other users have written about them. Living in the middle of a big city nowadays, the high prices for a parking slot are sometimes more a curse than a blessing. In particular young people rent a car for longer country trips, the rental companys are showing annual growth-rates of distinctly more than ten percent.
The manufacturers have also reacted to the trend, whereas Mercedes, BMW and VW are concentrating on large urban areas, Ford, e.g., also intends to offer a more widespread service. Perhaps the customers will become accustomed to one particular brand, similar to the effect that driving-school cars have. One only has to appear once in the rental office, the rest follows electronically, as the above pictures indicate.
Some rental firms avoid a lot of permanent staff by leaving the custody of the cars to the customers. They then provide for fuel, servicing, repair and the care of the cars. Sometimes there is even a parking slot available. It's like being a sort of sub-contractor with cheaper access to their chosen babies. Although through the better exploitation of the existing vehicles an ecological advantage could be present, most of the users don't necessarily seem to conscious of this.
Telematics are used, to make it easier to locate the cars, take transfer of them and to return them again. For those who rent their car car out privately, the transfer can, at the moment, only be done by handing over the keys. A system using the smartphone is already in the making, it would be similar to the solution described here. 03/12