Hertz Rent A Car: Careful What You Book For – Presidents Circle/Five Star Upgrades Examined


This week I rented a car from Hertz at Los Angeles International Airport where I had close to 100 rentals over the years and I was a bit shocked how much Hertz has tweaked their upgrade rules for top tiers.

Hertz PCIt used to be that as a Presidents Circle who reserves a Full Size Car you would occasionally get something nice or at least the best Full Size car in the lot. No more.

In the past year or so Hertz has shuffled around their program rules and started to enforce them rigorously. Not only that but they also moved some car classifications/categories around to the point of the absurd where a Toyota Camry or Chevy Impala now runs as a Premium Car.

On the website (access here) you can see the broad rules for Presidents Circle Members of the Gold Plus Rewards program.

Hertz PC TermsIt clearly says that the maximum upgrade is to a Full Size car so it makes absolutely zero sense anymore for someone being presidents circle to book a Full Size car to begin with as long as the station is participation in Gold Plus.

Be careful with that, I recently rented at the airport in Hanover (Germany) and was flat out told by Hertz Corporate the station doesn’t participate in upgrades under the program.

This wouldn’t be a problem weren’t it for two things. Sometimes I book rates where the difference between Standard and Full size are just a few cents. It makes no sense to book Standard just to ‘stick it’ to Hertz and claim my PC Upgrade benefit of one class which they likely screw up anyway. So I always book Full Size. In the past that meant at least a nice Toyota Camry or Chevy Impala with low mileage.

I’m not expecting an upgrade to a European car when renting in the U.S. even though in the past I have gotten a C Class, Infiniti or BMW upgrade in 4 out of 5 rentals at LAX.

Here is how it looks today.

Hertz Car Classes

A Chevy Impala just like a Toyota Camry runs as a Premium Car today!? Sorry but this is totally absurd. What exactly is premium on either of these vehicles?? I like to drive them because they are heavy so stay good on the road, spacious and still have a good mpg ratio. But would I go as far and classify them as Premium? Certainly not.

So yesterday I had a long chat with the managers at LAX and they said they won’t even assign upgrades to these type of cars anymore for Presidents Circle. At least not automatically. I guess there are always exceptions in times when demand gives them pressure on the lower car classes but the new firm policy is Full Size only.

I ended up taking a regular Full Size Ford Fusion because I’m not into the garbage they wanted to offer me (KIA and a Hyundai – both of which smelled horrible and looked like a matchbox car, red color on top of it all). I also had them refund me the difference of 20$ for the 4 days between a Full Size and a Midsize Car since a 1 class upgrade is guaranteed for Presidents Circle members.

I received a ‘Carfirmation’ Email about 2 hours prior to my pickup and it showed which car was waiting for me. There was also a ‘change’ button which I tried to use but all it did was soliciting paid upgrades ranging between 45$-150$ per day. Hertz is pushing these paid upgrades more and more these days. In the past staff was instructed not to bother Gold Members with buy up’s and insurance packages.


My take is that a Presidents Circle can always argue his way to a Camry or Impala but that totally defeats the point of Gold Rewards. I don’t want to be on my knees every time when I rent a car, Full Size no less, to get a somewhat acceptable vehicle. Hertz has many cars with high mileage these days which used to be different.

I guess Hertz is feeling the heat from competitors once again and since Sixt entered the market as well at the major airports the reasons to rent from Hertz are getting less and less. Their weekend prices are very competitive as you can see from the screenshot above but the next time I might just rent from the Hertz Station at the Hilton LAX and save on some fees that are being levied at the main LAX station.

So far I said I’m ok paying the 10-15$ (Customer Facility Charge) more for the chance of getting a nicer car but that’s out of the window now for the reasons outlined above.