National Car Rental Complaint - Beware of Roadside Assistance
BILLINGS, MONTANTA -- If you read the fine print carefully, the National Rental Agreement Terms and Conditions specify that driving 'off paved roads' negate the terms of the contract. I would bet that this rental agreement condition is common among the major competing rental car companies. However, I learned the hard-way what this truly means at National Rental Car.
On September 1, 2007 I rented a Chevrolet Suburban from National/Alamo for a week in Montana on a fishing trip to the Boulder River. On the last day of our trip, at approximately the 33rd mile point on Forest Service maintained, well-traveled, unpaved portion of Montana road 298 (running parallel to the Boulder River) the right rear tire blew a flat. We changed the tire, and to our great astonishment the spare tire was also flat!!!
Upon contacting the National Roadside assistance number, we were immediately informed "there is nothing that National can do to help." Receiving the explanation that the onus of the cost of vehicle recovery, repairs, "loss of use", and so forth was mine, was not so much of a setback or concern. The significant impact was the sensation of blatant abandonment when informed that National was going to provide zero assistance or help with our situation. To quote the representative, "you are on your own."
A second representative with whom I spoke appeared deceptively helpful. His advice was to tow the vehicle to a paved road surface (which was about eight miles from where the vehicle was located at that time). He indicated that once the vehicle was on a paved road surface National Roadside Assistance would be able to help. While as ludicrous as this sounded, I felt quite desperate. So I complied.
After repositioning the vehicle, and another conversation with a National Roadside Assistance customer representative, we waited for well over three hours with no sign of help. I then called National Roadside assistance for the fourth time. With as much detail as possible, I pleaded with the representative to help our situation. While the representative appeared compassionate to our circumstances, she was brutally honest and informed me that our contract had been designated as a "Recovery" and that someone would be out within THREE DAYS to tow the vehicle to Missoula (over 260 miles from where were currently located). In a state of disbelief, I asked her about the status of someone coming out to get us, her response was that there was nothing noted in the log about that, and there was nothing she could do to help... again, we were on our own.
At this point of utter dismay and fury at the National customer service treatment, I cannot express how grateful I was to USAA insurance! Their roadside assistance was an absolute opposite experience. They came to our rescue within an hour after my first call to report our situation. A wrecker drove both the vehicle and the four members of our party back to the rental location at the Billings airport. Where, upon which, to add insult to injury, the agent at the National airport counter unconvincingly told me that she had attempted to call me to inform that someone was going to come get us.
My long-standing loyalty to National/Alamo is now terminated. My wife and I have used National for years. Between us, our yearly travel requirements exceed at least a dozen car rentals, if not more. Our experience has always been decent (not spectacular), but we have always enjoyed the convenience of the Emerald Isle where you can by-pass the agent counter and walk straight to a vehicle and drive it off the lot. However, with similar service options available at competing companies (i.e., Avis), the transition to move to another company for regular business is just too inviting. I cannot imagine a worse customer service experience than what National put us through.