Connect by Hertz is a new car sharing service from you guessed it – Hertz, that aims to challenge the success of Zipcar. We are a generation of instant gratification spoiled by the likes of instant Twitter updates and push notifications, so when we want service, we want it now! Zipcar revolutionized the way we rented cars by enabling drivers to no longer be slaves to rental car companies by waiting on long lines at a rental office – perhaps, just to be told that they have no more cars and you’ll have to wait for the next return. We’ve all been there. Well Connect by Hertz takes the same Zipcar formula and turns it up a notch by not only offering a fleet of cars to choose from in many locations nationally and internationally, but the service also offers electric cars to rent! Plus each car includes an In-Car GPS Navigation System, access to the Member Car Center from within your car, Bluetooth connectivity for your gadgets and gizmos, as well as anti-theft security.
Having given Zipcar a whirl a few years ago and honestly not being all that impressed, I jumped at the chance to try out Connect by Hertz to see how the competition stacks up. The frame work of Connect by Hertz is basically the same as Zipcar. You sign-up online and choose the type of membership you would like. There are several: Connect, Connect 50, and Connect 125. The Connect plan requires a $50 membership fee for the year and a $25 application fee. Rates per hour on cars for this plan will cost you $10 an hour and there is no prepay requirements with this plan. The other two plans are Connect 50 and Connect 125 which require a prepay of $50 and $125 respectively enabling you to rent a car whenever you choose at a discounted rate of $9 and $8.50 per hour. We tested the Connect 50 membership which is the ideal package for the occasional driver. Once again, the plans are almost identical to Zipcar’s own plans. However Zipcar goes one step higher and offers a $250 prepay plan.
Once you setup your account online, you will receive your Connect card in the mail within a few days. Once you get your ‘Connect’ card you’ll have to call a Hertz connect representative to activate it. The Hertz customer service was very friendly and within minutes we were on our way to renting a Connect by Hertz car.
Booking a car was simple, but I will admit that the Zipcar website is certainly a lot easier on the eyes and easier to navigate. Connect by Hertz’s website seems a bit dated and can be cumbersome to get around when looking for information. It just doesn’t seem all that obvious to click on certain fields. When it’s time to book a reservation, a Google map will appear with markers letting you know where in the area around you are cars available for pick-up. It will also notate if the car is an electric one. That said, booking your reservation is easy. Once you are done looking at the map just confirm your pick-up time and drop off time, and depending on what settings you chose for being notified of your Connect rental – you will receive either a text message or email or both.
Not 5 minutes later after booking my car I received a text message letting me know my reservation was confirmed, as well as an email. Being that this service is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year – how perfect it was to use, to pick up a member of the Chip Chick team at the airport who was getting back from an assignment. I made the reservation pick-up for 8pm with a drop off at 2am. – I might as well get in a few errands too!
I chose a pick-up location right near my office, which was very convenient. The Connect by Hertz car was located in a parking garage. So not only was it convenient, it was safe too, and being that I am a woman, picking up a car in a well lit professional parking garage was a big plus. Zipcar also has their cars parked in many garages around the city but occasionally, you can find one just parked in the street waiting for a Zipcar member to snatch it.
Locating the car was a snap inside the garage, it was ready and parked for me in the garage and I knew which one was mine, since the license plate had already been texted to me. Also, the big Connect logo on the side of the car served as a big hint. I whipped out my Connect card, flashed it on the drivers side of the windshield and unlocked the car. Once you get in the car, the member car center screen prompts you with a few questions and you have to answer by pressing the red or green button or jog in the middle. This took only a few minutes and I was ready to go. The key is safely hidden inside the car and actually tethered to it, the gas card is in the visor of the drivers side, the GPS system is a bit huge but certainly within sight and hearing level.
The car I rented was a Mazda 4 door and it was a good ride and I was happy that it was left somewhat clean from the previous driver. It would have been nice if the candy wrappers and a few other left over pieces of garbage were picked up, but I guess it is, what it is. All in all, the one downside of the Connect rental experience was actually the garage that I picked it up from. Being that this was the first time I was renting a Connect by Hertz vehicle, I assumed I could just get the car and go, but instead as I left the garage, in the car, I was chased down by an attendant who screamed at me as if I was stealing the car. He wasn’t around when I arrived and the car was there ready for me to take, so I didn’t think that I had to wait around for someone to help me… it would just have sucked away minutes of my hours that I had the car for. Plus, instead of just talking to me calmly, he berated me and said I had no manners and then walked away from the car and never came back. I naturally assumed that he was going to come back with something for me to sign – but nope, after 15 minutes of idling, he never came back, so I left. Upon returning the car, the attendant, (a different one) was also super gracious, and made me wait out in the rain until he elevated the garage door for me to pull in the car for it to be returned. Again I was on the clock and I certainly didn’t want to be dinged for any overage due to a lazy garage attendants. Fortunately, locking up the car was easy and you end the rental all from within the car. Once you shut the engine off, it asks you if you are done and you respond with either ‘yes’ or ‘no’. I locked it up and walked home, with no help from the attendant to show me how to do it.
In the end, I was very happy with the Connect by Hertz experience. When it comes down to cost, it is practically toe for toe with Zipcar. The plans are almost identical as well as the cost. Gas, 180 Miles, and insurance are all included in the price from both companies. But Hertz edges out the competition just a smidge with its GPS navigation system, bluetooth capabilities, and backing of a solid rental car company, making it an easy transition for those traditional car rental folks who might have been skeptical in the past.
The Good: Solid selection of cars including electric cars! Hertz customer service, GPS Navigation, and Bluetooth capabilities only enhance the ride. Prices on par with the competition. Hertz makes traditional car rental people feel comfortable.
The Bad: Website could be nicer and easier to navigate. Garage attendants should be more educated when it comes to Connect cars. However, this could have been just one instance. Prices are on par with the competition, but why not make it even cheaper? Car could have been cleaner on pick-up.