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Hertz is making a big change to the way you pick up rental cars this year.
30 big airport locations are rolling over to a new Hertz Ultimate Choice format that does away with assigned cars for most rentals, and instead lets you pick any car you’d like from a section of cars.
If you’re a Hertz Gold, Five Star, President’s Circle, or Platinum member, all you need to do is book an Intermediate vehicle and you can choose any car from your designated section, even if it’s a higher class vehicle than what you’re paying for.
If you want to guarantee a higher class car, you can still reserve one in advance, but Ultimate Choice gives you a chance to drive something better with a Intermediate rate.
Hertz President’s Circle status is a benefit of the United MileagePlus Club Card, as well as United Premier Platinum status or higher, while Five Star status is a benefit for United Premier Silver and Gold members.
Here’s how it looks at Newark Airport….
Your name will be on the board, but instead of a stall number you’ll see the zone you can choose from.
Then you can pick any car from your zone, like this one for President’s Circle members…
The selections in the President’s Circle row are mostly full size cars with a few SUVs mixed in, so these aren’t jackpot upgrades from an Intermediate level.
But if you look deep down the row, there were two luxury options – an Infiniti Q50 and a Cadillac XT5, which are both great upgrades from an Intermediate rate.
There’s also a manual upgrade option.
You can pick any car in the Premium Upgrades section for an extra $25 a day as a President’s Circle or Platinum member, or $35 a day as any other member, even from a cheap Intermediate rate.
Here, you have a choice of a Range Rover Evoque and Mercedes GL 450, both great upgrades, along with a less exciting Infiniti G50 that’s the same model already in the regular President’s Circle row.
If you’re a Five Star member, expect a lot of Standard cars and some compact SUVs.
And as a Gold member, you’ll get a mix of Intermediate to Full Size cars, without so many compact SUVs.
Upgrades with Hertz have been pretty inconsistent the last few years, so even as a President’s Circle it wasn’t a sure thing to get a decent car unless you booked a Premium or Luxury car outright.
Now, the negotiation of having to go to the counter to request a free upgrade is out of the picture.
So if you were good at that game, that’s over.
But it looks like Hertz is trying to stock the President’s Circle section with a few really nice cars, though there’s no real consistency to it.
If you want consistency, the $25 upgrade isn’t a bad option from an Intermediate rate, but Hertz has started changing up its Prestige collection rates to be much cheaper than they once were.
Now, you can book a basic Intermediate rate, and pretty much be guaranteed a nice upgrade for $25 a day.
It’s not as good a deal as President’s Circle was years ago, but it’s probably a much better deal than President’s Circle has been lately.
Here’s an example with an Intermediate for $79 a day…
And a typical upgrade option, an Infiniti QX80, is running $132 a day.
So while you don’t get to choose your exact model ahead of time, which you would get if you reserved the full $132 rate upfront, you’ll pay only $104 a day including the $25 upgrade fee if this happens to be one of the upgrade selections.
That said, since Ultimate Choice rolled out, Hertz has become a lot more aggressive about letting you reserve Prestige cars for much lower rates than before, so if you are planning ahead, the $25 upgrade fee might not be such a bargain, and booking a Prestige in advance like this Mercedes GLC at LAX for just $60 a day is a much better deal.
You probably have around a 30% chance of finding a Luxury or Prestige car in the President’s Club aisle if you hunt long enough.
If you’re traveling for work and can’t pay for an upgrade, then it’s maybe not much worse or better than the hit or miss assigned upgrades before.
At least you get a choice of cars and don’t have to stand in line at the counter to find something better.
But you’ll probably find a more consistent car selection at National, which has been doing this for a long time and knows how to please frequent renters with a good selection.
There are reports of people being able to book cheap Compact rates and getting to use Ultimate Choice.
Officially, Ultimate Choice is something you get on Intermediate / Midsize and above rentals, but Hertz is nothing if not inconsistent, so if you like gambling you might want to book the most rock bottom rate you can on the chance you can pick anything from the Ultimate Choice section.
Let’s say you’re President’s Club and the pickings are slim. You can pick from the lower Five Star or Gold tiers if you’d like – no restriction on that.
Yes, including the Amex Platinum CDP that includes a 4 hour grace period for returns on any rental.
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