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Will you love or hate Hertz Ultimate Choice?

by on Fri April 14, 2017 • 27 Comments
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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.

ultimatechoicemap

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.

What Ultimate Choice looks like in action

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.

hertzucboard1

Then you can pick any car from your zone, like this one for President’s Circle members…

hertzucpc3

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.

hertzucpc14

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.

hertzucpc16

hertzucpc15

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.

hertzucupgrade11

If you’re a Five Star member, expect a lot of Standard cars and some compact SUVs.

hertzucfivestar7

And as a Gold member, you’ll get a mix of Intermediate to Full Size cars, without so many compact SUVs.

hertzucgold18

Is this a good deal if you’re wiling to pay for better cars?

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…

hertzintermediate

And a typical upgrade option, an Infiniti QX80, is running $132 a day.

hertzprestige

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.

prestigelax

Is it a good deal if you can’t pay to upgrade?

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.

Can you book a really cheap rate and select any car?

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.

Can you pick from a lower tier selection?

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.

Does any CDP work with Ultimate Choice?

Yes, including the Amex Platinum CDP that includes a 4 hour grace period for returns on any rental.

 

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27 thoughts on Will you love or hate Hertz Ultimate Choice?

  1. Duane

    So, if I reserve a Premium class car and then go to the lot and see my name simply listed as President’s Circle, it seems that I just wasted the extra money. Is the only way to get a Premium car to book an intermediate and then choose to upgrade?

    Reply
    1. MileCards.com

      @Duane: If you are currently a President’s Circle member, the only way to guarantee an upgrade to a Premium Class car is to book an Intermediate Class car, and then pay the $25 upgrade per day. Otherwise, you can try your luck among the President’s Circle selection, but your choices may vary.

      Reply
  2. XH

    If I book an intermediate car as a Gold member from say SFO, and upon arriving at the Gold lots I don’t see anything great, as it is late at night, what options do I have? Can I choose from the other sections e.g. Full size car lots?

    Reply
  3. Richard Griggs

    I’m a gold member arriving at SFO. I’ve reserved a standard SUV (group L). Will I be allocated an SUV or do I just hope one is available in the Gold section?

    Reply
  4. Al

    Yes, the keywords are “look deep”. The best way is to set aside your luggage by a vehicle and walk around thoroughly. As a president’s circle member, I almost always find a very desirable luxury vehicle to drive. Of course some airports have more luxury options than others. At O’Hare and San Francisco, I have been able to pick a top of line vehicle such as Escalade, Range Rover and Navigator. When I travel, I need SUVs. But if you just look for passenger cars, there are even more, better selections such as Jaguar and Mercedes.

    Overall, I think Hertz President’s Circle lots have more luxury vehicles than Emerald Executive lots. But the latter has more full size SUVs.

    Reply
  5. SteveJ

    Hi – My wife and I are both Gold members through work, but do a lot of personal travel, where we reserve Class “C” or “D” cars, without the intent to upgrade. Typically we arrive late in the evening in Chicago or Seattle, and by the time we get there, the selection available to chose from is pretty sparse. We also have a long walk from the bus stop to the rows containing the cars we can pick from (negating one of the two main benefits of Gold membership), and then it’s not at all clear what class the cars are. We have to open car doors and check key fobs, and when we eventually stumble on the class we’ve reserved, it’s a pretty crappy car.
    Are we SOL? Any advice (other than switching to some other rental company)?

    Reply
  6. Sxt

    Hi,

    I am a 5star and have booked a Prem Extra Capacity SUV (T6) at Miami Airport. Will I be guaranteed a Chevy Suburban or similar? Will I have the chance to get anything even better?

    Reply
    1. MileCards.com

      @Sxt – Yes you will get a specific space in the Reserved section assigned. But if you see something in the Ultimate Choice section you like you can take that.

      Reply
  7. Dean

    If I reserve a Prestige Collection vehicle, am I at least guaranteed one? I wouldn’t want to pay and get stuck with a lower vehicle.

    Reply
      1. Dean

        Do I still qualify for ultimate choice? Not that it’s much of an upgrade but you never know. Lol. I’ll take a Mercedes or Rover over a Caddy. Lol

        Reply
        1. MileCards.com

          @Dean – Yes you can grab it from your elite section if you see something better. It processes automatically at the exit gate. Or, go inside and see if changing your reservation to a midsize saves some more $$.

          The coastal city airports (think SFO, LAX, EWR) tend to have better selections than others like CLT.

          Reply
  8. Gail

    Hello,
    This is a bit confusing! So i pay for a full-size and he to the Ultimate Choice and there are only intermediates..so i have to take an intermediate????
    Thanks!!!

    Reply
    1. MileCards.com

      @Gail – You can reserve a midsize / intermediate and get the right to use Ultimate Choice. If you pay for a full size, and only see intermediates, you can always go to the counter and ask if a full size is available elsewhere on the lost.

      Reply
  9. Benji

    Hello!
    I’m renting from LAX and I’m gold member, I rented a Fullsize sedan. As I was reading, should I rent the Intermediate class instead and I’ll still get the fullsize sedan for the Intermediate class price???
    Thanks so much!

    Reply
    1. MileCards.com

      @Benji – Pretty much – no guarantees there will be a full size in the Gold selection that day, but a pretty good chance.

      Reply
  10. z z

    Hello, just trying to confirm that selecting from the “Premium Upgrade zone” is only $25/$35 day plus taxes/fees. I was in Philly airport Hertz and there were two cars there, one a Vette, the second a Land Rover, and definitely would have upgraded but the guy implied that it would be very expensive. I think he didn’t know. My travel companions were super impatient and didn’t want to stop and ask anyone.

    Reply
    1. MileCards.com

      @zz – Yes that is how it works. There is an ‘Ultimate Series’ zone that’s not part of the $25/$35/day but if it’s in the Premium Upgrade zone the $25/$35 applies for all cars parked there.

      Reply
  11. Matt

    Hi, thanks for this, it’s really useful.

    As a Gold Plus member, are you only able to upgrade to the Premium Upgrade range?

    Or.. if there was a car in the Five Star lineup, is it possible to pay the same fee to upgrade to that?

    Thanks again!

    Reply
    1. MileCards.com

      @Matt – You might check with the counter, but you’d probably not want to pay the same fee for a car in the Five Star lineup, since the cars in the Premium Upgrade section are much nicer for the same price.

      Reply
  12. Myron

    Thanks — this is great information! Just wondering if you know how this works when you’re renting with Gold Plus Rewards points?

    I’m a Five-Star member. Can I book an Intermediate and select from the Ultimate Choice or Five Star areas? Or am I then stuck with whatever class I originally booked?

    Reply
    1. MileCards.com

      @Myron – Yes any midsize or higher rental will get you the Ultimate Choice area, even with points.

      Reply

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