Tuesday, September 29, 2015

That Time I Overpaid for a Yaris, Because Any Payment for a Yaris Is an Overpayment

I decided that the best course of action for Lizzi's whirlwind visit to the midwest was to rent a car for the 14 hours of drive-time and to spend the night in a hotel in St. Louis, where we were to meet Dyanne for the next leg of Lizzi's trip across America.

I chose not to bother our family vacation planner (Bryan) with the details. Even though I am not one who prefers making reservations (no plans being my go-to choice for travel), as a grown woman, I figured I could handle this one on my own.

I was wrong.

The rental car to which I was assigned...

- had crank windows.
- was approximately the size of a kids' Barbie Jeep.
- but without the cool color, pretend phone, and convertible features
- had only one windshield wiper. Not because one was broken, but because the car (and thus the windshield) was so small, only one wiper was needed.
- had a teeny, tiny antennae that only picked up signals within a 10 mile radius (Basically I could listen to about 4 songs before I lost the station.)
- didn't have a key fob, but simply a key. No pushing a button to lock and unlock these doors!
- didn't have cruise control.

"Didn't you read the car descriptions when you reserved it?? Why didn't you pay the few dollars to upgrade?" laughed my know-it-all, pompous husband.

"Because I didn't know this kind of car was a possibility!!! Who rents a car that is WORSE than the car they normally drive??" I shrieked. "And so help me if you answer that rhetorical question..."

"Well, I can't wait to see how that cheap hotel reservation you made for the southeast side of St. Louis works out!" 

Bryan was having way too much fun with this turn of events.

How did the car work out you ask?

Well, I got Lizzi to all the places she needed to go safely and on time. That's the good news. The bad news is I irritated just about everyone on I-74, I-55, and I-70 during those three days. I became the annoying person who won't stay a consistent speed, but instead speeds up, passes people, moves into the slow lane, and slows down enough to force the drivers behind her to hit his brakes and mess up their own cruise control before passing her and giving her dirty looks as they do so.

The crappy car became the theme of the visit. 

For example, at one point during our drive through Middle of Nowhere, Illinois, Lizzi made the comment, "I want to buy a lottery ticket at some point."

I replied, "Easy enough! You can get one at any gas station!" This sentence triggered my subconscious, and I took a glance at my gas gauge. 

It was on E.

E for empty.

Not almost to E.

Not a tick away from E.

On E.


After an exhilarating 5 miles of desperate searching, we found a gas station, where I discovered the car had a nine-gallon tank. Nine. Single digit nine. NINE! 

While the adrenaline was still pumping through us, Lizzi went ahead and bought her lottery ticket. A dollar Royal King scratch-off. 

She lost.

Probably because we used up all of her luck on the lack of gas situation.

But the best story comes from Monday when I was all alone driving home from St. Louis.

On Monday morning, I left Lizzi and Dyanne early in the morning to make my way home before school pick-up. Since I had no one to talk to, I was very careful to watch my speed. For most of the trip, I kept it to 2 mph under the speed limit, as there were lots and lots of policemen out, and I didn't want to get nabbed for accidentally going 80.

An hour and a half into the drive, I noticed a blue car traveling behind me. I thought it was odd that a car chose to go 68 in a 70 zone instead of going around me. Then I saw the police car pull into the left lane. It also was going 68 mph with us, driving just a bit behind the blue car, but staying in the left lane.

After several disconcerting miles of this, the policeman finally turned on his lights and got behind the blue car. I was very curious to know what the guy in the blue car had done, but mostly I was glad it wasn't me he was tracking.

And then...

Less than 2 minutes later another policeman pulled up and did the same thing to me.

I pulled over, turned the car off, rolled/cranked my window down, and gathered my info. Driver's license out of my wallet. Rental car info out of my purse. 

When I looked up to see if the policeman was making his way to my window yet, I realized that police protocol had changed since the last time I was pulled over on the freeway 20 years ago.

The guy was on the passenger side waiting for me to roll the window down.

Picture it now.


In a rental car.

With crank windows.

A policeman.

At my passenger window.

Patiently waiting to talk with me.

"OH! Sorry Officer! Hold on a quick couple of minutes while I try to reach...Oh, wait. Need to unbuckle first...Now I can leeeeeeean over and reeeeeach for that handle...Good thing this car is so small, huh? Haha. And that I have freakishly long arms. Ha. Haha. I suppose you want me to roll is all the way down...yes?...OK...almost there...little bit more...THERE! What can I do for you, Officer?"

*blink*blink* smile *blink*

Him: "Good morning. First off, I was not the officer to see the infraction. My colleague called me in. He said you changed lanes without signalling. He was actually surprised, since you did it right in front of him. Some drivers do that on purpose in a blatant attempt to obstruct an officer. We're just trying to keep the roads safe."

It didn't take me half a second to put it all together.

Remember when the policeman was going 68 mph and staying right behind the blue car? Well, during those few miles, a semi was broken down on the right shoulder of the road. Being the good driver that I am, I switched to the right lane to give the semi some room. I even had the thought, "See, Officer, I'm being safe here on the freeway!" Also being the good driver I am, I also signaled. Well, I thought I signaled. In MY cars, I only have to hold the turn signal partway down to get the light blinking. Apparently that is not the case in the rental.

Me: "I signaled! This is a cheap rental car! Did you see that I signaled when you pulled me over?!?! Did I mention it's a cheap rental car?! Without cruise control??"



Him: "May I have your license and rental paperwork? I'm not planning on giving you a citation, as long as nothing shows up when I run this."

Nothing showed up.


Him: "I'm just giving you a warning. Just sign here so my boss knows I'm out working to keep the roads safe."

He went back to his cruiser. I put my paperwork and license away.

I leeeeeeaned over and streeeeeetched to reach the knob to roll my window back up.

And then I was once again on my way.

Listening to static on the radio.

Going slower than the speed limit.

Compulsively using my turn signal, but sometimes forgetting to click it back off.

Basically, the car turned me into my 90-year old grandma for the remaining 12 hours I had it.

BUT, because I know you're wondering, the cheap hotel turned out to be marvelous!

Sure, it had corn fields on two sides of the building and nothing but a couple of gas stations and fast food joints nearby, but it was a two-bedroom suite for less than $100.


What is your track record with rentals? Ever get a lemon?

Have a lovely day!


  1. I have been fortunate in my care rental history. Mostly. I do remember my family renting an Opel Vectra in Brussels in the...hmmm...summer of 96, I think. We were mostly five grown adults at that point, crammed into what was most certainly a compact car, but it was fine for our quick tour of Europe until we headed down from the Alps into Italy. And realized it had no AC, or aircon, as they say. (I learned that's British from Lizzi. I had only heard it when I taught in Malaysia.) Have I ever told you how much I HATE being hot? How much I HATE sweating? I HATE it. From that trip came the line, "But you are touching me ON PURPOSE!" as a response to "I can't help but touch you, Sarah, we're in a tiny car." Yes, I was 20.

  2. I have never rented a car in my entire life, but I was just with a friend who rented a small compact (Hyundai Accent) with stained upholstery and subject to wondering about where those stains came from. Great story, especially when the cop pulled you over. Is Bryan still laughing?

    1. Bryan has moved on to other reasons to make fun of me. :)

      Ooh. Stained upholstery could be bad news.

  3. I've never had a problem with rentals. I always know what I want from the get go and that helps.

    I want you to know that I laughed all the way through this post. Murphy's Law in spades.

    Have a fabulous day. ☺

    1. Normally when I use a rental, I don't really care what it looks like or what features it has. I didn't know that Bryan always did the upgrade!

      Glad you got a good laugh from it. :)

  4. Have had decent luck with the rentals. (Like you) I prefer to rent a car for any longer drives/roadtrips.
    (I'll spare you the details of the rental for my part of 'Ms Rogers Discovers the New World and Meets the Indigenous Peoples' I was not happy with my rental car, but for the opposite reason. Hint: I constantly referred to it as 'a Ford Mastodon'.)

    1. I don't really prefer a rental, but I didn't want to take the 12-passenger van. Bryan can't park the van downtown, so he couldn't trade with me. Phoenix hates to drive the van and has never gone on a real road with it, so no trading with him, either. A rental it was.
      Well, Una had plenty of room, then!

    2. ...lol (and no, I don't expect a huge "What?!!" when I say), for the entire trip (from our front door to our front door) Una rode 'shotgun'... well, 'cause she really is more comfortable in the front passenger seat.

  5. I normally had been pretty lucky with rental cars. Had. Normally. The last car I rented for the 4 of us....we had to remove the "shield" in order to get our CARRY ON luggage in the back and put it in the backseat with J and I (with our other personal carry-ons). To top it off...when we added me as a driver because there has never, EVER been an extra charge....when we returned the rental car there was an extra $65US charge!!! So much for the cheap, discount car. Never again. :( Hope this made you feel better. ;)

    1. It DID make me feel better! Thank you. :) Sounds like your car was about the size of my Yaris. Tiny! I can't imagine putting adult people in the back seat!

  6. Well, last December when my sister and I rented a car, we drove for miles and miles with the rear windshield wiper on in dry weather because we couldn't figure out how to turn the silly thing off. I think my "favorite" rental car story that I personally experienced was the rental car in Hawaii that came with a HUGE spider! Once we spotted it, it disappeared, and I rode the rest of the days with my feet not touching the floor.

    Thank goodness for blogs--I bet you had this post in mind as soon as you realized what features this car had!

    1. Hahahaha!!! Yes, yes I did. I was just hoping I had the time to write it. :)

      I am giggling thinking about you driving with the wiper on. Did you ever find the off switch?

    2. We eventually did, but I think it was the following day. :-)

  7. I smiled all the way through this post.

    I've never yet had reason to get a rental car but if I ever do I'll make sure it's a good one - the one you had sounds like it came direct from The Flintstones :) I'm glad the cheap hotel was good though.

    I'm only just getting round to updating my own blog with my most recent camping trip - wait until you read what happened to me and my van :)

    1. I just saw that you posted. Your blog is my next stop!

  8. Thanks for the morning laugh! What an experience! I no longer rent from Hertz because about 2 years ago I turned in a rental car and 3 weeks later they contacted me and said I damaged the driver's side. Really? If I damaged the driver's side why wouldn't you note that when I returned the vehicle? How many people drove that car in the 3 weeks after I returned it? Oh, the lawyer in me came out sista! They only dropped the frivolous claim after I reported them to the Better Business Bureau.

    1. WOW! Some nerve those Hertz people have! I have no doubt you put all your lawyering to work. :)

  9. That is quite the tale. I am shocked, too, that those rental cars are still out there! They probably make the cost of the car back in like three rentals! I am very particular when I rent cars. I never get the economy or compact because I'm always worried about something like this. I figure what I want to do, head to priceline, bid, and usually get a higher-level car for the same price somebody might pay for the economy. Thankfully, it's worked out for me! At least you made it home safe!

    1. No joke! I thought the same thing about the cost of the car vs. the rental cost. Not cool that they still have those on the lot.

      I will keep your rental plan in mind the next time I have to get one!

  10. OHMYGOSH I would have been a swearing LUNATIC the entire trip!!! And getting pulled over would have taken me over the edge! WHEW! I'm so sorry you had to go through all of that!! What a freaking DISASTER!!! I bet that was a very loooong road trip home. Ugh.

    Glad the hotel was great though! SCORE 1. Take THAT hubs!! :)

    1. Oh my word, reading your comments now that I've met you is even better. I know the all caps are real in your voice. :)

      Imagine if you had this car when you brought Lizzi to me. And Scott thought the trip in your normal car was rough. :D

  11. Forgive me for laughing at your pain, but this post had me in stitches! Fortunately all our experiences with rentals have been positive.

  12. I get to read blogs at my desk during my lunch break... Thanks for the laughs....this was very funny....

    om...goodness cops can be so intimidating at times... years ago when we were living in Queens/Bklyn- when I first started to drive to work I kinda, sorta didn't fully stop at a 4way stop sign...mind you a school zone too but a holiday (no school that day) so once I passed I saw a patrol car and knew ... yes he also came up the passenger side of the car very unexpected and bellowed for my license and registration...so I gave them to him basically shaking... when he returned again yelling at me he told that he was giving me a warning but the next time I am pulled over I will be hammered....

    Picture me as Sue Heck repeating the words and actually being scared "hammered...you're gonna hammer me!" it was only a couple hours later at desk when I was able to call Nick and tell the story and he started laughing did I realize how funny it was....really only a few months before I was actually a weekend driver working and commuting to Manhattan was the reason why...

    thanks again for the story....

  13. Oh, man! But think of what you got for the price of that cheap car! Stories that you will remember and tell forever, because that is just freaking ridiculous! :)

  14. that is some harsh policing! good that they didn't ticket you - but harsh for stopping you in the first place! the rental sounds fun - love it when a simple care hire turns into a legend!

  15. Our new zippy car has the lights and wipers switched from the Silver Bullet, I have yet to drive it with out using the wipers to see in the dark... My kids can't stop laughing at me.


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