Renting a car in Canada, the ultimate test drive


When Canadians rent a car, they don’t just rent it. They take it for a test drive. That’s the lesson Enterprise Holdings learned from its Canadian Automotive Survey released in October.

Enterprise Holdings said the survey results provide insight into consumer behaviour in the Canadian rental car market and demonstrates there is a correlation between positive rental car experiences and future vehicle purchase.

According to the study, conducted by polling firm Leger, nearly six in 10 or 60 per cent of the rental company’s Canadian customers have considered purchasing the make and model of the car they drove as a rental.

Enterprise Holdings said this number increases to 72 per cent for customers aged 25-34.

In addition, customers fielded questions about the impact of a positive rental experience on their perceptions of specific makes or models.

Overall, most customers (69 per cent) reported that a positive experience renting a certain car changed their perception of that specific car, make or model.

These insights suggest Canadians are using rental cars as more than a means for short-term or alternative transportation. In many instances, they are also experiencing them as an extended test drive before purchasing it.

Consumers acknowledge there are benefits to renting a car prior to purchasing one, as it’s an opportunity to learn something new about the vehicle.

“Car rental is one of the best ways to introduce consumers – and prospective buyers – to different manufacturers and new car models,” said Paul Belfer, V-P Canadian fleet acquisition for Enterprise Holdings.

“Our manufacturing partners have long found our fleet as a great testing ground for new technology. Now, this survey shows Canadians view our vehicles in the same way, as an opportunity to drive a new make and model that may influence a future purchasing decision.”

Speaking at the International Car Rental show this spring Enterprise Holdings senior V-P vehicle acquisition Susan Lombardo said “manufacturers have discovered that car rental – regardless of whether it’s for an hour, a day, a week or longer – is a significant link in the automotive value chain.

“That means we can help automakers maintain and even grow market share. As a result, we continue to look for ways to collaborate and communicate with our manufacturing partners every day.”

Another noteworthy finding from the recent automotive research is the differentiation in consumer behaviour between Canadians and Americans. The survey found nearly half of Canadian customers rent cars mostly for personal use, which is significantly higher than American customers (47 per cent vs. 37 per cent).

In contrast, Americans are more likely to rent for business use (41 per cent vs. 31 per cent).

“This insight into personal versus business use and the difference in the North American markets also helps us tailor our car rental programs,” said Belfer.

Other significant survey findings include the following:

- Almost half of Enterprise customers (42 per cent) say that rental cars are where they typically experience new automobile technology.

- When selecting a rental car, Canadians are more likely to choose a compact car than American customers (16 per cent vs. 10 per cent).

Leger conducted a survey of 1,501 Canadian Enterprise Holdings customers online between Jan. 30 and Mar. 3 using Enterprise Holding’s customer database. A probability sample of the same size would yield a margin of error of +/- 2.5 per cent, 19 times out of 20.