I’ve been quite the road warrior for the past few months. The biggest question in my travels is my rental car. I never seem to get the same type of rental car twice in a row. I’ve run the gamut from a Ford Mustang convertible (and I hated every second of driving that car, which is unfortunate, since I drove it from Portland to Seattle) to a Chevy Trailblazer (which I also hated, because it felt like I was driving a schoolbus).
Aside from complaints about specific vehicles, I’ve learned a bit about what I want out of my rental car:
- Mirrors that are easy to adjust. You’d think that this would be a no-brainer, right? But I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been entirely unable to figure out where the control for the side mirrors is, and then how to work it.
- Headlights that come on or flash when I click the ‘unlock door’ button. If I’m driving a four-door beige sedan, I need some kind of indicator from the car so that I know which one is mine. (An alternative, which isn’t great but I’ll accept it, is that it has a quick horn-honk when I hit the ‘lock door’ button after the doors are already locked.)
- A radio that has an easy-to-find ‘seek’ button. If I have a rental car, I don’t know the local radio stations, so I have to dig around until I find the ones that I want. I’m going to do this while I’m driving, I’m not going to be doing this while I’m sitting in the garage. It should be on the left side of the radio, and it should be easy to find by touch after I know its general location.
- A radio that lets me program its pre-set buttons easily. I always seem to get a rental car after someone with diametrically opposite tastes has had it, so I have to get rid of their bad country or right-wing talk radio stations as soon as humanly possible so that I don’t accidentally damage my psyche.
These have turned out to be the things that are really important to me when I drive a rental car, and I realised that they’re all usability issues. It’s just me and my luggage when I travel, so I don’t care about making sure I get a big enough car. Assuming that the car has four wheels and air conditioning, I really don’t care about the particular car. It’s been kinda nifty to drive cars, it’s kinda like an extended test drive for cars that I’d never consider buying.