How Many Cars Did Bruce Drive Today?

I started a part-time job this week; mostly to keep me from getting too bored and fatter but also for a little spending cash. Nothing too demanding - I'm a car jockey for a rent-a-car company at McCarran International Airport.

I have to tell you, it's given me a whole different perspective on new cars, and car reviews. We all know that the auto makers sell millions of cars but we only see them in smaller groups. At an airport like McCarran in Las Vegas (one of the top five car rental airports), the company I work for rents about 1,000 cars per day ON A SLOW DAY! I'm not even sure how many different rental companies there are at McCarran but easily a half dozen are top performers. Imagine a minimum of 6,000 cars going out in a single day!

My company (not that I own it) rents a wide variety of cars too - Chevrolet, Dodge, Ford, Honda, Hyundai, Infiniti, Jeep, Kia, Saab, Toyota, and I'm sure I've missed a few. Sizes run from a Chevy Aveo to huge 15-passenger Ford vans.

I don't spend much time in any one vehicle. Returned cars are cleaned, gassed, and put back on the rental line pretty quickly. I'd say I probably drive 20-30 cars a day for no more than 10 minutes each.

It was pretty confusing at first. Cars must be parked in their appropriate spaces based on "size." I put size in quotes because it doesn't make much sense. A Toyota Corolla is an "Intermediate," and a Chevy HHR is "Standard." As confusing as it is to me, the look on some of the many foreigners' faces when they try to equate sizes of their country to our cars is amusing.

I was surprised that a fair number of people want a specific car. Whenever I've rented a car I wanted something economical that I fit into comfortably. Oh there are those that want something sporty, or a convertible but there are also people who want a Ford Focus (I had to help one lady who wanted a Focus and there were none figure out how to open the trunk on the Chevy Cobalt she took instead).

We don't have too many cars over 20,000 miles right now. The disaster in Japan has hotted up the used car market so most rental companies are turning cars quicker than before. This is a win-win situation; the rental companies get higher prices for the cars they sell, renters get to drive newer, lower mileage cars, and the used-car buying public has lower mileage cars to choose from.

I have to mention the rental car location at McCarran. I've rented a car there and I told one of my fellow new hires that I thought it was so simple it was almost confusing. Many airports have only a few on-site rental lots at best. Most of the rental lots are scattered around the perimeter of the airport. McCarran has one central building. Everyone takes the same bus (no scanning the horizon for the right bus) to a central building with counters for all the rental companies. Once you've got your paperwork, you head out into a massive parking structure where all the cars are parked in separate lots. Confusing because most of us aren't used to one stop shopping.

The next time you're at a major airport stop and think about how many cars those rental companies buy and sell per year. If you think you're longing for that new Camaro SS is what drives the industry, compare your new car every five or six years to the hundreds of thousands, if not millions, rental companies buy. I guess we're not that important in the greater scheme of things after all.


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