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Rental car companies have gotten so good that even millennials like them

Car rental

Car rental company buses make their rounds through LAX on March 4, 2013.

(Los Angeles Times)

We are crazy about rental cars -- even the thought-to-be-highly-critical millennials.

Those are the results of the J.D. Power 2015 North America Rental Car Satisfaction Study, released Wednesday.

The overall satisfaction score, based on a 1,000-point scale, was 798, a record high for the survey since its current methodology was adopted in 2006.

Top honors went to Enterprise, National and Alamo at 831, 818 and 807, respectively. Budget (785), Dollar (768) and Thrifty (733) were at the bottom. In the middle: Avis at 795 and Hertz a point below that.

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Millennials, it turns out, like rental cars too, the survey found. In fact, they scored their rental car experience at 809 for personal/leisure travel and 834 for business travel.

This runs headlong into perceptions about that generation, born in the 1980s to the first years fo the 21st century. In fact, if you Google “millennial” and “hard to please,” you’ll find a spate of articles that characterizes members of that generation as narcissistic, entitled, lazy and demanding.

But that critical eye isn’t cast just on others; millennials often turn it on themselves. A USA Today article, looking at a recent Pew survey, said that “[w]hen asked how they would describe their age group, respondents aged 18 to 34 were the least likely to say their generation was responsible, hard-working, willing to sacrifice, moral, self-reliant or compassionate.”

Rick Garlic, global travel and hospitality practice lead at J.D. Power, thinks that generation has been unfairly tagged, at least when it comes to renting cars. “Conventional wisdom says that millennials are perpetually dissatisfied, but that clearly is not the case,” Garlick said in a statement.

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Business travelers also tend to be happier campers, more so than leisure travelers. They gave the industry a score of 802, up 30 points from last year. Leisure travelers were not far behind at 796, but generally, it is the leisure traveler who’s happier, not the other way around.

So why are renters so happy? Thank the shuttle bus to the rental car lot -- up by 37 points, outpacing gains made in costs and fees (29 points) and the pickup process (26 points).

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