Your car's in the shop for a few days and you're tired of bumming rides from family and friends. Do you take the bus or call a taxi when you need to go somewhere? Renting a car would be the most cost-effective solution, but who wants to go all the way to the airport, wait in line, and drive all the way back to return it?
Now you understand the concept behind U-Save Auto Rental of America Inc., the No. 2 neighborhood car rental company in the United States, second only to Enterprise Rent-A-Car in the $16.5 billion rental car industry.
The neighborhood rental focus is consumers who temporarily need a second car or a car to replace a vehicle being repaired. Agencies pick up customers, bring them to the rental car location, and shower them with the sort of personal attention not generally found at airport locations.
"The personalized service is what makes the neighborhood market unique," says Gabe Lopez, owner of a U-Save franchise in Tucson, Arizona. "I take time to get to know my customers well. The neighborhood market is a more personal approach."
With $30,000 borrowed from his father, Mr. Lopez, 36, opened a Practical Rent-A-Car franchise in 1986, purchasing eight pre-owned cars and renting them for $10.99 a day plus 10 cents a mile. Although his cars are a little older than the ones you'd expect to find at the airport, they're also cheaper to rent – as much as $10 a day cheaper.
"I like to tell people, 'If someone else is paying the bill, go to the airport and get what you want. If it's coming out of your own pocket, come to us.'"
He switched to U-Save Auto Rental of America last November following a buyout by U-Save CEO and president Tom McDonnell of Jackson, Mississippi. Mr. Lopez was impressed with U-Save and says the company has extended a line of credit that will enable him to grow his business.
"I've always had enough business, but I haven't always had enough cars," says Mr. Lopez, whose fleet now numbers 40 vehicles. "I think 80 cars is a good number, and now that I'll have the finances to do that it will be a lot easier."
Through the years, annual gross revenues have increased from $50,000 to $400,000, growth that Mr. Lopez attributes to personal involvement and good customer service. "I'm not a marketing whiz or a brain surgeon. I just treat people as well as I know how – in a friendly, courteous way."
His concern for customers has been known to get the better of him, though. "I try to make friends too much and sometimes forget about the bottom line," he says with a shrug.
– Scott Williams
U-Save Auto Rental of America Inc.
Business: Neighborhood car rental
Date established: 1978
Number of franchises: 450
Total annual revenues: $25 million
Requirements: $45,000 to $75,000 in initial costs; net worth of $250,000 with $60,000 in liquid assets
Where available: The United States and Canada
Contact: U-Save Auto Rental of America Inc.
4780 I-55 North, Suite 300, Jackson, MS 39211
Web site: www.usave.net
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