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As U.S. leisure travelers hit the road for the July 4th weekend, it is very possible that they aren’t feeling as kindly as in the past about their favorite car rental brands.

In a period when major car rental brands restricted supply and executed rate hikes, rental car companies from Hertz and Enterprise to Avis and Budget saw their reputations among leisure travelers fall substantially in early 2014.

That was one of the findings in an MMGY Global survey of 2,550 active leisure travelers in February 2014. The results are contained in MMGY Global’s 2014 Portrait of American Travelers®.

The Avis and Budget brands, part of the Avis Budget Group, suffered the largest brand hits, with leisure travelers’ preference for Avis falling 8 percentage points to 36% in 2014, compared with 2013, and their preference for Budget declining seven percentage points to 27% during the same timeframe, the survey found.

Hertz was the most popular brand among leisure travelers in the survey, but it, too, saw its support among leisure travelers dropping five percentage points to 51% in 2014, the MMGY survey found.

In fact every brand in the survey, including Hertz, Enterprise, Avis, Budget, Alamo and Natonal experienced reputation declines in the survey, although leisure travelers’ preference for National dipped a statistically insignificant one percentage point to 14%, according to the survey.

Preferred Car Rental Brands


Source: MMGY Global 2014 Portrait of American Travelers

The MMGY report did not elaborate on why the major car rental brands became less popular in 2014, although pricing and availability is undoubtedly a factor.

Is the increasing popularity of ride-sharing brands such as Zipcar, which is part of the Avis Budget group, a factor in major brands’ reputation decline? Or is industry consolidation taking a toll on satisfaction? The report doesn’t address that question.

The survey’s findings were not totally negative about the major car rental brands.

Survey participants indicated that supplier websites offered better pricing and were a more convenient booking option than online travel agency websites.

More than “four in ten travelers believe these sites [car rental brands’ own websites] are where they find the best prices, are the most convenient way to book and generally are where they book rental cars,” the survey found.

“Only around three in ten travelers say OTAs offer the best prices, are most convenient way to book and that they generally use these when booking car rentals.”

Photo Credit: A Hertz sign is seen outside a rental car office in Ferndale, Michigan May 9, 2011. Rebecca Cook / Reuters