When it comes to rental cars my motto is the cheaper the better, provided that it is an automatic (I really need to learn how to drive stick). Per my usual I checked rental car prices on Priceline, Expedia, Kayak, and hotwire; one of priceline’s express deals had the cheapest price for a 1 day rental of an compact sized car. A priceline express deal is where you do not know the rental car agency prior to booking, but know the approximate price. Typically this allows the rental agency to offer lower prices to the third party travel agent as the rental agency isn’t required to price match as the price is not advertised. The total for this rental ended up being $35.91.
My flight landed at SFO shortly after midnight and and as I had a two hour drive ahead of me I quickly worked my way the rental cars. Unfortunately, the tram that would normally connect the terminals to the rental car lot was closed due to maintenance and I had to take a shuttle bus over. This took a bit more time as it had to make multiple stops and really could not accommodate all of the people heading over to the rental car lot. By the time I got to the rental area it was a little after 12:30.
The line at the Hertz Counter was extremely long. There was about 15 people in front of me and only two people working the pick up desk. One of the two employees was busy helping a Customer in filling out a claim for damages. This left one poor employee to deal with this massive line of people. Normally as a Hertz Gold Reward Member I am able to skip past the line at SFO and go straight to my car, but this membership provides no benefit when the rental is made through a third party like priceline. That being said Hertz Gold Rewards is a free membership and it is helpful to have an account for any direct bookings. Without the ability to skip the line it took a little over an hour to get my car and get on the road; this sounds bad but it was likely even worse for those who got there after me, the line grew extremely quick after I got there and ended up being well out the door by the time I left.
I had my choice of any car that Hertz offered that was in their Compact section, and it was slim pickings. Most the cars that were left at that point in the night were in pretty rough shape compared to your usual rental cars. In theory this is not a bad thing, if the car is in rough shape when you leave as long as your report it, it will be tougher for them to pin any damages on you. In the end I settled with one of the few cars that seemed to be in decent shape at Nissan Versa Note.
The Nissan Versa is about as boring of a car as you could imagine. Given that the Versa starts out at $12,360, it is one of the cheapest new car options, but the problem is it performs like the cheapest new car options. The versa accelerates at an extremely slow rate for a car of its size and will take you a while to get you up to speed, but when you do get up to speed it has a very smooth ride and handles quite nicely. It is a pretty fuel efficient car, I drove mostly on the highway and was able to get around 39 miles per which exactly lines up with what nissan publishes (31 City/39 Highway).’
As far as design goes, it is nothing special. Nissan designed it to be as economical as possible and it shows; both the interior and the exterior are pretty unnoteworthy. The car was relatively spacious and would fit 4 adults comfortably and could squeeze in five people if you had to. It had all of the standard features you would expect on a car but nothing more. The inside looked so basic that I honestly did not realize that it had bluetooth until I was almost ready to return it.
Overall, the Versa will get you from point A to point B and it will do it well and reliably, but that is where it stops. The Versa is not particularly fun to drive but gets the job done at a very cheap price point. If you are looking for a hatchback, this is the cheapest that is on the market, but it may be worth it to check out some of its competitors that are not much more expensive like the Kia Rio or the Ford Focus.