Dream cars: Hertz carves out niche for upper-end rentals at McCarran

Hertz employee Riley Fairchild recalls that a recent customer had reserved a Chrysler 300 luxury car. But when he saw the Ferrari California sitting in the rental car lot, the $80-a-day Chrysler went out the window.

“He said, ‘I’d like the Ferrari,’ “ said Fairchild, Hertz senior operations manager at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas. “He took it for four days.”

At $1,500 a day, that’s a $6,000 joy ride.

Hertz rolled out the Ferrari in Las Vegas as part of its new Dream Cars program, enticing deep-pocketed, thrill-seekers to rent a sporty or high-end car at airports around the country. At McCarran’s rental car center, Hertz customers can choose from 21 Porsches, five Cadillac STS-Vs and four Mercedes E63 AMGs — plus the Ferrari.

The least-expensive car, a Porsche Boxster, rents for $250 a day. Double that for a Porsche 911. The Cadillac and Mercedes each go for $279 per day.

Las Vegas is also one of 20 sites to receive a “super car” such as the Ferrari, Fairchild said. He noted the Hertz at LAX has as an Aston Martin as its “super car.” Options at other airports include the Lamborghini Gallardo and SRT Viper.

If you bought a Ferrari, it would retail for more than $200,000. An Aston Martin is in the $200,000 range, too.

“With the Ferrari, people don’t care about the price. It’s a thrill ride for them,” Fairchild said. “Las Vegas is a good city to have high-end cars to cruise the Strip. Most of the dream car fleet is quiet Monday to Wednesday, when business travelers visit Las Vegas. But the top-end rental business picks up when the high rollers hit town Thursday to Sunday, Fairchild said. High-end car rentals are especially strong during weekends when big-time boxing or MMA fight events are staged.

“Here in Las Vegas, the rental sales (of dream cars) are going very well,” Fairchild said. “I know some locations are having issues.”

Fairchild said the volume of rentals are strong in Las Vegas, noting there are times when 20 of the 30 cars in the luxury fleet are rented at the same time.

Hertz is not the only mainstream car rental company to offer luxury cars. Enterprise, for example, also rents a Cadillac CTS and Lincoln MKZ. Avis rents a Hummer H3.

When customers do rent the dream cars, Hertz workers conduct a comprehensive condition check, and occasionally have to charge a detailing fee on cars returned in less than pristine condition, Fairchild said.

He noted one customer ran a Porsche Panamera off the road, causing $45,000 worth of damage.

“That was the worst damage,” Fairchild said.

Besides the rental fee, there’s also a $1.49 per mile fee for every mile above the first 100 free miles. And there’s a refundable security deposit of 50 percent of the rental cost up to $10,000.

Hertz gets rid of the high-end cars when they rack up 6,000-8,000 miles, giving Gaudin Porsche, the Las Vegas Porsche dealer that sold the vehicles to Hertz, first chance to buy the Porsches, he said.

The dream cars also get extra special attention from Hertz employees.

No mechanized car washes for these vehicles.

“You have to give a little more extra effort with these cars,” said Tony Sasso, Hertz vehicle service attendant. “There can’t be any water spots. The windows have to be sparkling clean. You have to hand-wash the wheels.”

The dream cars are parked just outside the Hertz customer doors in the McCarran car rental facility, so patrons have to walk past them.

“Let’s rent that,” a teen-age girl told her mother as they walked out the Hertz door and saw a gray Porsche that would cost $450 to $500 per day.

Mom was not buying.

“I have no interest,” the mother said. “I need the little family car. That’s what we want.”

Contact reporter Alan Snel at asnel@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5273.