Your next car rental could be a Ford. Or... a Ferrari.
Andreas Arnhoff and a friend in a rented Ferrari 458 Spider.
Norwegian Andreas Arnhoff hopped a flight to New York on a whim and when he arrived, he decided to rent a car.
But he didn’t want any old airport rental.
Arnhoff, 24, says he works in real estate and that cars are a hobby for him. Back in Norway, he owns a Porsche 911 and a Porsche Cayenne, both turbo.
His first choice for a rental was a Lamborghini Murciélago, but it wasn't available when he called exotic car rental company Gotham Dream Cars.
“We had to go with the Ferrari,” Arnhoff says, laughing.
Gotham delivered a bright red Ferrari 458 Spider with a retractable roof to his midtown hotel. The company paid about $340,000 for it – which is actually about $40,000 more than the list price because demand for the car is so high. For a one-day rental, it charges nearly $2,000, plus tax and a $15,000 security deposit.
In the last few years, more companies have started renting luxury and exotic cars, including big national chains like Enterprise and Hertz.
“We weren’t sure how customers were going to be receptive of the collection,” says Paula Riviera, a Hertz spokesperson.
About a year and a half ago, Hertz launched its Dream Car rental line with 25 cars, including “a couple Lamborghinis, a few Ferraris.”
“It’s proven so popular that today we have more than a thousand cars,” she says.
At the Newark Airport, a Jaguar and Mercedes sit parked on a ramp that Riviera calls the “eye candy display.” She says some people who have booked a regular old midsize might walk by the display and upgrade on the fly.
There are convertibles in California and Range Rovers in Colorado. The company shifts cars around to meet demand, even to smaller markets like Kansas City and Detroit.
The move into exotics makes sense for the national companies because the rental market is very competitive, says Chris Brown, the executive editor of Auto Rental News.
“I wouldn’t say [the market’s] saturated,” says Brown. “But it’s certainly full. So the major car rental companies are really looking for new avenues to exploit.
However, he thinks exotics will remain a niche business.
“Although luxury and exotic rentals maybe growing into new parts of the country, the lion-share of the market is going in south Florida, southern California, maybe New York,” he says.
Many independent exotic rental companies are also looking for ways to expand.
Because rental bookings are most popular on the weekend, Gotham Dream Cars has created shorter, less expensive driving “experiences” on weekdays, which allow people to drive the cars in a closed parking lot or racetrack at higher speeds. These events typically target gear heads interested in testing the car’s performance.
In contrast, data from the cars show that renters don’t tend to drive the cars that far or fast.
“Most people rent the car to drive around,” says Gotham’s COO Rob Ferretti. “They go to Starbucks 50 times, they drive around Times Square a million times. You rent the car to be seen.”
It’s an accessory business, he says, like Rent The Runway – for men. Though women purchase these luxury car rentals as gifts, nine out of ten renters or “experience” drivers are indeed men.
As for Norwegian traveler Andreas Arnhoff, he says he's planning to take his Ferrari shopping – to an outlet mall in the suburbs.