Hi there Readers,
Whether you’re planning a trip to some foreign land or you just need a loaner vehicle while your car’s enjoying a tune-up, chances are you’ve had to rely on a car rental at some point along the way. And yet, even though we’ve all used them, very few of us actually know the history behind the car rental industry and how it grew to become such an important part of every day travel.
History of Car Rentals: The Beginnings
The U.S. car rental industry is believed to have began back in 1916, when a Nebraska man by the name of Joe Saunders decided to lend out his Ford Model T to local and visiting businessmen. This savvy entrepreneur affixed a mileage meter to the left front wheel of the vehicle and would charge renters a total of 10 cents a mile in order to cover the wear and tear on his beloved Ford.
It didn’t take long for Saunders to realize he’d stumbled onto a lucrative business idea. By 1925, Saunders’ independent car rental company had grow to include operations In 21 states. Saunders also began to diversify his vehicle offering at this point – old Chrysler ads from the 1920′s boast that Saunders’ fleet included nearly $1 million worth of Chrysler vehicles.
The Battle Begins
Competitors quickly caught onto Saunders’ unique rent-a-car model, and it wasn’t long before Walter L. Jacobs started renting out a dozen or so Model T Fords of his own. By 1923, Jacobs’ business was grossing more than $1 million in annual sales, making him Saunders’ main competitor.
Both Saunders and Jacobs built their independent car rental businesses from humble beginnings, but only one would come out on top. In the mid 1920s, Jacobs made the acquaintance of Mr. John Hertz, owner of The Yellow Cab Manufacturing Company in Chicago. Hertz eventually bought Jacobs’ car rental company, giving birth to what is now one of the largest chain car rental companies in the nation. Later, General Motors would buy out the Hertz’s Yellow Cab Manufacturing Company, renaming the car rental portion of the business the “Hertz Driv-Ur-Self System.”
The sector expanded rapidly in the US; in 1926, the American Driveurself Association assembled over 1200 delegates in Chicago.
The growth in travel after World War II led to the establishment of several well known international companies, including National Car Rental (1947), Europcar (1949), Enterprise Rent-A-Car (1957), Thrifty Rent A Car (1958), and Budget Rent a Car (1958).