Hooniverse Asks – What’s The Worst Rental Car You’ve Ever Been Saddled With?

A year or so ago I had to travel to Atlanta Georgia on business. If you have any familiarity with Hartsfield-Jackson airport these days, then you know that in order to pick up a rental car there you have to take a Disney World-like tram several miles away to an enormous parking structure, a totem to temporary transportation. There, every rental company, major and minor vies for your business, and the whole thing looks like it holds fleets that together could easily top  5,000 cars.
And out of all of those, I ended up with a Kia Rio.
Like Motel Sixes and Olive Gardens, the rental car provides a single service, and nothing else. And while the Kia was functional, it in no way put any ‘fun’ in that function. Coarse, noisy, and shuddering from pothole to pothole, it did manage to keep me and the torrential downpour in which I was driving separated, although the wipers were seemingly designed to counter nothing heavier than sweet summer sweat.
That Rio, crude and spartan even by Kia standards, pretty much defined the term penalty box, and had my trip extended past a couple of days, I probably would have either traded it in, or abandoned it and hitched. I’ve suffered through other terrible rentals before – a Chevy Beretta stands out – but I’ve also been surprised by cars that haven’t made me either feel paretic for driving it, nor awestruck by their awfulness.
But what about you, have you ever had a rental car that made you feel like it sucked so bad that it might just suck all your happiness out along with it? Or, have you been lucky enough at the rental counter not to have ever suffered until it Hertz?

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65 responses to “Hooniverse Asks – What’s The Worst Rental Car You’ve Ever Been Saddled With?”

  1. JeepyJayhawk Avatar

    That's a sexy beige there… So far the worst rental I've ever had was a 26' uhaul with no brakes. Discovered loaded on the way home from Minnesota. "We really don't have to stop right?"

    1. mdharrell Avatar

      Oh, the joys of U-Haul. I rented a car trailer from them for a WA to OR run and picked it up just before they were closing on a Friday. The manager saw it was to be one-way and apparently took that opportunity to get rid of the worst trailer on the lot. It seemed okay-ish mechanically but none of the lights worked. None. Their shop guy spent nearly two hours resplicing the already repeatedly spliced wires, cleaning away corrosion, and generally trying to make do without putting any new parts on it while the manager hovered within sight to make sure (a) only labor [and my time, thanks] was expended, not hardware, and (b) the lights would, in fact, work long enough to get the thing off their lot.
      Eventually the manager stepped away for a few minutes and I told the shop guy not to worry about the taillights, since I'd be leaving town the next morning and getting to my destination before dark. All I really cared about were the brake lights and turn signals, which he had mostly managed to get working almost reliably. We quickly threw everything back together, yelled to the manager that everything was just fine, and off I went.
      Pity all of the nicer trailers sitting on their lot had already been "reserved," as the manager had explained earlier when I asked. Pity I've never been back.

      1. Alff Avatar

        Knowing your taste in vehicles, I'm surprised you didn't run into this little hurdle as well… U-Haul insists on knowing the year, make and model of the vehicle you will be pulling. If it's not in their database, they will not rent to you. Hence, this is the Toyota MR2 I hauled last year:
        <img src="https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/_fVEg3I8ek1A/S3Ai_5oUhfI/AAAAAAAAABc/eDjcgyOdLjk/s640/2010-02-07%2012.41.30.jpg"width=500&gt;

        1. mdharrell Avatar

          Ha! That's a sharp-looking MR2. I ran up against that problem every single time I used a dolly or "auto transport" from them. (The above story was about an auto transport, like yours.) My solution: "It's a 1974 VW Bug."
          By the way, a Sonett will fit on one of those things, though the car's track is almost too narrow. Almost.

        2. engineerd Avatar

          Hey! Welcome to the century club! You may not notice it at first, but everything on this side is 20% cheaper and cookies are free!

          1. Alff Avatar

            I hear that 150 gets you warm towels and a neck massage.

  2. SSurfer321 Avatar

    Last summer flew to FL for friend's wedding. Had hoped for the Mazda 5 in the brochure. They were out of them and I was left to choose from a Honda Civic or Toyota Matrix. As we would be carpooling a bit, I chose the Matrix. WORST CAR EVER!
    The engine was coarse, engine management was piss poor and transmission was a POS. Whenever I tried to merge it would hold 3rd gear until I stuffed it to the floor, then 5 minutes later it kicked down into 1st gear. If I ever drive a Toyota again it will be too soon.

  3. vwminispeedster Avatar

    PT Cruiser in Phoenix. It's AC could not stand up to the +100 degree-F weather while I was there so it was in the mid 70's in the car. F minus for the PT Loser.

  4. Matt Avatar

    I got a 2005 Chevy Cobalt LS once. It was fairly pathetic in almost every respect, especially the sharp-edged plastic-fantastic dashboard.

    1. LTDScott Avatar

      I got a Cobalt and found it perfectly adequate. My only major gripe was the numb electric steering. Maybe my standards aren't that high.

      1. austinminiman Avatar

        I've liked the rental Cobalts… actually a sweet albeit underpowered engine.

  5. Jim Brennan Avatar
    Jim Brennan

    You know, when I'm renting a car, I always expect a low rent vehicle. When in Vegas, I rented a PT Cruiser (twice), and they are OK. They are transportation appliances, and I'm only in them to go from one destination to another, and to carry luggage – nothing more, and nothing less.
    When I was last in Dallas, it was a base 2.7L Charger, and the time before then was a Base Pacifica. All the rental cars I've had were OK with two glaring exceptions. I was a member of the Emerald Club for National for a long time, and I wanted a smaller car to travel to Maine. I decided to try out a Pontiac LeMans (The re-badged Daewoo) and it wasn't really that bad, except the car didn't have a Gas Cap, so the fumes of Gasoline were prominent from the moment I took the car to the time I returned it. (I did get a free rental the next time I needed a car)
    The only time I returned a rental for another car was when I was handed the keys to a Buick Somerset Skylark, and the seats were bent inward to the center of the car. Very uncomfortable. When I brought it back, they gave me a LeBaron Coupe instead.

    1. CptSevere Avatar

      Back when those little "Pontiacs" first came out, I met a couple of hippies who had somehow gotten a loan for one, and drove it out to Utah from the Northeast to be ski bums. Those goofballs drove the hell out of that thing all summer camping all over Southern Utah, then got jobs as lifties at Snowbird, and ran it up and down the canyon all winter to party in Salt Lake. The car held up pretty well to their abuse until it got repoed. I was impressed, that little beercan was pretty durable.

  6. P161911 Avatar

    Dodge Caliber for a couple of days in Seattle before going on an Alaskan cruise. No power locks is a major pain on a rental. Probably one of the loudest cars I've ever ridden in. Small but with all the rear visibility of a box van. It came from one of the second tier companies, Dollar or General, I don't remember, but they did offer the ability to return the car at the cruise ship port without an extra fee. I do remember seeing Mini Cooper S s in the lot when we picked the car up. I ALMOST went back in to try and swap for one, but I had a really cheap online deal, and I wasn't sure if all our luggage would fit in it. In retrospect, I should have got the MINI. In less than 48 hours I learned to hate the Caliber more than any other car. My Dad got stuck with one as a company car, while being horrible cars, they are apparently reliable, his has 125k+ miles and drives just as bad now as the day it was new with zero repair issues.
    The strangest was a Jaguar in about 2000 or so. The company said to rent a midsize car from Hertz, which was something like $45/day, I got a Jag from Budget for about $39/day. Warning lights started coming on before we even left the airport! It got us there and back, but it took me two days to find the power steering wheel tilt switch.

  7. hwyengr Avatar

    In the early 90s, we ended up with a 3-dr Geo Storm for a cross-Florida vacation. it was from one of those cut-rate shady car rental places, too, which didn't add any confidence in the whole deal. We took that little shitbox from Orlando to Tampa to some retirement community on the Atlantic Coast. Not exactly the best car for four people and luggage and long distances.

  8. Maxichamp Avatar

    3. Chevy Aveo. Tiny, underpowered, and horrendous fuel mileage.
    2. The Dodge Avenger I rented yesterday. Huge and dangerous C pillar. Cheap interior. Handling akin to an RV. The headlights and turn signal used the same stalk. When I drove last night and flicked the turn signal, the tension was so loose, my finger would twist the stalk and turn off the headlights. Scary on the freeway. Sloppy transmission.
    1. Chrysler Sebring sedan. There is nothing, NOTHING right about this car.

  9. Maymar Avatar

    I've only rented two cars, a Toyota Matrix and a Suzuki SX4. The Matrix was pleasant, although the driving position was slightly awkward (or was it just bad seats?) and compared to the Cobalts I was frequently around, it felt a little underpowered. The SX4 was nicer to drive (which was great on the Sea to Sky Highway to Whistler), but also underpowered. I blame 4-speed autos, but I've heard the CVT is horrendous.
    Although, while with my parents, I've been subjected to a Daewoo Lanos that stalled on the ramp out of the airport (it behaved after that), and a Sunfire that was at the end of its rental lifespan (body cladding starting to fall off, mystery stains, a general air of reluctance in doing anything).

  10. Alff Avatar

    Ooh, so many. I, too, suffered the indignities of a Kia Rio. The Olds Achieva was another low light, as was a Caliber. Of these, I was most disappointed in the Caliber – terrible ergonomics, bad sight lines and an engine that sounded like it came straight out of a 15 year old washing machine.
    The absolute worst, though, was a Plymouth Acclaim. Driving through a drainage swale (gutter) from a dead stop sent the front wheels about 12" off the ground. Throwing my carry on in the trunk forced the rear seatback off its mountings, creating a hatchback where none was intended.

  11. OA5599 Avatar

    When my friend turned 18, for his birthday he rented a Pontiac Fiero, which was new to the market then. He picked it up from the rental office, took it to a big parking lot to practice hooning, then came by my work to show me. He parked it with the parking brake set, and as the brakes cooled off, they stuck in a semi-seized position. The rental place was about a mile away, and he limped it back over there against the stuck brakes, with the car on the verge of overheating when he arrived.
    The agency gave him a different car, no questions asked, and apologized for the inconvenience "they" caused. Anyone wonder why Montgomery Ward Auto Rental isn't around anymore?

    1. Matt Avatar

      Because Thrifty acquired them about 15 years ago.

  12. skitter Avatar

    Chevy HHR. Horrible rear visibility, like P161911's Caliber, impossible to tell where the corners were, sluggish responses and 747-style roll. It was a small (and utilitarian) car that drove like an enormous truck. I'm surprised they didn't sell millions, so it should be a future classic, especially in SS trim. I've had an Elantra that would be an excellent car for anyone who had no enthusiasm, and that's not sarcasm, and a Kia Forte that was my first taste of electrically assisted steering. Ick. Why did I not learn sooner that with Hertz you can request Imprezas?

    1. alcology Avatar

      I also ended up with an HHR from hertz donut. Terrible and exactly as you described.

      1. ɹǝʌoɹ ǝБuɐɹʇs Avatar
        ɹǝʌoɹ ǝБuɐɹʇs

        What's a Hertz Donut?
        Ha! I can ask that over the internet!

  13. alex Avatar

    A Suzuki Samurai with RIGHT HAND DRIVE in Thailand.

  14. No longer rents Avatar
    No longer rents

    Hah! No contest: 2008 Chrysler Sebring. "Chev Malibu or similar" my eye. What a sow on skates that thing was, and ugly as the August air in New Jersey is humid. I received the biggest insult of my life from a passenger who said "You keep your car really clean." My car?! You think that I would buy THIS car?! The fact my name was not on the registration was probably its best feature.
    Close second, and no surprise: a 2009 Mitsu Gallant. Leagues ahead: a 2009 Chev Impala. Yes really. I've also had Matrices, Priuses, Fits, a Cube and an Insight from a car club and they were none of them as shame-bearing as that Sebring.

  15. dwegmull Avatar

    My recent rental history is a bit of a mix:
    – When my Volvo V70R was in the shop, I got a base Dodge Charger. The lady at the rental agency said (before telling which car I was getting): you're in luck we've got a sporty car for you. She looked so happy, I did not have the hart to tell her about the sad truth… That car had the worst seating position (especially, compared to my great Volvo seats!).
    – Had a Ford focus last summer while on the East Coast. I was pleasantly surprised: while no speed daemon, it was adequate when loaded with four lightweight people and their luggage. The handling was decent, the interior pleasant and fuel consumption reasonable.
    – The strangest rental experience came when my Tesla Roadster was in the body shop (don't ask) for a couple of days and the only two vehicles available at Enterprise were a Tundra or a Jeep JK. For maximum contrast and irony, I picked the Jeep. That car is very, very heavy! I felt really bad for the power train, clearly way over its head for highway duty… It was fun driving it for a couple of days though…
    – I kept the biggest surprise for last: we spent 4 day in SanDiego recently had a, drum roll please, Chevy Aveo sedan! When we got the keys, I braced myself and expected the worst. After all, this car is the butt of about 63%(*) of all car related Internet jokes. Well, for around town driving it is fine. It soaked up bumps without problem, handled OK (for a low priced car). I think its main issue comes when trying to drive at speeds above 45MPH: it could really use an extra gear in its gearbox. Seriously, this would be my only real complaint about this car. However, make no mistake: that missing gear means I would never buy one for myself or recommend one to a friend.
    (*) 72% of all statistics in this comment were made up on the spot.

  16. LTDScott Avatar

    As mentioned above, I rented a Cobalt and found it to be adequate. Handled 100+ MPH driving out in the desert between 29 Palms and Vegas just fine. My only major gripe was the numb electric power steering and relatively crappy tires.
    Back in '07 I rented a Caliber in San Jose, drove it to Reno, then past Lake Tahoe, down the mountains to Tracy (Altamont LeMons race), then back to San Jose. I HATED the CVT transmission when climbing over the Donner Pass. Interior was super chintzy, and I remember the car was pretty loud.

  17. LTDScott Avatar

    Oh and back in '05 I rented a Pontiac Grand Am to go from NYC to Washington DC via Pennsylvania. I was driving at night and a few people honked at me and I couldn't figure out why. My headlights were on and my dash lights were illuminated, so I assumed everything was fine. No, it was just the DRLs and the dash lights apparently illuminated regardless of whether the headlights were on or not. Made it from Gettysburg to the MD border before I realized this and felt pretty stupid, but then again it's a stupid design. My fiancee's Highlander is the same way but I of course have learned my lesson.

    1. Alff Avatar

      I detest DRLs. My Subaru has them – they are about as bright as the headlights and are accompanied by dash lights. As a result, I've forgotten to turn the headlights proper on at night many times. I wasn't even aware of this oversight until a friendly cop followed me into my driveway a couple of weeks back, asking me if I was aware that I didn't have any tail lights.

    2. Charles_Barrett Avatar

      My '88 Lincoln Continental (overstuffed Taurus/Sable) had the digital electronic dash. When I was living in well-illuminated suburban L.A., I would frequently neglect to turn on the headlights, because the dashboard was self-illuminated. Eventually, it was just easier to set the damn switch to "Automatic" and let the car decide when to turn on the headlights.

      1. Age_of_Aerostar Avatar

        back in college a buddy of mine had kind of the opposite problem. He got pulled over on campus for not having his headlights on. I asked him, how could you possibly do that?? How could you see any of the instruments without your headlights on? (He was driving an old (82, i think) S-10).
        He replied: "the dash lights don't work, and I am from out in the country where if your headlights aren't on, you can't see anything." As all the roads on campus are lit up with street lights, it kind of made sense.

  18. Josh Avatar

    Worst ever was a Jeep Compass. New something was very wrong when I was going down I-85 at 80 at thought holy crap this thing is loud and looked down and it was red-lined. I had no other choice than to drive it the next 300 miles averaged 8-10 miles to the gallon. When I stooped at a rest area it took me 8 tries to get cranked and once I did it stalled going from reverse to drive. I then realized it was the CVT that was the issue.

  19. highmileage_v1 Avatar

    I've had two bad ones recently. A Hyundai Accent which just shook, rattled and rolled its way around Toronto. The drivers side window kept popping out of its track. At least it started at -20C.
    The other one was a Dodge Caliber in Miami. Bad visibility, outrageous torque steer and fuel economy akin to a fully loaded B747.
    A pleasant surprise was a Pontiac G6 a couple of years ago. Reasonably sporty with OK handling, but I still wouldn't buy one.

    1. Mad_Hungarian Avatar

      You must have had one of those very rare G6's with the optional Driver Visibility Package. A G6 I picked up at PHL in around 2007 is my nominee for Worst Rental Ever. At that time, my daily driver was still a '93 Cutlass wagon, so this G6 was my trial-by-fire introduction to 21st century design. To accentuate the in-a-bunker feel, this particular G6 had an all black interior and a manual, non-height-adjustable seat that was LOW (and I am a bit vertically impaired). I called it faith-based driving, because when you merged you PRAYED there was no semi hiding in the big-as-Montana blind spots, and when backing up you HOPED there was no one crossing behind you. The combination of the huge, high mounted mirror and the thick, sloping A-pillar completely hid pedestrians crossing from the left for several steps. Almost creamed an old lady walking out of a Target store because of that.

  20. dead_elvis Avatar

    As much as I loathe all of the PT Cruisers I've rented, the one time I was handed the keys to a Ford Aspire at SFO stands out as my worst rental experience. Having bicycle messengers pass you going uphill while you're driving a "car" is humbling.

  21. CptSevere Avatar

    About a year ago I helped the people I work for transport a load of household stuff in a big U-haul from Tucson down here to Tombstone. We stopped for coffee before we got on the freeway, and just for the hell of it I opened the hood and checked the engine oil. Bone dry, didn't even register on the dipstick. We poured three or four quarts in, and continued. It's a good thing I did that, otherwise the damn thing would have grenaded. The guys at the U-Haul place were unfazed, said that they would have brought us a new truck if it had thrown a rod or whatever. They took the price of the oil off of the rental fee, which was nice. Me, I'm just glad that we didn't have to transfer the load by the side of the freeway, now that would have sucked.

  22. Black Steelies Avatar

    Rented a Prius and it was gutless as expected. Still got it to do triple digits, it just took awhile.

  23. tonyola Avatar

    In 1986, I was sent to Atlantic City, NJ to do some environmental investigations of properties for the Trump corporation. It just happened to be during the week of the Miss America Pageant, and since my company was working for Trump, the client put me up in a room at Trump Plaza hotel – right next door to the convention center where the Pageant was held. Just about everyone in the hotel that week was associated with the Miss America thing.
    I was supposed to have a rental waiting when I flew up to Philly, but everything was taken – except for one very ragged, beat-looking Dodge pickup that tried to shake itself to bits at anything above 50 mph. It was that or nothing so I took it. Horrible vehicle, and an overall bizarre experience. After spending a day behind a drill rig taking soil samples, I'd go back to the Trump Plaza. There was only valet parking, so there I was in my crappy dirty truck in the middle of a long row of gleaming white limousines waiting for the parking jockeys. I'd get on the elevator covered with sweat, mud, and grime and there would be Miss Wyoming with her entourage. The next morning, I'd have to get the truck back from the valets. I'm sure that they were fighting among themselves as to who got the honor of driving the muddy, rattly truck to the forecourt. I got a lot of odd looks around the hotel that week.

    1. ɹǝʌoɹ ǝБuɐɹʇs Avatar
      ɹǝʌoɹ ǝБuɐɹʇs

      How is this a bad experience? I can't find a single part of that story that's not awesome.

      1. tonyola Avatar

        The rented truck really did suck, though.

  24. Brett Avatar

    My worst was a Kia Sportage. It had no good qualities besides being able to move forwards faster than I could.

  25. topdeadcentre Avatar

    1) The very worst was a thoroughly miserable Geo Metro coupe from Enterprise. Cracker tins feel sturdier, extruded white plastic porch furniture is more comfortable. I'm a non-smoker and this cramped little crapcan had been smoked in so heavily that the smell of gallons of Enterprise's best interior cleaner couldn't mask the nastiness. The chemicals and smoke smell combined into one hell of a headache, even with the windows open in late fall. After driving a mile or two, I called in and convinced them to replace the car with something beige, midsized, and non, non, NON-SMOKING. The nice lady at the counter put a comment on my customer file in all caps: DO NOT ATTEMPT TO RENT A GEO TO THIS CUSTOMER.
    2) The second-worst I've rented was when someone hit my Volvo 850 Turbo wagon and the contract rental agency for the body shop (best for bill-back to insurance) gave me the only non-compact they had left — a horribly mint-green Taurus sedan with beige interior and plenty of front suspension and steering damage. I needed to get to work, so I took it, but spent all day calling them because the front seats looked like elephants had done their best to crush the cushions, the back seat was stained, and the transmission whined like a cranky toddler. I had a date that night, and it took a few calls to get them to find a substitute vehicle that wouldn't be totally embarrassing. I ended up with a black Pontiac G6 coupe with black interior. Even though it felt like driving in a deep Rubbermaid tub, it was in new-car condition, and I made it to the symphony concert with my auto-ego intact.
    3) The it-really-pained-me worst was when visiting a friend in Oakland CA in 1999 or so. They had two cars left and said I could take either one because they were out of larger cars: a red Mustang convertible with a white roof, and a slightly ratty brown Toyota Corolla. Since my friend lived in a not-so-nice part of Oakland, and since I was parking on the street, I opted for the car that would most likely still be on the curb in drivable condition in the morning before setting out for wine country and coastal roads.

    1. P161911 Avatar

      I got a Geo Metro once as a rental in about 1995 or so. I was at a co-op job in Ohio and wrecked my K-5 Blazer. The body shop provided a Metro. I drove it for one day and took it back. It was well worth the extra $3-4/day to get a Tempo. I felt like my feet were the front bumper in the Metro. Also, I think I might have done permanent damage to the three hamsters under the hood.

  26. Patrick Avatar

    In 1997 I moved to Portland, Oregon. The Uhaul place gave me, and I am not kidding, a 1972 Ford moving van with no real reverse.
    The worst rental cars: A first gen Mitsubishi Outlander that needed alignment, a 15 year old VW Polo in England one time, and a Hyundai Sonata – sure it got excellent mileage. It weighed less that I do, and the puny automatic transmission tried to cruise below 800 RPM leading to miserable shuddering and absolutely no power on the New Jersey Turnpike. Oh, and a Jeep Liberty. I'm 6'4" and the only seat I could fit in was the driver. The passenger seat had this stupid handle where my knees needed to go. And any time I tried to enter the freeway the thing would buck and sway like a drunken prom queen.

    1. Mad_Hungarian Avatar

      Whatever rental agency usually has a bunch of Jeeps in their fleet — Dollar and Thrifty, maybe? — always seems to have a bunch of them around even when they are running low on other cars, so twice I have gotten involuntarily "upgraded" to a Jeep. Once a Grand Cherokee that was reasonably comfortable, if unnecessarily wide and clumsy, but 17 MPG at a constant 60 MPH? I think I can do that in a '74 Cadillac. The second time it was a Liberty. When I went to stow my suitcase in back, I was so flabbergasted by the ridiculously high cargo floor that I lifted it up to see if anyone was sleeping in the lower berth. Once underway my passenger commented immediately with worry about the sluggish acceleration. And the interior looks even cheaper than notorious penalty boxes like Sebrings and G6's. Just say no to rental Jeeps!

  27. facelvega Avatar

    Okay, I've never had a Caliber, like so many of you apparently, but the worst car I've ever rented has also been a Dodge: a grandma-orange base Avenger. Almost stunningly lazy as a product, like all the designers and engineers felt a little dirty about being involved and just wanted to get out of the studio that day so they could take a long shower and cry about not getting that job at Cadillac. Marketing executives jumping out of windows bad. I can't even think about it anymore, as I just ate.
    Runners-up include the chevy HHR with little room inside, gross ergonomics, and no rearward visibility; a ten year old rent-a-wreck Saturn that rattled like hell but at least had a manual and got 34mpg; a Chrysler 300, not bad just not as good as a base Accord, a car I hate; a Cobalt that screamed "more or less adequate" from every pore. Oh, and a Punto, the suspension of which was not up to the winding mountain roads of Sardinia, and made me chronically carsick.
    Boring but fine rentals have included a CR-V, Outback, Civic, Mazda3i, Escape, Volvo S40, Jetta, and probably a half-dozen others not worth remembering. (Wondering about the foreign models? It's call Zipcar, folks.) Maybe if they hadn't all been automatics I'd feel more positive about them. Surprisingly good cars included only a 1st-gen Fit (loathe the new ones though), the new long wheelbase Wrangler, and a 2002 Taurus that was thoroughly better than the Chrysler 300, but with none of the swagger.

  28. dolo54 Avatar

    Kia Sportage – felt like it was going to tip over on any little curve, and it reeked with plastic fumes. Enough that we had to leave the window wide open in the middle of winter to help with the headaches it was giving us.

  29. Eggwich James Dio Avatar
    Eggwich James Dio

    Same Kia, same color as in the lede pic. You think it's bad, try it with six passengers and luggage in it.
    I hate thirtysomethings who have money to fly across the country and attend a wedding, but act like they don't have money to rent an economy car of their own for three days. Honestly, I hate them.

  30. ademrudin Avatar

    A ~2008 Ford Focus that I rented in LA to get to a job interview. It was one of the most hateful little cars I've ever had the misfortune of driving. Nasty plastic interior, numb steering with zero feedback, and a transmission that felt like a wet noodle was connecting the engine to the wheels.
    A close second was the early '00s Chevy pickup (quart-ton of some sort) that I had to drive for a university project. It wasn't really the pickup's fault, exactly. It was a fine truck, just not up to the task. We needed to haul a huge, heavily loaded 25ft enclosed trailer up to Duluth and back, the University Fleet Services claimed they had a pickup that could handle it, no problem. Lies. The trailer brake controller was broken, it didn't have heavy duty springs in the back suitable for a large trailer, and the engine was in no way up to the task… I spent most of the trip with the pedal to the floor, barely maintaining 55mph. I think Fleet Services' experience with our project was solely responsible for their new policy of "no trailers". Now we rent from a local commercial truck rental business, and are much happier with the F250 SuperDuty's they have. Cheaper, too!

  31. Jackie Avatar

    The Jeep Liberty i was stuck with last October wasn't the greatest vehicle in the world to drive (the absence of cruise-control and the top-heavy tippiness of it contributed greatly), but it pales in comparison to the one I was was stuck with a couple years ago…
    As if you had to ask…
    <img src="http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/45/2004-2006_Chrysler_Sebring_sedan.jpg&quot; width="500'/">
    Never before have I driven a car which felt more like an ocean liner than a car. Dreadful thing.

    1. ZomBee Racer Avatar

      I nearly got killed in a Jeep Liberty because it can't handle dirt.
      I went to make the first of a thousand U-turns on Topanga Canyon Road in LA, pulled off at a turnout and waited tor a break in the traffic. Then I saw an opening (a nice big opening I might add) I put on my signal and went to go, but nothing happened. It just sat there and spun the wheels and made a bunch of dust. Eventually I had to stop and wait for the next break after double checking the parking break just to make sure it wasn't left on or binding.
      This happened 3-4 times, where I tried launching it smoothly, balls out, and even while flailing the wheel side-to-side. It almost crawled onto the road once but I found myself in front of a large truck and I threw it into reverse trying to get out of the way (It moved pretty fast in reverse).
      The damn thing just couldn't get any traction in the hard-packed dirt. I resorted to throwing it in 4×4 just to make U-turns which worked and saved a lot of underwear changes.
      Weird little truck. But still a hell of a lot better than an Explorer.

  32. logume1881 Avatar

    The baby blue Hyundai Accident was by far the worst car for me. From the gutless Cuisinart under the hood to the diabolical transmission, microscopic trunk and the seats that felt like dryer sheets stapled onto cardboard. It was cheap however, and e-braking it on the dirt roads in the rural area of Florida where my family lives was quite entertaining.

    1. Deartháir Avatar

      Your similies and analogies alone are enough for me to tell you to get thee over to IntenseDebate.com and sign up for a commenting account so we can follow your comments and give you points for them. Them's some funny words right there!

  33. engineerd Avatar

    I've had my fair share of rental cars due to a job that occasionally sends me out of town. I think the worst two I've ever had are a 2010 Camry and a 2009 Pontiac Vibe.
    The Camry is no longer a bland car. It's just plain ugly. It's lumpy and bulging and generally looks like a fat chick in spandex. It has a fantastic engine coupled to a boring transmission and a completely numb suspension and steering. I've never had a car actively fight me from trying to take a corner at high speeds like the Camry did. A freeway offramp that I was able to take at 50+ mph in the Lexus RX350 was a chore to take at 45 mph in the Camry. I don't understand this car, and probably never will. Because of that lack of understanding, I have a near-active hatred for anyone who buys one.
    The Camry, as I said, did have a nice engine. The interior was OK, as well. The Vibe was the complete opposite. It was loud, harsh, cheap, incredibly underpowered, and just general garbage. It did handle OK, though. And it didn't have enough power to really push the suspension. I understand this car — it's cheap. I don't hate people that buy one. I feel for them.

  34. paxman356 Avatar

    I got a 1999 Ford Escort. It's about as pedestrian as they get. I hated the car, it was numb, loud, and had no CD player.
    I've had several cars since that were just okay, including an Aveo, Lancer, Neon, Ion, Santa Fe, and PT Cruiser (twice), and looked back on the Escort and thanked my lucky stars these were as good as they were.

  35. Deartháir Avatar

    The Chevy Impaler I had was a generally mediocre car, and I can safely say I didn't hate it, aside from the acres and acres of bland they have slathered liberally throughout the car. It was a replacement and upgrade for the Ford Focus we originally rented that couldn't make it 5 km down the road without wobbling so badly it felt like the wheels were going to fly off. We were pleased with the upgrade, until we discovered that the overly-nannying transmission would not allow us to downshift it at speeds greater than about 50 km/h. This is a non-negotiable item in the Rocky Mountains. You NEED to be able to use the transmission to slow the car down. We ended up having to ride the brakes to the point that it scared us, just to get the car below the magical 50 km/h cut-off where it would downshift and we could continue without risking death. I also have not been able to understand how a ~240 horsepower engine can feel that gutless. It wheezed its way up the mountain passes with the distinct impression that it was giving us every drop of its last ounce of strength. I can now totally understand why the RCMP ended up rejecting it wholesale as an option for a police cruiser. The Crown Victoria I drove felt a thousand times more nimble and capable, even with its horsepower disadvantage.

    1. Seyr Avatar

      To be fair, the Rockies' mountain pass altitude puts a big dent in a normally aspirated car's power figures.
      The worst rental I've ever been saddled with has to be a '99 Malibu – dismally cheap and incompetent. But I suppose I have rather low expectations when it comes to rentals. I was satisfied with the two Pontiac Vibes I've had – both '09's I believe. An '06 Pontiac Grand Prix with the 3800 V6 was actually fun to hoon around in. Same for an early-2000's Taurus. All passable for A to B transportation.

  36. RichardKopf Avatar

    I kind of want to rent a Chevy Baretta now.

  37. JayP Avatar

    My winner, or loser… Toyota Echo automatic. Had one as a rent-car and was by far the worst POS I'd put my butt in… and that is a lot of POS's. Had it for a DAY and took it back and swapped it for something more tolerable. It couldn't get out of its own way and really felt like it was about to fly apart at 60.
    Contender was the Focus. I had one and it was marginal at best. Later that year I bought a Focus SVT. Really is something to see such dynamically different cars come from the same plant.

  38. BrianTheHoon Avatar

    Asked and answered!
    I rented a '09 Kia Rio when I was in Puerto Rico for two weeks. What a horrible car, particularly when experienced in tandem with Puerto Rican infrastructure. I had the car for 4 days and had to swap it for a Mazda 3 … I just couldn't take it any longer. The 3 felt like and expensive German touring sedan in comparison.

  39. ptschett Avatar

    I've actually had good, though limited experiences.
    In '99 I was a senior in high school, and me and my dad flew to Shreveport to visit a college in east TX. Our (technically my dad's) rental was a new '99 Cougar V6, the little edgy-looking Contour coupe. The visit ended Saturday morning but it was much cheaper for us to fly home on Sunday, so we took advantage of the extra day to head south into LA where one of my dad's employees grew up and visit his family. On the way back to Shreveport I got to drive the car for a while, through a national forest and really enjoyed the handling feel of that car. When we got home to the Sioux Falls airport my '96 T-bird felt like a barge.
    -When my pickup was due for its 15,000 mile service (diff fluid changes and all that) I was living 85 miles from the dealer where I bought it, so when I brought it in that Saturday morning I quickly found myself bored out of my mind and wandering aimlessly through the showroom (when I wasn't playing with the then-new Stow-n-go seats on the Caravan or drooling on the Viper). The service manager sees me and knows it'll be a while, so he calls me over and gives me the keys to a beige 2nd-generation Dodge Stratus in the back lot. I expected to hate a beige 4-cylinder/automatic/FWD family sedan, but really I didn't. It was comfortable, pleasant to drive, peppy enough that I thought I had the 2.7L V6 till I popped the hood, and it handled more than well enough for Fargo/Moorhead streets.

  40. ɹǝʌoɹ ǝБuɐɹʇs Avatar
    ɹǝʌoɹ ǝБuɐɹʇs

    The "worst" rental car I ever had was also one of the best. In 2002, I needed a car for a few days, and had very little money, so I got in touch with Rent-A-Wreck. They set me up with a 2002 Chevy Malibu with the 3100 V6. The hood was a different color, there was no headliner, carpet, or trunk lining, and the cup holders were full of dirt. Driving that whore of a car around for a while was actually kind of fun. It gave a whole new meaning to the "who cares, it's a rental car" philosophy.

  41. ZomBee Racer Avatar

    In 15+ years of road-warrior car rentals, the worst by far was a brand new 2008 Ford Explorer.
    I had rented Explorers countless times before (most all of them sucked), but the ergonomic redesign and new engine management software made for such a #$%&ed up experience it was the first time I got physically angry at a new vehicle. The first time I opened the door to get out the interior handle nearly broke my wrist!
    And the transmission shifting was just plain maddening. Even a smart car is better. Nothing in the entire vehicle responded the way you expect.
    What an utter piece of crap.

    1. ZomBee Racer Avatar

      Second worst?
      Shelby GTH Mustang. Why? Because I had to give it back.
      <img src="http://a2.l3-images.myspacecdn.com/images01/104/dd7269b07947c062a25b8559b536b80e/l.jpg&quot; width= "500" />

  42. James Avatar

    That award would have to go to the Mitsubishi Galant I rented, ca. 2010. To be fair, the actual hardware wasn't too bad; engine, transmission, ride, etc. were adequate. But my god, "cheap" doesn't even begin to describe this car. As soon as I opened the door, I was greeted with a tinny, hollow sound from working the door handle. Closing the door, I had the same effect. Yet the door managed to feel heavy. What is in there? The horror story continued as my eyes swept over the dash. Nasty hard plastics. Touching anything inside this car was like a second opinion from a doctor: yes, you really do have cancer. Controls operated with a similar lack of enthusiasm. Out on the road, like I said, the basic hardware worked OK, but…surprise, it still felt hollow and tinny, and road noise was prodigious. Ride was supple, handling kinda mushy but no worse than any other midsize sedan. The thin steering wheel rim was odd when trying to hustle it though.
    As a mid size back-of-the lot special discounted to $17k, this wouldn't be a horrible car for a family on a budget. Otherwise…I pretty well hated the car.

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