How to Choose the Best Car Rental Software for Your Car Rental Business

By Grenville Salmon

Review of Various Car Rental Softwares

It is amazing how little literature there is on how to run a car rental software system, most of the articles seem to be self-promotion and the reality is far from what is promoted in the staged online demos.  In October 2015 Jonty Pauwen, a chartered accountant, who was my financial manager at the time and myself embarked on the exercise of assessing various computer software systems for our new Cape Town branch for Pace Car Rental.  We assessed various systems, and finally shortlisted RCM, TSD and Rentcentric.

At the time we were using RCM (Rental car manager) a system which is sold by GMH systems an Australian company.

The first system we assessed as TSD.  Jonty Pauwen and I had a skype meeting with the people from TSD.  The system seems like an excellent system, it is the most expensive system and will definitely make your life as a car rental company easy.

We decided not to go with TSD because of the expense of the system, the invoices did not match the requirements for our market and there would be a huge amount of customisations that are required and we were not ready for these at the time.  This is a system that I think with the right amount of resources and time we would have chosen.

The second system we looked at was Rentric

Rent centric is a very cheap system which I think is aimed at people with less than 100 vehicles.  They have a great module for car sharing which I think currently their growth point for their business.  We actually bought the software and started using the software.

One point to note is that we did not use the by the minute and by the hour parts of the systems which I believe are incredible for car sharing.  We were just intending to use the system for car rental.  Jonty Pauwen started using the system for the Cape Town branch which he was going to oversee and very quickly we discovered some serious short comings with the software and the service.  The major short coming was the planning calendar.  What Jonty and I discovered was that the cars were not grouped, in the typical car rental groups.  This meant that you could not differentiate between a luxury and economy vehicle.   The system allowed you to move booking between car groups without any warning that you had changed the car group.

At the time Rentcentric was taking on another client and was unable to answer our queries within a reasonable time frame, and Jonty Pauwen was not happy at all with the functionality.  The result was that we could not see any major benefits of using Rentcentric for our business over using the RCM system.  Another aspect of the Rentcentric system that as hard to grasp was the loading of rates.  The system has so many rate types, and functionalities that the loading process was extremely difficult.  Each car group need to be loaded as a separate rate code.  This was due to the fact that the system does not allow you to have different excess per km rates on a rate code, so either all the cars must have the same excess cpk or you have to load only one vehicle per car group.

Why did we decide to stay with RCM?

When we started our business we started using RCM and we have found the features to be very simple to use.  The client interface is brilliant.  This means that your quotes, booking confirmation and the easy to use web widget makes your business look legitimate.  The RCM system is also very easily customisable, and self-explanatory to use.  It’s simple and therefore less rooms for mistakes.

Would I use RCM again if I was starting a Car Rental Business

RCM has many short comings but it is very cheap and easily implementable for a small car rental business.  I probably would use RCM again, there are many features missing, including the following:

  • Receivables system that works
  • Upload of bank statements
  • Rates by client system and split billing

We have resorted to using a pure accounting system called SAGE and we manually process the data from RCM into Sage.  The result is that we have a great car rental system and a great accounting system, that don’t “talk” to each other.

In an ideal world, I think that TSD is the best system, and the GDS links mean that you can access business that was previously not available, which would basically pay for the system.  The main expense is the set-up and learning how to use the system outside of the US.  In the US, the GST/VAT system means you add the GST/Vat at the end of the transaction, in South Africa, you have to quote including the GST/VAT.  This is a major stumbling block for companies outside the US wanting to use the system.

They also have a very old type of internet widget that takes a lot of time to set up.  You actually need to hire an internet developer who can do these things for you.

So what software do you recommend?

I guess the conclusion of the article is that you need to choose the system that suits you in your territory.  We find that RCM works for us, but it lacks lots of cutting edge features, thus we were looking around.

RCM – for simple businesses, small outside the US, cheap and simple to use, with amazing planning features, cannot be faulted on value for money and great service.

Rent Centric – For people wanting to play in speciality areas, like limozine hire and car sharing

TSD is for big companies in countries with good strong currencies, who want to do full service tourism car rental, it can get expensive due to pricing in dollars per transaction.

I am busy investigating BlueBird which is another popular rental car software package, and will publish my experience once I have had a look at the system.

Success of RCM

We ended up using the RCM for the cape town fleet, and it has been a huge success financially because of the excellent planning capability of the system.  We were able to do 20% more turnover from the same fleet of 170 vehicles just by knowing exactly when and which vehicles were available.  We feel the additional work of the manual interface between RCM and our accounting system is paid for by the additional turnover and benefits from the additional profitability.