When a guy mentions upgrading his rental car, he's usually preparing to go for a ride in a Chevy Camaro or Ford Mustang. There's nothing wrong with those bruisers, but if you want a car that will really turn heads you have to look beyond the American middleweights. Traditional rental car companies like Enterprise Rent-a-Car and Hertz Car Rental have spent the last few years investing in fleets of exotic vehicles. So have their competitors. You'll only find the truly exotic models in affluent metropolitan areas with year-round sun (think: Miami, Los Angeles, and Las Vegas), but you can find something exciting just about anywhere.
The Traditional Route
The Hertz Dream Cars collection now includes the Ferrari F430 Spider and Lamborghini Gallardo Bicolore. Rates are steep, starting at $1,200 per day and $3 per mile, but aren't so bad if you think of the speedsters as both a vehicle and an activity. Similarly Enterprise's Exotic Car Collection includes the Ferrari California and Aston Martin Vantage. You'll pay for the privilege of driving them. But a weekend with the wind in your hair doesn't have to cost thousands of dollars. Want a less expensive but zippy model? Try the Audi R8 Spyder, which goes for $950 per day through Hertz or the Porsche Boxster, which is available from $250 a day and ¢49 a mile in San Diego, Orange County, Los Angeles, and Fort Lauderdale.
The process of renting a faster car is surprisingly easy assuming you have the cash to pay the bill. Most rental companies require a valid driver license, a good driving record, comprehensive insurance, and a $5,000 security deposit. Unfortunately, driving record bit is usually non-negotiable. It makes sense: No one wants a teenager with multiple speeding tickets behind the wheel of a $200,000 sports car.
The New Agencies
Don't overlook new entrants in this fairly unique market. Gotham Dream Cars was one of the first companies dedicated to exotic car rentals in the Northeast and has since expanded to Miami, Las Vegas, and several California cities. Other competitors on the West Coast include Black & White Car Rental and Beverly Hills Rent-a-Car.
Because these companies specialize in performance vehicles, they can be much more accommodating to customers. Gotham Dream Cars will move some vehicles between locations on-demand. It also offers a useful rate calendar for every vehicle that lets you know when they're available and how prices vary. For instance, renting a Ferrari California on a Monday costs almost 30% less than on the weekend.
For Serious Drivers
Frequent renters can save with Gotham Dream Cars' DreamShare fractional ownership program. By pre-purchasing one of three membership levels, customers can keep their information on file and receive bonus rental credits of 10 percent to 40 percent over the initial payment. For example, the least expensive ("Titanium Level") membership costs $18,000 and offers $20,000 in rental credit. DreamShare members also benefit from perks, including a more flexible schedule.
Do you already have a performance car of your own? Consider joining a local performance car sharing group like Club Sportiva in the San Francisco Bay Area. These organizations offer their members greater variety by allowing them to borrow from their friends. Many also provide rentals to non-members who don't happen to live near one of the nationwide companies mentioned above. It costs a lot to buy your way in, but once you're a member you've got the coolest garage on Earth.