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Travelocity tunes up car rentals

The cost to rent a vehicle often comes as a surprise to people who book through travel Web sites, but Travelocity says it now offers a clearer picture.

The cost of rental cars often comes as a surprise to people who book through travel Web sites because mandatory fees are often left out of quotes.

But online travel site Travelocity this week said that it is offering a clearer picture of car rental fees on its site by including most additional fees, including taxes and surcharges, in its online price quotes--something the other major online travel sites do not do. Such fees can add 10 to 35 percent to the cost of a rental car, Travelocity said.

"This should reduce sticker shock at the counter," said Phil Kennewell, director of car and rail products at Travelocity.

Travelocity does not include voluntary fees for insurance and refueling in its total price, however.

Travelocity said it's the first full-service online travel site to give information on taxes and surcharge before customers reserve a car. People searching on Travelocity can now view the full cost, excluding extras like insurance and refueling, of renting a car from all 10 of its rental partners, except Budget, Kennewell said. Budget is soon to follow, he said.

By contrast, neither Expedia nor Orbitz, the other major travel sites, automatically include mandatory fees when quoting car rental rates at their sites, the companies said. In some cases, they include a tally of the full charges upon online checkout, but by then the comparison shopping is over.

At Orbitz, consumers can calculate car rental taxes before checking out by proactively clicking on a "more details" link--but only for some rental companies.

Travelocity is able to offer this service because the computer network of its parent company, Sabre Holdings, is directly tied into the databases of Sabre's car rental partners, where mandatory fee information is stored. Sabre gave its travel agents access to the data in February and is now making it available directly to consumer through Travelocity, Kennewell said.

Travelocity continues to list rental car options from lowest to highest price, excluding all fees, but plans to change the rankings soon to reflect total price, Kennewell said.