Fixing the Engine: The Car Hire Industry Must Resolve its Communication Problem

Fixing the Engine: The Car Hire Industry Must Resolve its Communication Problem

The car rental industry is synonymous with poor customer service and badly-worded policies. It needs better communication for the benefit of the customers.

Car Hire Industry Bad Communication

Picture the scene: after a tiring flight, you wait in line to pick up your car rental. You pre-paid, but the guy behind the desk is talking CDW, LDW, lots of fine print. He’s regaling you with visions of catastrophe. Maybe you end up paying on the double for insurance you later realize you already had. Hardly excellent customer service!

You immediately have a sour taste in your mouth. And that’s before you even step into the car!

These are problems of communication, and easily preventable. If rental companies cut the jargon laden fine print, then the customer experience would improve dramatically. But in the car rental industry, indecipherable small print is the order of the day.

As we have seen in previous blog posts, this benefits customers and corporations alike. By using plain English, companies reduce complaints, improve the customer experience and increase customer satisfaction.

Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who is the most complex of them all?

We see complex language across all the corporate sectors. But, car hire is a special case, and not in a good way. It has a poor reputation for customer satisfaction. According to Travel Daily News, complaints against car hire companies rose by 30% last year alone.

Of the top three complaints, no 2 was: “Disputes related to insurance – unrequested, overpriced or excess waiver”. Our old friend the CDW and LDW strike back.

NOTE: By the way, CDW stands for Collision Damage Waiver, LDW means Loss Damage Waiver. Who in their right mind talks about CDWs and LDWs!

Plain language helps companies address this issue

Already, the EU (European Union) has started the process of improving customer treatment by car rental companies. But we can – and should – do more. The car rental industry has issues, and a significant one is its use of complex English. Customers need to be aware of their rights and responsibilities before, during and after they rent a car. The industry needs to simplify, simplify, simplify.

And here’s the thing. If car rental companies used plain English, they would minimize customer complaints, and lower costs. But more importantly, by improving customer experience, they would see better brand loyalty among consumers. Clear Language differentiates your brand. And in an industry rife with complex communications, it’s a simple and easy fix.

Simple steps to fix the issue

Let’s take a look at sample text from a major car rental supplier’s website.

We used VisibleThread Readability for our analysis. It’s a lightweight readability tool for Doc, Web and Text analysis. The nice thing is that it flags issues at paragraph level and it’s free. There is also a paid version which generates some nice reports. But we were fine with just the free version.

Here, we see a car rental supplier describe its “Super Cover”. This means an insurance policy without any excess. This means that if something happens to the car, you will not have to pay anything. First, the company describes its usual policies.

Car Hire Industry Communication 1

In order to easily understand this, I need 19.4 years of education. That’s what grade level refers to. Essentially I need a PHd. It’s really complex. The sentence is far too long, and uses passive voice (‘is caused’).

Later in the text, the company goes on to describe what its Super Cover actually covers.

Car Hire Industry Communication 2

If the previous statement wasn’t bad enough, this one requires me to have 22.6 years of education. Wow!

The reading grade level for both sample pieces of text requires an advanced third level education. According to the US Census Bureau, 12% of American adults have an advanced degree (meaning masters or beyond). So, this content is inaccessible to a whopping 88% of the adult population.

Let’s fix it

Let’s see how we can fix both these text samples to make them easier and clearer to understand. Let’s take the first example and fix it.

Car Hire Industry Communication 3

We have improved the text by shortening sentences, using simpler words and using the active voice. By doing so, we have improved the readability level and dropped the grade reading level by 11 grades. We’re not finished yet. Editors should seek to explain CDW and TP in a clearer and easier way. But we can’t do all the work for the hire companies. 😊

Let’s consider the other piece of text. All we’ve done is split the long sentence.

Car Hire Industry Communication 3

After our changes, readability is still not fantastic due to repeated references to product brands. However, we have dropped the reading grade level by ten grades. While still not perfect, this is clearer, and easier to understand.

Car rental companies must simplify their documentation and offer communication in plain language. It is not a difficult task if you use the right software. Car rental customers deserve the best service. Writing in plain English will go a long way towards reducing customer complaints, an increasing customer loyalty. It’s a no brainer.


  1. All companies must use plain language to succeed, but the car rental industry has a particularly bad communication issue.
  2. Even though the EU has made steps towards resolving these problems, plenty of issues remain.
  3. We analyzed sample insurance policy text from a major car rental supplier. We then made suggested improvements to these sample texts.
  4. You can easily score content for plain language by using tools like VisibleThread Readability. These tools provide instant reports on problematic content and suggest fixes.
  5. You can use tools like this for any subject matter, scoring product brochures, blog posts etc.
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