General Question

MonstrousPeace's avatar

Could you rent a car in 1936 in America?

Asked by MonstrousPeace (451 points ) April 12th, 2012

In the 20’s and 30’s, automobiles were on the rise and were becoming quite popular amongst Americans. While I know that they were available for purchase, could they be rented in 1936? For example, if someone took a train from one city to another, could they rent a car to use while they were in the second city?

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7 Answers

anartist's avatar

You are in luck. Check out this article! In 1932, the Hertz company opened its first car rental shop, at Chicago’s . . .

Looks like first one was 1918 in Chicago and Hertz bought it in 1923 [after he started Yellow cab]—didn’t get to airport until 1950
National beat them there This was googled in 90 seconds.

MonstrousPeace's avatar

@anartist Thank you. It looks like I wasn’t searching for the right keywords.

anartist's avatar

If you read between the lines in the National story, you will see that many independent dealers were already in existence before 1947. However, how easy it was for someone in another city to find and set up the rental in advance s another issue.
Are you writing a story that needs this info as part of plot development?

CWOTUS's avatar

I’ll bet it was a real pain in the ass without a lot of pre-arrangement. Consider that the credit card hadn’t been developed yet, and “out of town checks” have always been a problem for business.

john65pennington's avatar

I wonder who coined the phrase “we’ll pick you up”. Enterprise has this wording today, but I wonder if the early car rental businesses every picked someone up on a car rental?

SpatzieLover's avatar

I can tell you from family stories @MonstrousPeace that buying a used car at a salvage yard was probably cheaper and/or borrowing a car was probably easier.

Also, I think people using their feet, a trolley or a city bus was more common than renting a car was.

My grandpa bought a Model-A from a salvage yard in Milwaukee for $2.00 in about 1924. It was sold to him by a bootlegger that needed to get a different get-away vehicle. In the seats, gramps found over $3 in change and a large box of fireworks was in the back…so essentially the car paid him to buy it.

I only share this because like @CWOTUS, I’d bet the rental process wasn’t easy.

My gramps also went out to make cash as a ranch hand during the depression. Often, ranchers would just let young fellas borrow a pick up or a junk car for the summer while they worked for them.

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