Oct. 21, 2013 at 8:15 AM ET
If rental cars don’t exactly inspire you to hum “Born To Be Wild” during your travels, here’s an opportunity to try out a more exotic ride for hire.
Enterprise Rent-A-Car last week became the first major car rental company to offer motorcycles to customers, launching a pilot program in Las Vegas with a “one-of-a-kind branch” that will rent Harley-Davidsons. Motto: Half the wheels. Twice the fun.
“Motorcycle enthusiasts are passionate about riding, and we heard from many customers who wanted to enjoy high-quality bikes, even when they’re away from home,” said Steve Short, vice president of Enterprise Rent-A-Car, in a statement.
“We chose to pilot motorcycle rental in Las Vegas because we saw an opportunity to serve a large segment of travelers who are interested in renting motorcycles to visit nearby attractions like the Strip, the Grand Canyon, Hoover Dam and Lake Mead.”
You can rent five different varieties of Harley-Davidson motorcycles from the new Enterprise branch, with two more styles to be added to the fleet by the end of November. Renting a bike will set you back about $120 to $160 a day, which is comparable to an entry-level rental in the company’s Exotic Car Collection, said Enterprise spokesman Greg Phillips.
You’ll have to have a valid motorcycle license to complete the transaction, though Enterprise will provide renters and their riders with complimentary helmets to comply with state law.
The special branch had about a dozen bikes total available to rent at the time of launch last week, Phillips said.
Though niche companies, such as Eagle Rider, already rent motorcycles to customers, industry observers say major companies haven’t been interested in moving into the space for a number of reasons.
“It’s a different profile of customer you get, with different licensing,” said Neil Abrams, president of Abrams Consulting Group, which follows the car rental industry.
“(Then), there’s the risk issue. That is: Are rental car companies willing to assume the risk associated with motorcycle driving? … There’s no such thing as a fender bender with motorcycles.”
The chance to rent a Harley-Davidson will likely attract customers with the mindset of adventure and fun, and will provide some cool buzz for Enterprise, Abrams predicted. Still, the company will have to examine whether there’s enough demand to keep the venture going and whether there is a greater chance for theft of a motorcycle versus a sedan, he added.
But Chris Brown, executive editor of Auto Rental News, said branching out to motorcycle rentals seems like a natural step for Enterprise, the largest U.S. car rental company, especially in the Southwest.
“That’s a very popular destination for European tourists who come in specifically to rent and ride motorcycles. They’re lured by the aura of the old West,” Brown said. “I don’t think Enterprise would do anything that wouldn’t make money.”
Still, both Abrams and Brown don’t see other major car rental companies following suit, calling the venture a very specialized business and a true niche market that Enterprise wants to try out.
“They’re about building out their brand,” Abrams said. “What else can we do with our brand? What new products, markets or services can we explore?”
For now, "Easy Rider" wannabes who want to rent from Enterprise will have to stick with Las Vegas.
The company doesn’t have a definitive timeframe for possible expansion of the motorcycle rental venture, Phillips said. It plans to listen to customers and announce plans for future growth based on that feedback, he added.