Testing car rental reservation systems

What does testing car rental reservation systems involve?

What does testing car rental reservation systems involve?

From location search, date and time selection, vehicle availability, rate options, insurance waivers, child seats, GPS, booking, modifying, cancelling, enrolling, etc., the potential for errors is huge.

From location search, date and time selection, vehicle availability, rate options, insurances, child seats, etc., the potential for errors is huge

Testing car rental reservation systems

What could possibly go wrong?

From location search, date and time selection, vehicle availability, rate options, insurance waivers, child seats, GPS, booking, modifying, cancelling, enrolling, etc., the potential for errors is huge.

Add to that the complexities around internationalisation for not only languages, but compliance, business requirements and market preferences.

Constant evolution

Planning, building and developing a car rental platform, especially an international platform where both customers and rental locations can be based in a wide range of locations, is a huge undertaking.

The work never comes to an end, either. Not just because of the size of the platform, but the rental market and overall landscape changes constantly. New fleet, competition, trends, opportunities, innovations, local and international legislation, and many other factors mean that car rental need to keep evolving.

Testing car rental websites takes a structured plan, discipline, and a curious analytical mind. It also requires a robust and reliable method of documenting tests, recording test results, and logging issues or bugs so that they can be prioritised, tracked, fixed and re-tested. Some problems might exist only on mobile, some only on desktop, and some on both.

It's also important to understand that in many case the website (at the front end) will display what databases (at the back end) deliver to it. This is especially true with car rental websites, where locations, fleet, ancillaries, reservation records, and many other things are held in separate databases.

Let's not jump to conclusions!

Some test results could be based on website coding, database entries or queries, or APIs which allow systems to communicate with each other.

So the next time that you encounter problems such as vehicles displaying for locations which do not have them available, or age restricted vehicles displaying for selection by renters who are too young to drive them, it's not necessarily an error with the vehicle selection page, but more likely to be a problem with database queries or data.

Over 20 years in international car rental e-commerce

Over 20 years in car rental e-commerce

With more than 20 years developing, managing and testing global car rental websites for Hertz International, Targa's founder, Daron Harvey, is highly experienced in testing every aspect of car rental websites.

Types of car rental customers

In all cases we need to consider that people will make car rental reservations on their mobiles as well as desktops, laptops and tablets. So we should test websites accordingly, and we also need to consider different customer types.

Personas are very useful to achieve this. For example:

  • A young driver renting a car for the first time is likely to be less familiar with your booking process than a seasoned business traveller, and therefore might need help and advice whilst making a reservation, especially if his age makes him eligible to drive fewer vehicles and possibly incur a young driver surcharge.
  • A couple in their late 20s wanting to rent a sporty convertible for a weekend will have different needs to someone looking for a vehicle large enough for his wife and children for their two week family holiday.
  • That same family focused customer might be familiar with your booking process, but he will be renting a vehicle for a holiday in a country that he has never visited before. So he might also need to know about local laws and other relevant advisory information.
  • You might have differences to the reservation process for loyalty scheme members compared to a guest customer, or your customer might be renting a vehicle as part of a package which is tied to a flight or hotel reservation they have made.

Hertz Head Office, Estero, Florida

Testing car rental websites

Below is a list of checkpoints which can feature in the testing of a car rental website. Some are based on user experience, such as ease of use, clarity, and accessibility to information, and some points are functional, such as location searches and price calculations.

Some testing may be required to cover the entire website, or just specific sections. Some testing may need to be focused specifically on the introduction of a new or updated feature, and that might involve functional testing and user acceptance testing (UAT) during development and staging prior to release.

Comprehensive testing

Only you can determine the needs of the type and level of testing required...

Simply get in touch if you need assistance.

You determine the needs of the type and level of testing required. Get in touch if you need help.

Testing car rental reservation systems

Some guidance on things to include in your testing

It's easy to overlook some things or underestimate the importance of digging deep when testing specific sections and functionality. So here are some things I would be sure to factor in for many of the major car rental websites.

Car Rental Locations

  • Location searches:

    Do searches based on city name return rental locations listed in a logical order? For example search results might be based on distance, or airport locations may be grouped and listed above any downtown locations.
  • Selection of car rental locations:

    The selection of a rental location may be for both pick-up and return, but the customer might want to return the vehicle to a different location. So a separate return location field may be required.
  • Location Information:

    Is there sufficient information provided about the rental location, including full address, opening hours, directions, contact number, email address, etc., plus additional advisory information such as whether there is a free shuttle bus to airport?
  • Directions:

    Are written directions to the location correct? Some locations may have different points for pickup and return, and both sets of directions need to be clear.
  • Special Instructions:

    Are there any special instructions or advisory messages relevant to that location, such as access, height restrictions (which might prevent the drop-off of a large van), out of hours pickup and return information, etc?
  • GPS routes:

    Are GPS routes to the location reliable, or do specific directions need to be made clear to customers via the website, and perhaps even on the confirmation email too?
  • Hours of Operation:

    Are they correct, including any changes based on national holidays, etc?
  • Out of hours pickup and return:

    If the location allows out of hours pickup and return, are there clear instructions on the procedures, safe return of keys, etc., and is this an option at additional cost?
  • Delivery and Collection:

    Is a delivery and collection service available from the location, and does the website allow customers to enter or select where and when delivery and collection is required, any costs, and are specific terms and conditions related to delivery and collection clearly communicated?
  • Maps:

    Do any embedded maps display the correct location?

SEO for Car Rental Locations

  • Local SEO:

    Is an SEO assessment based on Google and Bing searches, and analysis on the use of effective use of specific HTML tags required?
  • Open Graph Tags:

    Have OG tags been used on locations pages, and have they been tested in the context of email body content, and on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc?
  • Schema Markup:

    Is schema markup used on locations pages, and is the schema type correct and relevant to the page context?
  • Geo-codes:

    If geo-codes have been used for maps and schema markup, has the accuracy of that data been validated?
  • Google Business Profile:

    Does each location have a dedicated Google Business Profile entry, and if so, is all of the information correct?

Vehicle Selection

  • Age restricted vehicles:

    Are vehicles which have age restrictions correctly identified? (also see Age Restrictions)
  • Vehicle images:

    Are the vehicle images correct based on the make, model or car group?
  • Vehicle descriptions:

    Are vehicle descriptions and lists of features accurate?
  • Car groups/ACRISS codes:

    Is the car group for each vehicle correct, and if ACRISS codes are displayed, are they also correct?
  • Similar vehicles:

    Are or similar vehicles listed relevant for the car group?

Rate Types and Inclusions

  • Pay Now vs Pay Later:

    Are rate options which require pre-payment and those which allow the customer to pay on collection of the vehicle clearly defined, along with terms and conditions relating to cancellations, refunds, etc?
  • Split payment:

    Are split payment rate types clearly stated, and are all calculations for each payment stage and total amount correct?
  • Basic vs Fully inclusive:

    Are the differences between what Basic vs Fully inclusive rates contain clearly explained?
  • Rate Inclusions:

    Are items which are included in the price clearly defined, so the customer can understand their meaning? Terms such as Drop Fee and One Way Fee may be interchangable, as are Location Service Charge (LSC) and Location Fee and many other terms, but are they understandable to the customer?
  • Items NOT included:

    Is it clear that certain items and charges are not included in the rate?
  • Further information:

    Do all links to further information for each item or charge work, and is the content displayed relevant to rental criteria?

Price Transparency

  • Drip pricing:

    Has drip pricing been avoided throughout the buying process?
  • Tax:

    Disclosure of whether prices displayed are inclusive or exclusive of taxes and all other charges at point of selection.
  • Mandatory charges:

    Are there any mandatory charges which have NOT been applied to the price at point of selection?
  • Additional charges:

    Are there any additional charges which will apply at the pickup or return location?
  • Cancellation charges:

    Are charges for cancellation, early or late return of the vehicle clearly stated in the terms?
  • One way charges:

    Are any charges for one way (RIH-LIT) clearly stated, and have they been automatically applied to the rates?
  • Cross border charges:

    Are there charges for cross border travel?
  • Other charges:

    Are any charges for cleaning, smoking or for damage to ancillary items clearly explained?
  • Fuel:

    Is there a pre-payment of fuel option, and are refuelling charges clearly explained?

Rate Calculation

  • Tax:

    Does the rate at point of selection of the vehicle and ancillary options include taxes and all other charges? *
  • Itemised costs:

    Does the cumulative total in the itinerary accurately display the prices of the vehicle and other items selected?
  • Discounts:

    Have any discounts been applied correctly, and is it clear which part(s) of the rates any discounts apply to?
  • Currency:

    Do currency conversions result in correct calculation of all parts of the price breakdown and final total?

* country specific rules may determine the requirements

Age Restrictions

  • Age restrictions:

    Do any of the vehicles available have age restrictions, whether that be a minimum or maximum age?
  • Minimum age:

    What is the absolutely minimum age that a person can rent a car from you?
  • Country variations:

    If you offer vehicles for rent in other countries, do the age restrictions vary from country to country?
  • Young driver surcharge (YDS):

    Is there a young driver surcharge (YDS) for renters who are within the defined age range for specific vehicles?
  • Levels of YDS:

    Are there different levels of young driver surcharge (YDS) which could mean that drivers at the lower end of the YDS scale could be charged more than those drivers at the higher end of the YDS scale?
  • Additional drivers:

    Are the age restrictions and any relevant charges for additional drivers clearly communicated, even when the main driver is not subject to any younger driver conditions?
  • Upper age limit:

    Is there an upper age limit for the rental of vehicles?

* country specific rules may determine the requirements

Ancillaries and Optional Add-ons

  • Insurances:

    Are the levels of mandatory and optional insurances and waivers clearly described?
  • Ancillary and optional items:

    Are ancillaries and optional add-ons such as child seats, GPS, tow bars, luggage racks, ski equipment, etc, offered for selection based on the vehicle selected?
  • Tyres:

    Are winter tyres or snow tyres displayed for selection when appropriate, and stated whether they're optional or mandatory based on the country that the rental is taking place in?
  • Seats:

    Do the child seats, infant seats and booster seats meet the requirements for the country they're being used in? Rules may differ between countries relating to the size and age of the child.
  • Fuel:

    Is there an option to pre-pay for fuel, and are refuelling charges clearly explained?
  • Other services:

    Are other optional services such as roadside assistance clearly described?
  • Prices:

    Are prices displayed inclusive or exclusive of tax, and are charges based on per-day and per-rental clearly stated?

* country specific rules may determine the requirements

Offers and Promo Codes

  • Offer criteria:

    Do promotional banners dynamically display on your website based on dates, locations, and other criteria?
  • Testing offer criteria:

    Have any day, date, location or duration bound promotions been fully tested to ensure that they will only work when all conditions have been met?
  • Invalid or expired codes:

    Do invalid or expired discount codes return a clear message to indicate that they have not been applied?
  • Correct application:

    Have any discounts been applied correctly, and is it clear which part of the rates any discounts apply to? For example a 10% discount might only have been applied to the base rate, and not applicable to ancillary items.
  • Changes after discount applied:

    If the customer successfully applies a discount code but then makes changes to the reservation criteria which means that the discount terms have been breached, is there sufficient messaging to notify the customer?

Loyalty Schemes

  • Creating and updating:

    Is the customer able to create or update a customer profile or accounts?
  • Preferences:

    Is the customer able to select options and preferences? Can those preferences be tested to confirm that they affect the booking process consistent with business requirements?
  • Payment methods:

    Can the customer add and update payment cards held in profile, and can they have more than one method of payment in their profile?
  • Acceptable card types:

    Is it clear what types of cards are accepted, and whether there are restrictions or additional requirements on the use or debit cards.
  • Card validation:

    Are payment cards validated when customers add them to their profile, or are they only validated when being used during the making of a reservation?
  • Card expiration:

    Does the customer receive notification when payment cards in profile reach their expiration date?
  • Promotions:

    Have loyalty-driven promotions been tested to ensure that they only work within the terms of the offer?

Advisory Messages

  • Generic or relevant?

    Are the advisory messages generic, or are they relevant to the reservation criteria (such as rate type, pickup and return location, customer type, vehicle selected, country of residence, etc)
  • Context:

    Are advisory messages displayed in places where they're contextually relevant to the stage in the buying process?


  • Accepted MOPs:

    Which methods of payment can you accept?
  • Debit cards:

    Do you accept debit cards, and if so, are there conditions and restrictions attached?
  • Payment authorisation:

    Do you use a payment authorisation system such as Verified by Visa or MasterCard Securecode? If so, do the pass and fail response codes result in the correct handling on your website?
  • Payments testing:

    Have all of the above been thoroughly tested?
  • Certificates:

    If there are specific certificates based on source country, are these all still valid and are the expiration dates known? Renewal of certificates is not a testing function, but expired certificates can result in failure of the payment process, so you'll need a reliable way of being reminded of any certs which are immently due to expire.

Translated Car Rental Websites

  • Grammar:

    Do all translations make grammatical sense?
  • Fully translated?

    Is the website fully translated, or is there a mix of translated and English content? English content may be the result of an oversight and simply require the translation to be applied to the content management system (CSM), but if a text variable in the code has been hard coded it will require a functional change before it will display as translated.
  • Units of measurement:

    Are differences in international units of measurement such as miles per gallon and litres per 100kms catered for.
  • English equivalent:

    If you serve customers in several different countries, besides providing translated websites in their native language, it is commonplace to also provide an English equivalent. However, it may not always be acceptable to use exactly the same English content and settings for each country, because country based rules, expectations and etiquette.
  • Etiquette:

    Etiquette can differ from country to country, and some things which are perfectly acceptable in one country may be considered rude in another country. One example is the informal way of addressing a customer by their first name, such as Thanks for your reservation, David compared to the more formal Thank you for your reservation, Mr Jones

Booking page and booking form

  • Summary:

    Is the summary of the reservation clearly displayed, with the correct details and correct totals?
  • Ability to amend:

    Can the customer make any changes to their selections from the booking page?
  • Mandatory form fields:

    Are all mandatory form fields correctly identified?
  • Form validation:

    Does form field validation work correctly in all cases?
  • Validation messages:

    Are form validation messages relevant and correctly worded based on each field and reason for validation failure?
  • Data correction:

    Does the correction of missing or invalid data instantly clear the relevant error message?
  • Opt-ins:

    Do any opt-ins for marketing communications, etc., require the customer to physically take action instead of automatically being opted in? *
  • Pre-populated fields:

    For loyalty scheme customers, does the booking form pre-populate any of the form fields, and if so, is the information correct?
  • Terms and conditions:

    Are terms and conditions clearly accessible on the booking page prior to the customer committing to the reservation, and are customers required to check a box to indicate acceptance of the terms and conditions?

* country specific rules may determine the requirements

Confirmation Page

  • Confirmation page content:

    Is the booking summary and all other information on the confirmation page accurate and relevant to the reservation?
  • Booking reference number:

    Does the confirmation page display a unique booking reference number?
  • Reservation summary:

    Does the confirmation page accurately summarise the reservation which has just been made?
  • Links/Buttons:

    Does the confirmation page display any links or buttons to allow the customer to print the page, make modifications or cancel the reservation? Do these links/buttons all work as intended?

Confirmation Email

  • Confirmation email content:

    Is the information that the confirmation email contains accurate and relevant to the reservation?
  • Booking reference number:

    Does the confirmation email display the correct unique booking reference number?
  • Reservation summary:

    Does the confirmation page accurately summarise the reservation which has been made?
  • Links and buttons:

    Do all links embedded into the confirmation work correctly, and do links for viewing, modifying or cancellating the reservation contain the correct reservation number?
  • Link security:

    For security reasons, links for viewing, modifying or cancellation the reservation should not provide direct access to the reservation without the customer also being asked for additional information such as their last name when they arrive on the website.
  • Advisory messages:

    Does the email contain relevant advisory messages, such as directions, documentation and ID required, etc?
  • Terms and conditions:

    Does the reservation confirmation email provide access to the terms and conditions?

Car Rental Modifications

  • Options and restrictions:

    Are the modification options and restrictions clear to the customer, and do the terms of modifying a reservation differ based on whether the reservation is Pay Now or Pay Later?
  • Changes to the total price:

    Are changes to the price made clear before the customer commits to the modifications to the reservation?
  • Refunds:

    Are the terms and timescales of refunds clearly stated?
  • Automated cancel and re-book:

    If the modification of certain selections would result in an automatic cancellation of the original reservation and a re-quote of the base rate, is this made sufficiently clear to the customer before they commit to the changes?
  • Booking reference number:

    After completing modifications to the reservation, does the confirmation page display the booking reference number which matches the original booking reference number, or has this changed?
  • Confirmation email:

    Does a new confirmation email get sent which contains all relevant updated information?

Car Rental Cancellations

  • Cancellation terms:

    Are the terms of cancellation clearly stated?
  • Pay Now v's Pay Later:

    Do the terms of cancellation differ based on whether the reservation is Pay Now or Pay Later?
  • Cancellation confirmation:

    Does an email get sent to the customer to confirmation that the reservation has been cancelled?
  • Refunds:

    Are the terms and timescales of refunds clearly stated?
  • Cancellation charges:

    Are there cancellation charges applicable within certain time periods?

Travel Agents

  • Are travel agents able to log into your car rental website to allow them to make reservations on behalf of their customers?
  • If so, are the appropriate differences to the features and fields of the reservation booking path handled correctly for each travel agent? **

** If you require Targa to test your travel agent path, test IATA/ABTA numbers would be required.

Try it yourself for free...

Many of the above points are covered in a free car rental testing checklist, which is available at the link below.

There are no strings attached, just download it and work through all checkpoints, but if you need any help or feel that it would be better for you to outsource this work, please get in touch.

Free Checklist

Reporting and bug tracking...

Using some of the most reliable bug reporting, tracking and prioritisation tools, such as Jira, Confluence and Trello

Reporting and bug tracking using a system to suit you and your business

Testing car rental reservation systems

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Daron Harvey

I'm Daron Harvey, founder of Targa Web Solutions, specialising in AI chatbot implementation, website testing, auditing & consultancy. I am now in my 28th year of professional website production, testing and eCommerce best practices, and excited about the opportunities that AI chatbots and digital assistants can bring to ourselves, our customers, and our customer's customers.
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