Free Minds & Free Markets

America's Biggest Rental Car Company Is Lobbying to Drive Away Competitors: New at Reason

Enterprise Rent-A-Car is trying to hobble the competition with higher taxes

Oivind HovlandOivind HovlandThe first time New Hampshire State Rep. Sherman Packard (R–Rockingham) heard of the car-sharing startup Turo, it was from a lobbyist.

Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Packard says, has a "huge footprint in my community. So they called me up and said, 'Hey, let's be fair about this.'"

To the Enterprise lobbyists, being fair meant forcing Turo—which is basically Airbnb, but for your car—to pay a 9 percent tax, the same one the state charges on hotel rooms, meals, and other tourist expenses, including rental cars. (New Hampshire has no general sales tax.)

The appeal to fairness worked. In January, Packard introduced a bill in the state legislature that would tax and regulate businesses like Turo as if they were rental car companies. Enterprise and its lobbyists had won.

That may seem like a routine dispute between a state government and a disruptive new technology that doesn't easily fit in existing boxes for tax and regulatory purposes. But Packard's bill is just one small part of a national effort by traditional rental car companies to use their political clout against a newcomer that threatens the old business model, writes Reason's Eric Boehm.

Photo Credit: Oivind Hovland


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