With an improvement in five of six measures since the 2004 study, Enterprise ranks highest in customer satisfaction among rental car companies, according to the J.D. Power and Associates 2005 Rental Car Satisfaction Study.

Enterprise leads the industry for a second consecutive year with an overall index score of 768 (on a 1,000-point scale). The rental car company ranks highest in rates/value; pick-up process; return process; and shuttle bus/van, and performs well in the rental car and reservation measures.

Avis improves by 17 index points compared to the 2004 study and ranks second with an overall index of 759. Hertz follows Avis to rank third overall in the 2005 study.

Although the rental car industry improves in customer satisfaction in the other five measures of the study, the score for rates/value declines significantly. More than 20 percent of rental car customers rate the attribute for price of fuel below average (4 or lower on a 10-point scale).

The price of gasoline purchased through a rental car company is generally much higher than the average price at the pump. As a result, almost 80 percent of rental car customers fill the gas tank at the pump prior to returning their vehicle -- an increase of 8 percentage points compared to the 2004 study.

"Customers can pay twice as much when re-fueling through the rental car company," said Jim Gaz, senior director of travel and entertainment at J.D. Power and Associates. "Usually, customers will take time to get gas, but if theyre in a hurry or cant find a convenient gas station near the drop-off location, theyll have to pay a much higher price."

The study also finds wait times for shuttle bus/van continue to have a big effect on customer satisfaction. Once wait time exceeds five minutes, customer satisfaction drops by 69 index points (9%).

"Wait times are a reflection of the quality of service a rental car company provides," said Gaz. "Since service quality and efficiency are two key areas where companies can differentiate themselves from their competitors, it is critical that they do not compromise one for the other."

The study also finds business travelers are much more critical of their rental car experiences than customers traveling for leisure.

Performance evaluations from business travelers are significantly lower in every measure of overall satisfaction except for the pick-up process.

The 2005 Rental Car Satisfaction Study is based on responses from 6,244 customers who rented a car at an airport location within a six-month period.