Rental Car Review: A Truck Will Do, Thank You!

Even as the discussion of COVID-19 has been amplified, and the subsequent action by both the Federal Government and the state of Minnesota started to take effect, I knew that I had to do something in the face of this so-called panic.

My solution to dealing with this crisis is simple: Just drive.

And, I did. With a twist, mind you.

Since everyone was postponing and canceling events, I knew I could not succumb to the spiral of bad news and fear-mongering. I saw that gasoline prices were dropping. I also saw that rental car rates were also dropping. The timing was right for all of this, as I was in a gap in my review vehicle schedule.

After a few clicks on my laptop, the plan was in effect to pick up a vehicle from Avis at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport on Saturday around noon.

Therefore, I get to play another round of Rental Car Roulette.

It can be a good game if you roll once. You can either settle for what they give you. Or, you can roll again. That is if the customer service agent was willing to assist you.

So, I rolled twice. The first roll was not really what I was looking for in this class. Sure, it was a 2020 Kia Optima FE, but I had to pass. When I returned to the Avis Preferred desk, I was asked what I really wanted. Since the National Truck Summit popped back up in my head, I asked whether they had an SUV or a pickup truck. We rolled twice and came up a winner.

I left MSP with a red 2019 Ram 1500 Rebel Quad Cab 4X4.

Yes, I said 2019…with almost 34,000 miles on the clock. It did prompt me to look at a few things with this specific truck. One, durability over a high number of miles in a short term in the rental car fleet. Secondly, I am driving a trim level of the newest Ram 1500 I wanted to check out. Therefore, I wanted to see if the Rebel is a trim level worth buying over all the others.

This Rebel had an adequate level of equipment. The 5.7-liter HEMI V8, 8-speed automatic transmission, and four-wheel-drive system provided the backbone for this off-road ready pickup. It was not only powerful; it provided miles of happy moments as I went into the rural landscapes of western Minnesota. The four-wheel independent suspension smoothed out both highway and dirt road with a lot of dampening from the shocks that were a part of the Rebel’s package.

The discussion of tires was brought up on my social media. It was said that the factory-specified Goodyear Wrangler Duratrac tires are not that great in the winter. They were fine, as roads were thawed and dry. Which begs the question of whether you should specify winter tires either as installed or as an extra set when you buy a Ram 1500 Rebel. I’ll leave that up to you to explore.

This rental only had the 8.4-inch UConnect system without the native navigation, along with standard speakers. This is great because you had actual knobs and controls for the audio and climate control system. I loved the Rebel’s seats, as I found them more comfortable than even the higher trim levels. With the amount of driving I did, I was not fatigued at all.

What lured me to the Ram 1500 Rebel in the first place was its exterior appearance. I was glad that they created continuity between the previous and current generations of the Ram 1500 Rebel with its aggressive grille, two-inch factory lift, and rough-and-ready look. It really looked cool. Then again, I’m a sucker for off-road ready pickups.

In terms of fuel economy, I achieved 16.6 MPG in my care. Sure, I can do better with a more economic rear axle ratio, but you can’t get one in the Rebel. If you’re going to get a Rebel, you better have a real purpose for it.

Essentially, that’s my answer. If I want a Ram 1500 for play and to go off road in, the Rebel is the right choice. Once you decided on a Rebel, I would suggest going with the 5.7-liter HEMI V8 over any other engine. This engine provides true power when you need it. The 2020 Ram 1500 Rebel with the EcoDiesel is a great option, but you better budget for one in many ways than your monthly payment.

As for durability at the mileage point, this rental Ram 1500 Rebel held up very well. It felt mechanically sound and everything worked as it should. I never felt any major wear and tear from this Flame Red unit. In fact, I felt that it would be own vehicle if I put on that kind of mileage during my ownership.

If it were my vehicle, I would certainly have ordered it with some available driver assistance equipment. For me, cruise control is no longer enough to keep pace on the road. However, I can equip a Ram 1500 Rebel with Adaptive Cruise Control and Full Forward Collision Warn Plus top satisfy that requirement. I would also get it in the Crew Cab with the 5-1/2 foot box, instead of the Quad Cab. Not because it is fashionable to do so, but I find it more useful in terms of passenger space and carrying items securely inside the back seat area of the cab.

One configuration question that came up was the absence of the Ram Boxes on this rental. I like the Ram Box storage system, but they do cut into the box's overall space. I guess it's a coin-toss item for me.

Normally, I would talk pricing. Let me run this down for you. A new 2020 Ram 1500 Rebel starts at $44,490. Pricing for a 2019 Ram 1500 Rebel depends on whether it is a remaining new unit or a pre-owned one. Check the odometer and ask its origin – preferably through a CARFAX report – before you buy. Some prices may turn out to be too good to be true if its history had a few blemishes.

This specific 2019 Ram 1500 Rebel completely affirmed something I’ve said many times over – including on my interview with Johnny Mac and Clare Marie on Dave Nemo Weekends (SiriusXM Road Dog Trucking 146) from the Twin Cities Auto Show. The Ram 1500 is the best pickup truck in the business right now. For many reasons that have been stated on this website for over a year. You can read those summations here, here and here.

With the number of miles and the super low daily rate I got from Avis, this was definitely worth the second spin at Rental Car Roulette.

DISCLAIMER: This vehicle was rented by Victory & Reseda for the purpose of publication

All photos by Randy Stern

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