We have been noticing that while the smaller cars are still cheaper (more on this momentarily), they are not necessarily as easy to get as they once were. We also need slightly more room in that the car seat does have to fit in the back seat, and there's a bit more luggage. In the past, as long as the vehicle wasn't ridiculous, we'd take an upgrade that didn't cost us more per day. More recently, we've gotten snottier about it, insisting on what we reserved. In light of this, the LA Times piece on car rental companies is entertaining:
Highlights: more people want better mpg (duh). While some slow-on-the-uptake punditry still thinks that "free" upgrade is a good thing, no one else seems to. Interestingly, with the demise of "program" cars (automakers make too many, sell them to car rental operations cheap then buy them back to do it again), car rental companies are struggling with inventory management mostly by hanging onto their cars longer, and selling the winners -- the ones that retain residual value better -- which is pretty much always a long-term loser. In this case, it's a bit of a short term killer, too, in that the winners are the higher mpg vehicles, exactly what people are wanting to rent right now.
I, for one, do not understand why the rental companies are so slow to do the obvious (charge more for What the People Want, i.e. the higher mpg vehicles, and less for the undesirables, i.e. the guzzlers). But they are, apparently, slowly starting to do just that in some markets.