A pet hate of mine these days is renting (hiring) a car and unless you like driving thousands of kilometres it’s hard to avoid. For example, this summer we’re going to Italy and will be flying to Bologna then renting a car for the two weeks we are there. I’ve been checking out the options but as usual the matter of exactly what we will get and how much it will cost is far from transparent.
If I had unusual or very specific requirements I might consider that a little difficulty is to be expected but I don’t. All I expect is that the car will be the same or close to the one I order, that the final cost will bear some resemblance to the ‘headline’ cost and that ‘fully comprehensive zero excess insurance’ means what it says.
Unfortunately, this is rarely the case and what’s worse is the way they do their best to hide it from you until you are standing there at the airport with a tired family and no alternatives but to succumb to their rip-off tactics.
Here’s an example of what I found tucked away about four levels of information down in the small print of one of the companies I considered using for the holiday:
There is No Excess liability with the Auto Europa Super package, excess liability is included in the rates. However, this does NOT cover damage to windshield and glasses in general, tyres, roof and underside parts of the vehicle; unless customer decides to purchase the ‘Additional Service Clause’. In any case, damages to tapestry, the interior and mechanical parts of the vehicle (gear, clutch, etc.) remain not included in the rental cost.
How absurd is all that? Most of the parts liable to damage are not covered, unless you buy the ‘additional service clause’ and even if you buy that there’s a bunch of stuff still not covered.It doesn’t matter what condition the mechanical parts are in and what damage has been done to them by previous users because if anything breaks during my two weeks I’ll be the one paying for it!
Adding insult to injury they go to state:
Damage caused to vehicle by vegetation. The client will be liable for any damages caused to the vehicle due to vegetation, as this can be considered negligence of the customer driving the car in the countryside or in places where the vegetation can cause scratches and damages to the vehicle.
Any damages caused by vegetation will be my fault. So even if I’m in a vegtable-free city and someone decides to put a scratch down the side of the car I’ll no doubt be accused of ploughing the car through a dangerous abundance of rhododendron and charged accordingly!
Finally we have their inappropriate pricing of child seats.
Infant / Child Seats
€46.92 (incl VAT) per rental per seat. Payable at the Auto Europa depot but must be pre-booked through Nova. Please provide child´s age when booking.
It’s a while since we bought a child seat for the car but at these prices they could buy a new seat for every customer and then throw it away after the rental is finished. Will they do that? No, what you’ll get is the most disgustingly used and dirty seat you could imagine and they’ll be using your €46.92 to have their pool at home cleaned for the weekend.
Of course, the end result of all the above plus the other clauses I’ve not bothered highlighting, is that while your expectation is a fairly new Ford Focus for two weeks fully insured at a total cost of €500, the reality ends up as a knackered Fiat 500 for a total cost of closer to €1,000 (if you’re lucky and nothing breaks).
It was never a very pretty industry, car hire, but these days I think it must have reached about a low as it can possibly get.