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Rental is driving me mental

By / 5 years ago / Comment / No Comments

Recently we discovered our drivers squeezing into smaller rental cars than due, within our specified grade.

Used to a 1.6-litre hatchback, we are now seeing 1.2-litre superminis. Our policy allows a mid-size engine hatchback capable of taking four adults on a motorway run, and a 1.2 really is unsuitable. The result is that drivers requested a larger group car, which in turn led to increased tariffs. So, have the rental companies officially revised their bandings, or is this just a try-on – see if the customer notices we’ve supplied a lower grade car at the higher price?

That’s assuming the booked car is available at all. We’ve had a couple of instances where the car wasn’t available when required. Awaiting a Friday afternoon delivery which was late, our driver rang, to be told they didn’t have a car.

Enraged not to have had the courtesy of a phone call, he hot-footed it to the depot to be faced by rows and rows of idle cars – and equally idle staff, it would seem. He got his car.

Within a couple of weeks the same depot (we must be slow learners) failed to supply again, this time on a Saturday morning, but promised a car for later. As the driver lived near enough to collect, and had been told not to incur collection and delivery charges, he asked them to phone when the car was ready.

They didn’t, but turned up at his front doorstep very late in the day with a car, just as he was panicking about how he’d get to Monday’s training course. Great service, you might think, and it was – except for the £30 Sunday delivery charge they stuck on the bill!

Opening hours are another bugbear. After 4pm or so, you may as well forget it. Most service businesses are now open 24/7 and while it’s perhaps a bit extreme for rental companies, other than airport locations, maybe 6.30am to 8.00pm would be more realistic?

And who hasn’t experienced being recharged for damage not incurred by them? A few years ago, a large rental company who should have known better, were claiming for scratches under the front spoiler on every UK hire we had, as a matter of course. When the same thing happened to me in Corsica, I knew they had a problem. Our drivers are a pretty honest bunch and if they’ve damaged a car, they’ll usually phone me and admit it. So receiving notifications of damage, sometimes months after the hire, is a real wind-up. A couple of times, when I’ve cross-checked registrations and dates, we’ve been sent bills for cars we didn’t even hire – with loss of use charges on top, of course.

Then there’s the refuelling charge at £1.90 per litre. I’m sure the idea is to discourage people from returning cars empty, but if my driver has refilled the car and we are then charged for the distance from his home to the rental depot, that’s a sting. So it was a 20 mile trip – other hires will be located much nearer the depot and the overall daily tariff should reflect that.

I don’t much like the daily levy for hiring from an airport either – we were badly stung when we provided an overseas employee with a hire car here for six weeks; and were charged the levy for all 42 days. We quickly found a way of circumventing the problem, but the hire company lost our trust because their charges weren’t clear.

No doubt it’s a reflection of market competition that pricing is so crucial but invoices contain so many unexpected and unbudgeted extras. And that’s where rental companies could do much to improve their service offering. They’ve come a long way and I believe they are listening to their customers, but in my book they still get ”could do better” on their school report. 

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