It's time to talk about rental carsPosted: May 2, 2010
I have been holding off writing this for quite some time, partly because I was so fuming with rage, partly because I was waiting to see how it played out and partly because it take’s more time than one might realise to write these things.
That said, the dust has settled and my boiling blood has reduced to a low simmer so here goes………
In February. I along with my fellow Network Scouters embarked on another Top Gear Adventure. This time the plan was to race from Edinburgh Castle to Buckingham Palace. Car vs Public Transport. The date and time was set, as was the accommodation now it was just time to figure out how to get our vehicle from Northern Ireland to the UK Mainland for the race and back again after-wards. Scouts being Scouts, we always try to go for the most cost effective solution after all we do favor sleeping in tents rather than the ritz ! So it was clear from the outset than renting a car was going to work out much cheaper than booking a ferry. *
Now I’ve rented a fair amount of car’s in my life on the road. The process is simple, you book the cheapest one you can find to suit you needs then haggle an upgrade at the desk when you get there. So that is what I did, I booked through Easycar a 1.6 Vauxhall Astra (or similar), pick up on Friday night in Edinburgh, drop off in London on Sunday morning. All for the simple sum of £69.43 plus VAT and the ‘zero risk’ insurance and the price came to £85.91. happy days!
Now the plan was that the 4 people who where going to be in the car team would take the car to the accommodation and the public transport team would take public transport. A plan, I wish we had stuck to. We (or someone) decided on the plane over that we should try and upgrade to a 7 seater, thus saving the public transport costs to the accommodation. I agreed and we hit the rental desk.
Now Easycar do not actually have a rental desk, check in staff or vehicles. They are simply a booking engine and farm out the actual rental to which ever company they can get the car for cheapest. In this case it was Alamo, or Europcar as they are know in Europe. We upgraded to the 7 seater for £19.58 (+vat) extra, paid £17 for a sat nav as we forgot ours and the £30 one way surcharge (apparently this was in the small print) and we were off.
Now the car was a Vauxhall Savera 7 seater which for those of you that do not know are primarily a 5 seater but has an extra two seats in the back which pop out from the floor so you can use the boot space for passengers, now listen carefully. The back seats were up when we collected the car (this is important to note now). As I was saying I have rented a fair few cars in my time and the one thing you must do is check the car for any inperfections before departing, having done this I was happy to begin our adventure.
We completed the Top Gear Challenge (public transport won but that is a different story) and had a great weekend. On the Sunday morning we returned the vehicle to Europcar in London who inspected it to see if there was any damage, of course I was confident there was not. Until the girl checking the car asked ‘Where is the parcel shelf?’ Parcel Shelf, I proclaimed, what parcel shelf?….. it’s a 7 seater and the seats were up when we collected it. OK she said, sign this damage form and explain what happened. Explain what happened ? There was no parcel shelf in the car when I collected it. Did you report this ? Report what, where would it have been, there is seats in the boot ? Write that down and sign here.
So I did that and went to the desk to get my £350 deposit back. Except, I didn’t actually get my full deposit back as they deducted a whopping £179.50 + VAT for a new parcel shelf …….. outraged I asked to speak to whatever person was calling them self the manager that day. She explained as the car came from Edinburgh they could not let it go and offered to call the Edinburgh office. Edinburgh asked the same stupid, did you report it question and then washed their hands of it. They have you in a very difficult place when you are handing a car back as not only do they have your deposit and your credit card details but you also have a flight to catch.
Now I’m not a stupid person, I know that if there is unreported damage on a car it is going to fall back on your ass but I stand by the fact that why would I check for a parcel shelf in a 7 seater car where there is no where for the shelf to go. I mean if it were a saloon car, a missing parcel shelf would be obvious but in a 4×4 or MPV its hard to know if the vehicle comes with one or if its an optional extra at purchase.
So I accepted my fail to pursuant customer services and moved on to get my flight(which was actually canceled but I’ve wrote about that before), vowing to speak to customers service when I got home.
Which I tried to do and I was going to detail in this every exact detail of every call and email but I won’t. What I will say though is that 15 calls and 29 emails later and I am still out the money. I have spoken to various departments in Easycar, Europcar and Alamo and each come back with the same shabby response. The damage was not reported and the charge stands.
I am completely against the wall on this, I can’t find anyone to speak to about it, I can’t find a regulator of rent a car companies and if one more person asks me if I reported the damage at the time I am going to blow a fuse.
Sadly I was forced to spread the cost of the shelf amongst the 6 other scouters who used the car with me.
So let that be a lesson to you if your renting a car.
Oddly enough it would have been cheaper in the end to bring my own car. Shame on the rental car industry and shame on you Easyjet, I thought you cared about your customers. Obviously I was wrong.
• By ‘race’ I mean, which is faster under normal condition’s. Strict rules meant the car could not speed or break any laws.