Renting a car in Europe ? How hard can it be?

villej

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If you have seen the other thread that I have created recently you know that I am renting a car from Milano Linate airport in late May. I have already booked the car from Europcar, but recently I started to look consumer reviews about them, and now I'm honestly scared. There is alarming amount of people that are saying that Europcar is billing repair costs for the car from their credit card, even after it has been agreed that the car was returned in mint condition. And that it is almost impossible to be in any contact to Europcar, because their local customer service says that because the car is rented in another country they can't do anything. And even if you can contact them, they'll just say "case closed".

Here is an exaple of their feedback in Review Centre: http://www.reviewcentre.com/reviews76705.html. Almost no positive feedback at all.

Now, I know that in the internets you can find all kinds of feedback, and it is usually negative. But the amount of that negative feedback seems still alarming. And Europcar seems to get by far the worst ratings of all big rental companies.

Now I'm thinking about cancelling my reservation. Maybe I should book my rental through some broker that has got good reviews? That way I would at least be able to be in contact to the broker if the actual rental company tries to scam me, and they then hopefully would settle the case with rental company.

Any thoughts? What kind of experiences you have about renting car in Europe?
 

hajj

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If you are scared about being ripped off with repairs, just book insurance without a loss damage waiver.
 

villej

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I have already a car hire excess insurance from a third party, so no need for that. The problem is that I must send the insurance company a damage report done with rental company that states all the damage that is found when returning the car. And if the rental conpany randomly decides to bill my credit card after it is agreed that there is no damage on the car, then obiviously the insurance is no good.
 
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hajj

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Ahh I see. What about insurance through Europcar? It that going to be much more expensive?
 

Eye-Q

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Any thoughts?
Even if I rarely rent a car there are some general hints, but those can't protect you 100% from the company trying to rip you off, even if it has positive reviews throughout - the stations are run by people, and some people try to rip off other people, regardless of reputation of the company.

- Inspect the car thoroughly on takeover, and that means including seatbelts, every light, filling level of the gastank, and note it on the receipt (of which you should insiste to get a copy)
- If possible don't hand it back outside normal working hours where no one is there and you just put the key into a letterbox
- On handing it back insist on an inspection by a company employee with signed handover certificate where all the dents, ditches, whatever was existent on takeover are listed, as well as the filling level of the gastank

- If they charge for something afterwards, don't try to e-mail them but make a call and afterwards send a registered mail (which you announce in the phone call) with your complaints


Other than that there is not much you can do. Even brokers can rip you off.
 

villej

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Ahh I see. What about insurance through Europcar? It that going to be much more expensive?
I think selling insurances for their rental cars is one of main revenue sources for rental companies. No excess insurance directly from insurance company cost me 20 euros for six days. Europcar asks 90 Euros for their "Super collision damage waiver" for 6 days.
 

hajj

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I know that they are pricey, but if you are afraid of being ripped off by them than that is the price to pay. Have you looked at one of those brokers that offers cars from many places? I have used billiger-mietwagen.de in the past and booked cars with no excess insurance. It is in german, but surely there must be sites in english as well.
 

equiraptor

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And if the rental conpany randomly decides to bill my credit card after it is agreed that there is no damage on the car, then obiviously the insurance is no good.
I know credit cards are different there than here. I mention this in the hopes there is a similar consumer protection you could rely on. Here, if a vendor tries to defraud a customer using a credit card, the customer protests this to the credit card company. The credit card company then does a "chargeback" on the vendor, including penalties to the vendor. The vendor will have to justify their claims. If you have the paperwork saying an agent of the vendor agreed the car was in appropriate condition when you turned it in, this would be your evidence to the credit card company that the vendor was acting fraudulently. A chargeback is generally fairly easy on the consumer (you) and a pain for the vendor, so it's an effective consumer protection.

I have no idea what similar things may be available in Europe, but I hope there's something... It could at least give you a bit more peace of mind.
 

WillDAQ

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I know credit cards are different there than here. I mention this in the hopes there is a similar consumer protection you could rely on. Here, if a vendor tries to defraud a customer using a credit card, the customer protests this to the credit card company. The credit card company then does a "chargeback" on the vendor, including penalties to the vendor. The vendor will have to justify their claims. If you have the paperwork saying an agent of the vendor agreed the car was in appropriate condition when you turned it in, this would be your evidence to the credit card company that the vendor was acting fraudulently. A chargeback is generally fairly easy on the consumer (you) and a pain for the vendor, so it's an effective consumer protection.

I have no idea what similar things may be available in Europe, but I hope there's something... It could at least give you a bit more peace of mind.
We have exactly the same thing.
 

jack_christie

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Most customers booked and paid for their Europcar rental in advance, reassured that there would be no hidden extras. But some returned from their holidays to discover mysterious additional payments to Europcar on their credit card bills. Without their knowledge Europcar had billed them for a premium car hire insurance package called a 'Serenity Pack' and taken the money for this straight from their debit or credit card.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/watchdog/consumer_advice/europcar.shtml
 

Cobol74

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Inspect the car thoroughly when picking up, any marks (The car place guy/gal should be doing this with you any way) and camera phone pic anything untoward (turn on date and time if your camera supports this function - GPS too) - you get one go at it so be careful. Make sure the handover bloke/gal notes it down too btw. You may get a form with the marks shown against which you sign and you have a top copy and they keep the second copy.
 
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leviathan

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To get a reasonable price, book the car as early as you can - late or no booking increases the rates dramatically with most companies.

Other important things were all said above - get insurance if you want to be on the safe side, inspect the car thoroughly at pick-up and make sure everything you might find is noted before driving off. I've rented cars and vans from Europcar and Avis before and never had any problems, except that I rented the Avis van without a prior booking and the price was accordingly ridiculous, but I had no choice - I needed that van on the spot.

The thing with reviews being almost exclusively negative is a general Internet problem - people are much more likely to go and write up a review if they have something to complain about, but if everything went smooth, most people just forget it and don't bother. It is a bit extreme with the car rentals, but it's a general trend.
 

villej

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Picked up the car, drove it for six days in Italy, Austria and Switzerland, and everyting worked out.

When I picked up the car I was informed that they would upgrade my car free to an Opel Astra SW Diesel (I had reserved Fiat Punto.) I was also informed that there would be no damage on the car at that moment, but was told to come back or call to them if I found something. Already at this point I had to put my name to the rental agreement which stated that there was no damage on the car. But they assured that everything would be fine if I found some and reported it to them. I found it odd that no employee came with us to the car to show it.
When we arrived to the car I checked it from wheels to roof for damage. The car had 23 thousand miles on the clock, and indeed there was many signs of the usage especially on the front and the back bumper. In the end I found 6 different damage spots on the car, which I then reported to the Europcar desk, and they added all of them to their computers without asking any proof or seeing the car, and marked it to my rental agreement.
We then had 6 trouble free days with the car. The return point at the Linate airport was a little confusing and I wansn't exactly sure where I should leave the car. I ended up parking it to one of the spots marked 'Europcar', and handed the keys to an Europcar employee who was coming towards us by the time we got the car empty of our stuff. He checked the fuel amount, left quicly and while walking away said to us something that sounded like "We will contact you in our office in ten minutes". I tried to ask him what he did say, but he was just ignoring us and continued walking away. I then walked very fast to stop him and asked "I'm sorry but did you say that we will be contacted in your office", to which he replies "Yes, we will contact you in our office". We then went to their rental desk on the airport and after waiting there for ten minutes I went to ask to them about the situation. They didn't understand at all why we had been told they would contact us, and just ended the rental with no additional damage.

So, if less than perfect customer service is not taken in to the account, everything went well.
 
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villej

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I migth add that the Astra felt really huge compared to my Renault. I noticed the difference only when I got back to my car at Helsinki Airport. My car felt really tiny after a week with Astra. Cars have really gotten much bigger in 15 years!
 

chaos386

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I found it odd that no employee came with us to the car to show it.
That's normal. I've been through rental experiences three times with Sixt in Germany, and several times with Avis in the US, and they never walk with you to the car. They just give you the keys, tell you where the car is, and off you go.
 

skippious

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Rented with several companies, Europcar Spain and Australia, Thrifty in Australia, Sixt in Holland, and the same here, almost nobody walks with you, not even when you return the car, only Europcar in Spain did. Also they sent me a letter later that all was ok and no money was owed by me. Sixt was really nice, they changed my rental agreement after I returned the car because I did about 1000 km more. Ended up a few euro extra per day but no excess in kms.

I know that renting a car in Spain, Greece and some more countries differ a bit from Holland and Germany, insurance wise. In Holland you get warned to get extra insurance in those countries.

I was worried too the first time. I just paid Europecar Spain 250 euro as a deposit as I didn't have a credit card.
 

Interrobang

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I?ve rented several times from several companies (Avis, Hertz, Sixt, Europcar and small national or local groups). I can say that even within one company there can be huge differences in their local offices. I used to be quite contend with Europcar in my old hometown for example, but at my current location their office seems to be a terrible mess.

Also from my experience here in the more rural areas with small renting-stations - you get upgrades constandly. For some Ikea-shopping I wanted to rent a VW T5 from Sixt, ended up with a long wheelbase Sprinter costing around double the T5 - with paying only for the T5. Employee hinted they didn?t have T5-class vehicles (or even short wheelbase Sprinters) at the location at all so I was bound to get that upgrade for free as they don?t call for a lowly T5 from HQ rented for a day. Same with every other class of vehicle. For short rental periods they don?t bother ordering a car in a class they don?t have - and you get a free upgrade.
Also TopTip: if they upgrade you to a much bigger & heavier vehicle - take into consideration that this will cost you more fuel thus making your rent more expensive in total, and let them know. You?ll get another discount or reimbursement.
 

D-Fence

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I rented with SIXT, they went out with me, documented damage (A LOT) on Van on tablet and mailed me the report instantly.







Irony: I repaired the "Radio not working" by switching it back from AM to FM :D
 
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