A car gives a lot of flexibility.
While we could’ve easily kept busy at our resort- MW San Lucianu- my feet were itchy: I wanted to see Corsica! The only real option with 3 kids in tow under my sole supervision and not much time was to hire a car.
Avis gave me a 25% discount and a good price for the 3 days- £89. I had booked online, but wasn’t asked payment or even card details.
We took an early morning bus to Bastia from our resort. The Avis offices were really conveniently located, right by the bus stop.
I had booked the car for 10 am pick up. We were at the office just after 9 am. The lady there informed us that if we wanted to pick up the car earlier, then we’d need to drop it off earlier at the airport 3 days later or pay for an extra day’s hire. I wanted to go for a wander around town first anyway, so I thought I’d leave the car for 2-3 hours till after sightseeing.
Luckily, she informed me that she closes at 12 and if we weren’t back in time then we’d have to hang around till 5 pm to pick up the car.
I decided to take the car then, by the time we finished the paperwork it was actually 5 to 10.
Now, you’d think that you’re quoted a price and you’ve ticked all the extra charge boxes the price you are presented with when you go to pick up the car is the price you agreed to when you book it, right?
You see, even though you tick all those boxes, which you may think then gives the price that covers all insurances, damages and so on, you are actually presented with an “optional” 30% hike in price on the spot. This is the insurance to cover you for the 800€ damage excess you have reduced your risk to by purchasing the collision damage waiver.
You are unlikely to have an accident, but who knows (foreign roads, different conditions and driving styles than at home, etc.) and you don’t want to be lumbered with an 800€ bill.
On the other hand, however unfair you find this last minute charge, you have little choice, as going elsewhere at this stage will cost you more time and money. You swallow the fee and vow to read the small print better next time you book a car. (The last time I was faced with this sort of sneaky surcharge was over 10 years ago… Really thought this industry had moved on to more transparent charging!)
After this small interlude we picked up the keys and then left the car where it was for another 2 hours or so.
The car was a Peugeot 2008. It had a mere 600km on the clock and was in a brand new condition. It came with a full tank of fuel, as per Avis policy.
Getting used to driving the car took a short while as it was nippy and we were driving on very different roads than at home. The roads were windy and narrow. The Peugeot drove beautifully though.
Having a car gave us so much freedom. We explored Corsica to the North, to the West and to the South. Over the 3 days we did 600km+ ( 380 miles) with the car.
Before we returned the car I filled the tank full to avoid being charged the extortionate prices charged by rental companies.
I also found myself vacuuming the car at 6:30 am on the morning of handing it back to avoid a possible 50€ cleaning fee. It wasn’t bad, but the kids had had a croissant and some sand is unavoidable after a day at the beach try as one might to avoid it.
Returning the car at Bastia airport was not straightforward:
We needed to return it to a garage some 2-300m from the terminal. The guy who was in charge of looking over the car spoke no other language but French. Even though we were the first of 7 cars to arrive he decided to check our car last, after I had all car seat out, kids standing in the 30C + heat for about 5 minutes.
The walk to the terminal with all the luggage and kids over the cracked road in the blazing sun was torturous.
As we got to the terminal, there was a queue at the Avis desk both to hire a car and to hand back the papers of the hire car.
I was hot and flustered and the kids were in a really bad mood from helping drag our luggage and carseat from the garage in the heat. I dropped the paperwork on the desk in front of a lady who wasn’t serving customers and headed away. She quickly picked up the papers and asked if there was any damage.
I said “No”.
Then she scanned the paperwork and said we needed to pay an extra days’ hire as we were late. It was 10:20 am.
I remained calm, which took all my restraint. I told her that I do not need to pay extra, for the delay was due to the pace of their staff member checking the car and the walk from their garage to the terminal. Thankfully the lady did not push it and let me go.
Why does car hire have to be so painful?
Have you had similar painful experiences with car hire?
I’ve just looked back at a post a friend, Ana wrote a little over a year ago. Interesting that she used the term painful too: An interesting read, with some scary comments