Or Similar Car rental

What does “or similar” mean in Car Rental?

A common problem that arises daily during the Car Rental process are the words “or similar” when booking a specific group of vehicle. This is a bugbear for many travellers if they were unaware of this Car Hire practice when they fetch their car and were expecting a specific make and model.

Related: 8 things you should know when booking a car in South Africa

An example of the or similar car rental practice:

A client books a Group B, which is often advertised as a Volkswagen Polo Vivo hatchback. The client believes they booked that exact vehicle, but when they arrive at the airport a totally different make of vehicle has been allocated, and suddenly we have an unhappy client who believes they were lied to, or that the car rental company is inefficient and made a mistake. However there is a very specific reason for this practice.

Why do Car Rentals use “Or Similar”?

A short explanation is that all car rental companies purchase significant quantities of different vehicles from different manufacturers and often will have several different makes in the same grouping. All fall within the same or similar specifications common to that group.

The car rental industry is a very fluid type of operation with large numbers of vehicles being booked out and returned on any one day and as vehicles become available at the depot they are allocated to the next customer in line. It is therefore extremely difficult to allocate a specific vehicle make to a specific client at a specific time and date. Whilst you can request a specific make and model, the car rental companies will do their best to do accommodate you but it is not always possible and can never be guaranteed.

What happens if I have specific needs?

It sometimes happens that some customers are very tall or have special needs. If that is the case you should let the car rental company know beforehand in order for them to advise you of the best group of vehicle to select. This ensures the company is well aware of any particular needs you may have and that they have to allocate the right vehicle for you.

If you hire a car in South Africa you should be aware of 3 real life lessons about car rental insurance to protect yourself when choosing car rental insurance cover.

car rental fuel policy

South African Car Rental Fuel Policy

A common complaint from South African car rental customers is that they are charged for fuel top ups after having just filled the vehicle on return. The most common reason for this car rental fuel policy is the following:

1. There is a difference between a garage full tank and a car rental full tank:

Gas stations or petrol garages traditionally fill to what is known as the first click when the nozzle automatically switches off. Car rental companies on the other hand always fill the vehicles to brimful when the fuel can physically be seen in the pipe. The reason for this is to avoid any disputes as to what is “full” The difference between first click and brimful can be quite a few litres depending on the vehicle. When filling yourself always let the garage attendant fill to brim or just as it overflows to be certain. 

2. If your car is fetched from you, your car will need to be filled up again.

Fuel and mileage are measured depot to depot. This means that if your car is collected from you at any other place then it is topped up when it gets back to the depot and the kilometer reading is taken at that point.

3. A full Gauge does not always mean a full tank

Another common misconception is that if the fuel gauge shows full it means the tank is full. The gauge is very misleading and visually while showing full could well in reality need several litres to top up the tank.

For more car rental FAQ’s please visit our Car Rental Frequently Asked Questions section.

Car Rental Insurance

3 Real Life Lessons About Car Rental Insurance You Need To Know

You obtain a great cheap quotation that includes full car rental insurance. The quote is far better than other quotes you have received so you are feeling more than confident and you go ahead and book your rental car.

During your trip you accidentally collide with the rear of a top range Mercedes but happily breathe a sigh of relief that not only are there no injuries, and that you have full car rental insurance cover.

You report the accident to the Rental Company and then you find out about the harsh realities about Car Rental Insurance…

FULL COVER CAR RENTAL INSURANCE DOES NOT ALWAYS MEAN FULL COVER.

The rental company explains that you agreed to the terms and conditions of the contract, that in the event of your hitting another vehicle from behind, you are not covered. It is there in black and white and you signed it! Suddenly you are liable not only for the damages to the rental vehicle, but to the owner of the Mercedes you collided with.

That could land you with a liability that could easily run into a couple of hundred thousand Rands. Within a short few moments your trip went from idyllic holiday to real-life nightmare and you have no idea how you will ever repay this huge debt.

Car Rental Insurance

 

HERE ARE A FEW REAL LIFE LESSONS:

1.

A beauty therapist hired a rental vehicle taking the highest possible insurance. Her first ordeal was swerving to avoid an animal in the road and she swerved off the road crashing into a rock face. Her second was realising that despite taking the highest accident and loss waiver available, she was not covered for the damage.

Unfortunately the exclusions she had agreed to kicked in and because her accident had not been caused by her physically hitting something she had no protection. She now owes some R300 000 for a written off rental car and some R50 000 for legal fees.

Ironically had she hit the animal she would have been fully covered.

Sunday Times on 27.9.2015 by Megan Power

2.

An unnamed holiday maker was involved in an accident and caused damage amounting to some R150 000 and the insurers wrote the car off. The car was valued at R225 000. Again they took full cover insurance but were informed that their third party cover was limited to a maximum of R50 000. That meant that they were liable for the balance of some R175 000.

The small print of this particular rental company clearly showed that cover is limited, but like 90% of the average renter, few ever read the small print at the back of the rental contract.

3.

Another unnamed holiday maker hired a sedan vehicle and on the spur of the moment and decided to travel to a game farm where one often encounters some terrible farm roads which result in severe damage to the undercarriage of the vehicle.

On returning the vehicle they found that they were liable for the total damages caused of some R30 000. Again because of the exclusions they agreed to, their contract clearly showed that any undercarriage damage was excluded.

WHY DOES THIS HAPPEN?

People hate contracts and hate small print even more, so it is a known fact that maybe one in every hundred people ever take the time and trouble to read them. When something goes wrong then all hell breaks loose.

We all tend to look at the price and opt for the lowest possible one. The old saying is “you get what you pay for” and it is generally very true whether you are building a house, booking a holiday or renting a car.

Remember that rental companies rent similar vehicles, pay the same prices for the vehicles and have much the same operating costs so when a price is cheap there is a reason.

Car Rental Insurance

HOW DO WE PREVENT THIS?

1. Keep in mind that car rental companies are not insurance companies and are not permitted to sell insurance in any event;

2. Each car rental company is different and while most will offer full insurance to inbound travelers, keep in mind that full insurance generally only means the highest waiver offered in terms of the rental car but there are always exclusions which you must check;

3. Find out most importantly what the extent of third party cover is. This means damages caused to other vehicles or property by your actions.  It varies between zero and unlimited in my research.

4. Check what damages are excluded from the car rental insurance cover? Water damage; undercarriage, non-accident damage; negligence; accidents involving no other vehicles; damage resulting from driving on unsuitable roads and the list goes on…

5. Very important to note is a common clause which gives the rental company in its sole discretion, the right to entertain a third party claim. If there are any breaches to the terms and conditions contained in the rental contract, the renter may well find himself fully liable for all the third party claims.

OUR ADVICE IS SIMPLE:

 

  • Opt for the best possible Car Rental Insurance cover that is available even if it does cost more.

  • Never take the lowest price without comparing the proverbial apples with apples.

  • Insist on your quotation containing all the information you want and never be hesitant to ask.

  • NEVER EVER, allow anybody else to drive the vehicle who is not registered as an additional driver.

  • Drive carefully, never recklessly, keep to the speed limits, stay sober and adhere to the terms and conditions of the car rental contract carefully to keep your risk as low as possible.

 

Star Car rental wishes you happy and safe motoring in South Africa.

Renting A Car In South Africa

8 Things You Need To Know When Renting A Car In South Africa

You have made the decision to travel to South Africa either on business or on holiday and you need to decide whether or not to rent a car. Here are our 8 tips you need to know when renting a car in South Africa:

1. Do I Really Need To Rent A Car In South Africa?

In most instances it is recommended for the public transport is generally poor even in the large cities such as Cape Town, Johannesburg, Durban, Port Elizabeth and East London. Once you leave the central city transport is essential and whilst one can order an Uber or taxi, it takes time and the cost averages about R10 per kilometre in a meter cab. Inner City transport in Cape Town for instance is provided by the My Citi Bus service but is limited generally to the daylight and early evening hours.

Renting A Car In South Africa
Image courtesy: https://www.flickr.com/photos/warrenski/4652454545

2. When Should I Make The Car Rental Booking?

As soon as possible for contrary to perceptions there are times when cars are simply unavailable at the airport owing to seasonal highs, large conferences, sporting events etc.  What you do not want is to arrive at the airport and have to trawl rental desk after rental desk at high demand pricing trying to secure a car.

Booking a rental car is a simple process and guarantees that a car will be ready and waiting for you.

3. What are The First Steps To Take Before You Rent The Car?

  • Decide what type of car you want to rent. Hatchback or sedan? Manual or Automatic? How many people are travelling in the car? Study the car rental websites for pictures of the vehicles on offer and the features for guidance.
  • Once you select the type of vehicle you would like to rent, request a quotation from the rental company concerned and it is recommended that you try a few.
  • Now you have the various quotations. What now?

Renting A Car In South Africa

 

4. How Do I Evaluate The Car Rental Quotations?

  • Most quotations give you the bare minimum details so firstly check to see exactly what the price includes. This often will include unlimited kilometers; TLW [Theft and Loss Waiver] and CDW [Collision Damage Waiver] and possibly vat. That is the easy part but leaves you pretty much in the dark realistically. The next and vitally the most important….

Check to see what the quote does not include and this is often like looking for a needle in the proverbial haystack.

  • Does it include windscreen or tyre and rim damage? These are the most common damages that occur.  Damage to a windscreen depending on the vehicle can cost you a few thousand rand that you have not budgeted for.
  • What is the amount of the waiver? Clients often discover too late that if they have an accident that the waiver is as high as R10, 000 and even a lot higher. This is always the most difficult figure to obtain in the quotation, particularly in an automated quote.
  • Another thing to look for is what are you covered for third party damage?
  • Airport surcharges if not included can set you back an extra 11% of the rental value. Simply put, the cheaper the price quoted is often the most expensive in the long run as car rental is no different from any business pricing model.
  • Are the rental vehicles new models? There are many smaller companies that fail to disclose that the vehicles are several years old with very high mileages. Most reputable companies in South Africa will have cars that are no more than 6-9 months old with mileages generally no higher than 50000 kilometers.  From November onwards most companies re-fleet so that a high percentage of the cars are in fact brand new over the peak summer season.

Insist on a full quotation that sets out all the above clearly and concisely and only once you have that, can you make a proper comparison.

5. Should I Pay For My Rental In Advance?

Our advice is never to pay in advance for the simple reason is that should you for un-foreseen circumstances have to cancel your trip, then you are saddled with the inevitable hassle of trying to get a refund. Several rental sites insist on up-front payments but it is certainly not recommended.

Car rentals can be booked and confirmed without having to make any advance payments and bookings can be cancelled without penalty provided cancellation is made before arrival.  With certain types of vehicles such as the super luxury vehicles there are terms and conditions which require a minimum cancellation period.

During peak seasons some car rental companies will require you to provide your credit card details in order to confirm a vehicle; however most companies will only debit your credit card on the day of your arrival.  This should be made clear in the quotation you receive.

6. Does The Car Rental Company Provide Country Wide Back-Up Service?

If you are travelling long distances it is important that should something unforeseen occur such as a breakdown or at worst an accident, then you need to have the peace of mind that help is never too far away to get a replacement vehicle. This is a question that needs an answer.

7. What Level Of Car Rental Insurance Cover Is Necessary?

As comprehensive a cover as you can get. One must realise that a very high percentage of motorists in SA do not have any insurance cover for it is not compulsory and when renting a car it is important to understand that you remain liable for the damages to the car irrespective of where the fault lies. The higher the insurance cover the better. This is expensive and is a grudge cost but far better to have.

Renting A Car In South Africa

8. On Arrival What Do I Need To Do When Collecting My Rental Car?

Go directly to the designated car rental office and ensure that you have with you the following:

  • Your driver’s license which must have a photo and description in English, or must have an accompanying English translation if in another language. An international driver’s license is another option.
  • Your passport
  • Your credit card must not be a debit or cheque card.
  • Any additional drivers must accompany you with their respective licences and passports.

Ensure that the time you actually sign for the car is entered on the rental contract.

When having the car handed over….Check…check and check again and ensure that every mark, scratch or imperfection is noted on the hand over sheet and this includes chips on the windscreen. Take pictures if necessary.

Check the tread on the tyres and also check that the spare tyre and the tools are there. This sounds a bit pedantic and especially when you are tired and irritable but vital if you are to avoid being held responsible for damage you did not cause.

It goes without saying that you do the same when you return the car, so leave enough time to do so.

HAPPY TRAVELS