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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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 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.
Looking to hire a car in South Africa?
Star Car Rental has been dealing with local and international visitors for 20 years. We offer a transparent quoting process so you know you are in safe hands when visiting South Africa.