The Vacation Car Rental Experience…only Satan tries harder


Do we never learn? Einstein told us, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Clearly the great man never rented a car twice. Millions of people are now on holiday, not quite believing the rental car experience will again be torture like the time before…but BINGO! It is. You could be hiring a car in the South of France and waiting outside under the blazing sun in a two hour queue. Your shoes are melting on the pavement and your children gently poaching, whilst inside the air-conditioned offices that only seems to hold four customers, the two counter staff seem to swap shifts every ten minutes. In sunny Miami you fall asleep upright with jet lag in the car rental line, as the couple ahead of you spend an hour looking for their driving license and telling the assistant they definitely had it when they put their teeth in and slipped on their incontinence pants that morning.

As predictable as a guilty politician’s ‘no comment’, the model of the car you hired months ago is no longer available. However the rental car company can offer you a replacement within the same category…a former communist country run about, the Trabant, with no aircon, manual gearbox and the reliability of a cheesecloth condom. And then, when you are frustrated and ready to commit murder; salvation! A surreptitious wink and you are offered an upgrade for only a few dollars more a day. You sign on the dotted line and wham!, the nominal day rate increase for your luxobarge pales against the extra cost of insurance, collision excess insurance, content insurance, medical and personal injury cover etc. You half expect an additional fee because you might have orange hair, walk with a limp or are an alien. Suddenly the bargain $250 rate for a week break that you grabbed after searching for hours on balloons to $1, 250.

Your kids are visibly shorter as they have wilted so much and your wife has used the Wi-Fi to file for divorce (perhaps they should sell ‘Divorce While-in-a-Queue’ insurance)? The desk jockey whips your credit card through the machine gouging out a deposit large enough for a down payment on a small yacht that also blows your card limit before you’ve even started your holiday. Another bonus is if you are caught speeding by the cops or on camera, the rental company immediately take the fine off your card. And the cherry on the top is you pay so much per day for a sat-nav that in no time you could have bought it; only you would never actually do that as the previous user had locked the language to Swahili and you can’t understand a word. All this before you leave the airport.

...and another thing

On returning the car if you forget to fill it to the tippy tippy brim you get charged a billion dollars a gallon when they top it up. Despite just wanting to dump the car off quickly as you are late and need a pee, you wait nearly as long to return it as you did to drive it away. Some inspector checks every inch of the car with the zeal of a school headmistress looking for nits in the students’ hair. Then the bus never turns up to take you back to the terminal, so you all walk. When you get there you remember you left all your CDs in the trunk and the toddler still in the baby seat in the back.

...and another thing

At least console yourself with a quote from American writer P.J O’Rorke

“There’s a lot of debate about what kind of car handles best. Some say a front-engined car, some say a rear-engined car. I say a rented car. Nothing handles better than a rented car. You can go faster, turn corners sharper, and put the transmission into reverse while going forward at a higher rate of speed in a rented car than in any other kind.”

Enjoy your holidays

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One Comment

  1. Tony Ritz says:

    Geez! I can’t stop laughing. That is the perfect, most accurate description of the whole agonizing procedure. . . . and I thought it only occured in the States. We’ve all been there and it never gets any better, . . only worse.

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