For the trip back home to Liverpool this weekend we hired a car from Hertz. It had been booked long before my pleasant experience at Sixt so couldn't give them the benefit of my business two weeks in a row.
The car was fine (a 1.6 Ford Focus) - nothing special but it did the job and was pleasant enough. The interesting thing was how hire companies make money.
The Car Hire business is ferociously competitive - private customers will make their decision based on 1) price, 2) convenience of pick-up/drop-off location, 3) opening hours and 4) good/bad previous experiences of recommendations I imagine.
The hire companies have realised that price is where most people concentrate (hence the appeal of EasyCar's seemingly ridiculously low headline rates).
We chose to pay a "Location Service Charge" so we could return it to London City Airport last night (nowhere else was open on a Sunday and they charge extra for airports). In addition, the second driver and the CDW added to the cost.
So far, so expensive - but basically honest.... we wanted some extra services and we were charged for them. Well, the second one was sold to us... but it's their privilege to train and incent their staff to do this.
However, there are some other charges that are more underhand. A French couple in front of us last night were supremely upset when they realised they'd been charged extra because one of them was under 25. They didn't object to the charge in principle (even if the staff member did incorrectly tell them the charge was there "by law"). Their complaint was that the online booking didn't mention it... the price they were quoted was not the price they paid. Not good.
However, if they had been vigilant, they'd have spotted this earlier and could have made alternative arrangements had they wanted to.
The charge I was most impressed by was the "special offer" we were presented with at the counter. The sales pitch is essentially: "It's a pain filling the car up at the end of your journey... you're tired and it's the last thing on your mind. You can buy the fuel from us now... just return the car without filling it up and don't worry about it. What's more... our fuel is much less than the local garages (about 5p less per litre)".
What could be better than that?! Fantastic... where do I sign up?
Not so fast.... what you're about to pay for is a full tank. So, no matter how much you bring back, you're still charged for the full tank. I calculate that you'd have to return the car with less than 3 litres of fuel in the tank to come out on top with this deal. Far from reducing the stress at the end of the journey, it would have magnified it.... "Please let there be enough fuel to let me limp back to the airport!"
Tsk, tsk Hertz.