Ugly Cars – I rented one

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Rent-a-cars amaze me. The concept that I can turn up in all sorts of weird places, someone will hand me the keys to a car and I can drive off continues to delight me. But if there’s one thing worse than airlines loading on extra charges – see my recent Ryanair blog – it’s rent-a-car companies. Particularly in the US.

I need a car for three days in New England, picking it up from Boston airport. A quick zip around the websites and I decide to go for Thrifty – I have absolutely no allegiance to rent-a-car companies, my Hertz No 1 card or my Avis Wizard card don’t seem to make any difference when it comes to renting a car.

Dodge Charger

No, this is not a Ford Fusion, it’s a Dodge Charger

The daily rental for my Ford Fusion is US$53.19. Now I know there’s going to be Loss Damage Waiver (‘this is not insurance’ says the Thrifty website, but that’s just lawyer-speak), but nowhere on the website does it say what LDW is going to cost! Something like US$22 to 28 a day I reckon, in fact it’s US$23.99 a day.

So on top of US$159.57 for my three day rental there’s also US$71.97 for LDW. Very wisely I opt to pay another US$12.99 a day (US$38.97 total) for satnav. So we’re up to US$270.51 right away.

But then all the weird extra charges start to jump on board, starting with a ‘Rental Vehicle Surcharge’ of US$10. What does that mean? You pay extra to rent a car because it’s a rent-a-car? Thrifty don’t seem to be sure either when I ask. Ditto for a daily ‘Customer Facility Charge’ of US$4 a day, so another US$12. Then there’s a ‘Rental  Parking Surcharge,’ which is equally mysterious although that’s a bargain, just 60c. Ditto for three days of the 45c a day ‘Energy Recovery Fee.’

Then there are the percentage charges , starting with a ‘Fleet Tax Recovery Surcharge’ of 5% (US$8.05), quickly followed by a ‘Concession Recovery Fee’ of 11.11% (US$31.16) and finally ‘Massachusetts State Tax’ of 6.25% (US$20.19). Yes, I know those percentages don’t compute. Altogether there have been 9 extra charges totalling US$194.29 on top of my original US$159.57 rental fee! So I pay US$353.86 in total, 55% of which is extra charges. No wonder it’s my worst rent-a-car value of the year.

Oh and I didn’t get a Ford Fusion.  I’m handed the keys for a Dodge Charger, a horribly ugly vehicle which underlines why Chrysler have just gone bankrupt. I guess rent-a-car companies are picking them up cheap. Never mind, there’s an even uglier car: the Cadillac Escalade.

Cadillac Escalade

Cadillac Escalade

When Tiger Woods collided with a tree, a fire hydrant and a golf club wielded by his wife the vehicle of choice was a Cadillac Escalade. Photographer Helmut Newton – he of the erotic, fetishistic, sado-masochistic (I’m quoting Wikipedia here) images – was in an Escalade when he died. When rap stars shoot at each other it’s often from an Escalade. It’s the classic bling-mobile, the axle-of-evil.