The ‘Dusseldorf Europcar’ Experience

We do quite a bit of European travel, generally hiring car’s whether that’s in Germany, Italy or Lanzarote. So much easier than standing in that queue at the airport waiting for a taxi. We pre-order online, choose the car make and model we would like ahead of time, always automatic as they drive on the wrong side of the road (haha!). We add our flight number and arrival time, as well as the return drop off time. Well thats perfect as they know you are coming, right? Until you are stood in front of the desk ready to pick up your car….

My husband loves to try out different cars, especially this past year as we are in the middle of the ‘shall we change the car’ discussion. Downside is he tends to book large hire cars abroad! Challenging from the start getting down the ramp out of the airport let along keeping them in between the white lines and preventing me from squealing as we get too near to ditches or parked cars on the passenger side!

We regularly visit friends in Germany, arriving into Dusseldorf but with a 1 ½ hr (or more with the traffic) drive to our destination and minimal practise driving on a different side of the road. With random trips in the year, one that is set in stone is a long weekend, mid-December ‘Christmas Tree Cutting’ tradition which is so special. The last couple of years my son and his girlfriend have joined us, which has meant even more luggage and a bigger car to rent.

We always have booked Europcar ‘BMW 530D luxury’ car – or similar. And there is the catch! What does the ‘or similar’ mean? Looking back, always my husband gets upsold at the counter. December 2022’s trip, we booked the BMW but ended up with a long wheel base S Class Mercedes – one with rear wheel steering, which we only found out while trying to reverse into a tight space! Not complaining – well only about the price maybe – it was a super lovely car with all the latest technology, which both son and husband took great delight in. Massage seats in the front, head up display, place for the champagne in the back seat – oh and very funny, I found a button in the back, pressed it and the passenger seat, complete with son in it, started to fold forward into a bed!

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December 2023’s Europcar Experience

We spotted an MB GLC 200 4M listed in the ‘Premium’ cars when we came to book this year. We had to put the request in, had a ‘This is a high demand car, we need to confirm it will be available’ message and waited for the confirmation back. Hubby received this happily and looked forward to test driving it as a GLC was a possible purchase option. We arrived on time, mid-afternoon in Dusseldorf and headed to the Europcar counter. Where we were promptly told…

….they only had 3 cars available, 2 were too small for our needs and the third was practically a BUS! What happened to the special MB GLC we requested and had confirmation of Europcar?

Normally even tempered, I lost it! They didn’t even have anything similar to our ‘order’.

…the car rental companies are just not organised enough to ever give you the car you ordered. Why? Are we the only ones feeling this? Of all the cars we have pre-booked we have NEVER got the one we ordered with Europcar. Next Germany trip, we will book Hertz, or Sixt… anyone other than Europcar!

The Italy Experience – Avis

May 2023 we headed to Milan, Italy for friends 20th Wedding anniversary party – they hired the beautiful Intersenga aggratourismo for a group celebration. Situated in the picturesque town of Vignale Monferrato, in the Piemonte area of north Italy we excitedly booked our flights and car through British Airways – Avis car rentals this time.

We had an early flight out of Heathrow, arrived to check in to find the flight was cancelled but BA had not informed us. To be fair, once the BA holiday duty manager contacted me, they rebooked the flights for the next day and said they would organise moving our car rental too. It was a pain in the backside, but we returned the next day, our flight took off but several hours late due to bad weather. We arrived at Milan, Malpensa at around 7.30 pm so much later than we had hoped with an hours drive to Intersenga.

We went to the Avis desk. They had classed us as a ‘no show’ from the previous day. BA had not contacted them, they said. The rep was incredibly short with us, told us they had no cars and then got up and left us standing at the desk!!! We were astounded!

Wow, that was interesting. Knowing it was pretty late, we raced around the other car rental companies mostly whom were in the same position, no cars at that time of night.

Hertz came to the rescue!

They would find us something! Which they did and were so helpful and friendly it diffused the stressful situation. Downside was it was a BIG car – again! Just what we needed to drive around those small winding Italian roads of Vignale Monferrato. Eternally grateful to them though for finding us a car.

And in case you are wondering, no BA have done nothing about Avis’s actions, despite a claim form and complaints from me.

The Lanzarote Experience

Lanzarote makes for a pleasant and often longer stay away during the winter months for us. It’s a small island, lots of visitors – especially over Christmas and New Year. Renting a car is so practical here, it’s really easy at the airport and the taxi queue’s tend to be long. We understand they must do a lot of juggling – hey they can’t just magic cars from a nearby large town, like in Germany you would think.

We still don’t get what we order, which is normally a Peugeot 2008. Something much the same size, class, technology is always substituted – often a make of car we are not familiar with. Amazingly, over the many years in Lanzarote, we have no complaints, no hassle and always plenty of cars to choose from. Any additions requested, like booster seats for children etc, have always been suppled. We generally use Cicar and it’s been a good experience.

But wouldn’t it be better if all the rental car companies agreed to promote the cars they ACTUALLY CAN SUPPLY!.

Conclusion and Questions: What prevents rental companies managing the requests for specific makes and models of cars? How can they confirm requests but then regularly not fulfil them? Is having the range of cars for you to choose from just a marketing ploy? Do they promote makes and models online that they don’t even have? Is it not being able to control car returns that causes the issue? Do they just not care about fulfilling their customers requirements?

It’s a bit like ordering fish and chips but being brought chicken and a jacket potato. What would you do in that circumstance?