Renting a car at the airport in Rome? Be very careful...

Recently, we organised for about 36 people to fly to Rome for a celebration. We always knew it was going to be tough, moving 36 people (of varying degrees of travel-savvyness) around, but we suggested people hire cars and bring a satnav, and we were prepared for the worst.

Now, Italian road signage is not the best, Italian drivers are not renowned for their driving prowess or etiquette etc. etc., but you know what, our biggest problem was with the car rental at the airport, both airports to be precise!

Now, in my day job, I'm a scientist, and this kind of thing excites me, so bear with me. Six groups of people hired cars, four from two car rental companies in Fiumincino, two from the same car rental company in Ciampino (these are the two airports in Rome). Of the four in Fiumicino, two experienced problems. Of the two in Ciampino, well, both experienced problems and one experienced more than one problem! (Grazie a Europcar, by the way...) So on balance, we can say from the empirical data that Fiumicino fared better than Ciampino, but lets look in more detail at what actually happened.



Fiumicino:

Budget car rental company:- 2 groups went with this company. Both experienced additional charges at the airport, on top of the price agreed and paid for on the internet. These charges included a road tax, a further insurance charge, a full tank of petrol (I think this one is actually legitimate) and extra mileage coverage ("oh, you're not just driving it to Rome, then you need this further cover"), all of which was on top of the agreed price. One unhappy family paid an extra €189 in total.

Ciampino:

There were a number of problems in Ciampino, the first of which has very little to do with the car rental companies.

When you arrive at Ciampino, you are greeted by about three coach kiosks (terravision, National Express and the local bus/metro option) and a caffe bar. At no point do you see any signs as to where the car rental places are. Even if you ask around (and this is on two different occasions), no one knows. Thankfully, we were with one of the groups and we knew that you actually have to leave the terminal and cross the road to a bus shelter with the words 'Autonoleggio'  (i.e. car rental) written on it. Once there, you wait for a small navette bus to come into view. This bus won't have any markings and the driver won't be looking out for you, so you need to keep your wits about you. The bus came sporadically about 3 times in two hours, although our two hours may not be representative (12-2pm on a Thursday afternoon)

Europcar car rental company:

The group we were with (my parents and sister) had hired a people carrier with Europcar and had confirmed everything including the price by e-mail and phone before leaving the UK. Once at the Europcar kiosk, they were informed that they would have to pay an extra €40 'insurance' charge, on top of the agreed price. They argued this (I know it's only €40 but my sister is not one to be argued with), ended up having to phone with their own phones back to the UK (the office in Ciampino said they couldn't do this themselves), who confirmed that they shouldn't pay the extra €40, while the guy at Ciampino said that the UK office was wrong and that they have to pay it. In the end, they got the guy to write a letter confirming that they did pay the extra charge, and then, after over 2hrs of trying to sort everything out, managed to get the car and get on the road.

Anyway, I don't want to write a totally negative post, as I know these things happen and often it's no ones fault, but I do feel there is a 'cowboy'-element to all of this and I expect these are not isolated experiences either in Rome or in other airports. The thing is, you're at the airport, you need a car, so you almost have to pay whatever they want, then try to get everything sorted out afterwards. It just leaves a bitter taste in the mouth. I guess you just have to be careful when renting a car, and be prepared to stand your ground when they spring unexpected 'charges'.

OK, that's my rant over. If you want any more information on this kind of thing, I've found this article in The Guardian newspaper (UK) on rental car problems: http://www.guardian.co.uk/money/2010/oct/17/avis-car-damage


Oh, and the two groups at Fiumicino who had no problems? They were with Hertz*




*Although I'm sure all car rental companies are the same ;-)

8 comments:

  1. I regularly fly into Ciampino . . . I've never had a problem with Hertz . . . but my experiences with some of the others has been very, very disappointing. To put it succinctly . . . I now ALWAYS use Hertz.

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  2. I think you're right. Hertz seem to have the least problems.

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  3. No - I don't think all car rental companies are the same.
    I've had awful experiences with Europcar in the past and none with Hertz (or Avis).

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  4. Well *ahem*, I was trying to be polite ;) Europcar have been less than impressive in my experience.

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  5. Actually I have had problems with Hertz, they insist that a credit card is scanned prior to taking the car, and because of my personal circumstance I don't have a credit card, all I have is a prepaid euro card account on the unicredit bank and I had paid for the rental in advance with that, but the woman on the counter would not accept the card to enable me to take the car, so I was not able to have a rental car, which was critical for me as I was going with my wife to Sabina for a week and we needed the car. Eventually we gave up and went to another rental booth who would let us have a car using the unicredit card, but it would cost in excess of 400 euro for a week ! And as we had already paid 85 euro already to Hertz, the new charge seemed to be rather steep ! But we chose not to take that option and decided to use the public transport instead, luckily a friend in out village allowed us to use her car while we were there.

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