Hertz is top pick for car rentals, but 40% of us don't read the fine print

By John Walton, February 1 2011
Hertz is top pick for car rentals, but 40% of us don't read the fine print

Did you know that rental car operators can take an unlimited amount from your credit card to cover damage to a car? 30% of Australians didn't, according to a new survey by Canstar, the consumer ratings agency. 

The watchdog is urging Australian travellers to check the fine print, because the survey revealed that 40% of us don't check the terms and conditions: "We’d encourage consumers to remember when they sign a car hire agreement they are signing a legal contract. It is imperative to read the full terms and conditions so you are aware of your rights and obligations, and the operator’s rights," said a Canstar spokesman.

But, as Australian Business Traveller reported two weeks ago, customers have new protection under the Australian Consumer Law, which has a new "fairness" test for terms and conditions.

The new law bans terms and conditions that are "not reasonably necessary to protect the legitimate interests of the supplier; and it would cause financial or non-financial detriment to a consumer".

In the Canstar survey, Hertz rose to the top of the heap among its competitors for customer satisfaction. Steve Mickenbecker, Canstar's head of research, had praise for the rental car giant:

"Hertz is not only the biggest brand in its category but it’s also the best according to its customers. It came out on top in the majority of categories, including overall satisfaction, service, availability, booking process, transparency of costs and availability of accessories."

Cost-conscious business travellers looking for a lower cost rental car prefer Thrifty, which came out on top among the cheaper set of hire car companies in the comprehensive survey of over 2,500 Australians.

But not everything is rosy in the land of car rentals. The most common complaints from rental car customers were:

  • Excessive fees charged for services, including petrol top ups
  • Not receiving the car model booked
  • Availability of accessories such as GPS
  • Quoted price being higher than the final price due to additional insurance charges and extra charges at pick up
  • Hire cars not coming with a street directory
  • Poor service, including excessive wait times before collecting cars and general helpfulness of staff

Of course, policies differ overseas and from country to country. We've been charged "cleaning fees" by Avis in Germany for leaving a bottle of water in the cupholder, something that wouldn't faze rental companies in many countries.

Ask our Investigator

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Email details to [email protected]. Please include specific details (such as claim numbers, bill account numbers, relevant dates, names of anyone you spoke with when you first complained to the company, etc) to help us look into your specific case. Please also include your real name, email address and a business hours phone number (mobile preferred).

John Walton

Aviation journalist and travel columnist John took his first long-haul flight when he was eight weeks old and hasn't looked back since. Well, except when facing rearwards in business class.

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