Who would have thought that a truly innovative idea in terms of car rental would have come from Europe ? Well, I have to bow down to Stelios (Haji-Ioannu, founder of Easycar, EasyJet, Easyeverything.com and Easymoney among others) for having successfully transplanted the idea of no-frills into a car rental agency. All the more brilliant idea because it is a perfect complement to no-frills airlines : who would be willing to shell out more on a car rental than on a flight ?
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To top it up, most branches of Easycar are located either in cities where there are little public transport options (Nice, Liverpool among others) or in big cities where a large proportion of citizens do not own a car but would still like to have one from time to time in order to travel on weekends or simply when transporting bulky or heavy items.
Were talking about car rentals costing anything between U$ 2-30 per day. Most often prices are around U$ 15 per day, which is a great deal in Europe. I have used Easycar three times to date, and have been consistently satisfied with their service.
Heres how it works :
Bookings are done exclusively through their website at Easycar.com. Like a no-frills website, youll choose the rental location, pick-up and drop-off dates. The system will then quote you with an initial price. It will also show you a calendar with the prices for each day. Again, like airlines you can clearly see that renting during the week will cost you less. It will also be cheaper the sooner you book.
You can then choose a pick-up and drop-off time. Depending on the location youll have to enter longer or shorter time ranges (e.g. pick up @ 10 11 am or pick up @ 8 12 noon). By doing this, youll only have to pay fractions on the days you pick up or drop off instead of full days !
You should then enter your drivers license info, pay and print out the rental agreement which you are expected to take with you when picking up the car.
As Easycar is driven at cost savings, they wont have a counter at the terminal but rather in an adjacent building where the rent is probably lower. This means a certain walk is often involved as shuttle buses are obviously not provided.
You arrive at a big parking lot filled with Mercedes Benz A-class (thats usually the car they rent, although depending on the branch they will sometimes give you a tiny "Smart" or an Opel Corsa). Present your rental agreement, driver license and credit card, have your picture taken instantly by the clerk and then proceed to check out the car yourself for any bumps or scratches. If youre happy, just drive away, if not you should point out any bumps or scratches that werent written down.
Easycar has got a few surprising policies to save them even more money on personnel :
- Clean it yourself: return the car clean or theyll charge you with a (high about U$ 15) clean up fee. "Clean" is very vague: in Nice I picked up a car which was filthy on the outside, but returned it in the same state without any problems.
- Empty to empty fuel tank: in order to save on personnel (no one to check on the fuel gauge when you return the car) Easycar has chosen to operate on an empty to empty fuel tank policy. This means that you will pick up a car with hardly any fuel in it and are expected to return it in the same way. I find this quite annoying because its a hassle to pick up a car in a city you dont know and have to find a petrol station with that reserve fuel light on not knowing if youll have enough fuel o make it there ! Its also very annoying having to calculate just how much fuel youll need to put in so as to return the car with as little fuel as possible. Note : it is not forbidden to return the car with a full tank, but youd be a sucker to do so
- Limited mileage: you're entitled to about 100 miles per day. But then, this is Europe: distances aren't that great anyway and this serviced is designed for short-distance short-rental periods anyway.
Drop off is the easiest thing. Drive into the compound, park your car at one of the designated drop-off bays. Give your keys to the clerk and leave. DO NOT drop the car off late. A standard late drop off fee of around U$ 75 applies and they are usually quite unforgiving.
A great service that works very efficiently. Although the Mercedes A-class isnt the best car around, it certainly gets the job done, and it is fairly spacious too ! My last rental with them was in London where I picked it up at 5pm to go shopping for furniture at IKEA and returned it the next morning at 8pm. This cost me around U$ 15, less than what my girlfriend and I would have payed if we had used the subway!
Theyve been running a winter special in London where cars are going from as little as U$ 2 per day! Obviously they are a little more expensive on weekends, but this is still a great deal.
There are possibly only two letdowns: you cant cross international borders with these cars and you cant make one-way rentals, even within the same city. I understand that this is in order to keep the costs down. Another issue that can be raised is whether the quality of the cars will remain the same. For now all cars are brand new and immaculate, but will they be kept in good condition as they begin to get older ? Only time will tell
All in all a revolutionary concept that works. I hope the idea expands to other parts of the world.
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