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Car Rental Stories
the good, the bad

These short tales are just some of the awful and wonderful car rental experiences that one person (one of the partners in this DiveTheReef.com) has had in Australia. (Before they learned where to rent their vehicles.) They are told to warn you what you might be getting into, and in hopes that you will learn from our experiences, and take our recommendations.

We could fill a book with equally ridiculous tales we have heard from car rental companies over some of the things their customers have done. The good companies deserve your respect; treat their vehicles well, bring them back intact, clean and on time, inform them of any mechanical problems or strange noises you notice. Thank them for taking care of you, and recommend the good companies to your friends.

If you are going out bush, double check the tires, fluids, emergency tools, and general operating condition of the vehicle, as you would if it were your own. Ask for a spare set of keys if you are prone to lose or misplace them.

Wheel off
Traveler goes on a quick demonstration ride in the first four-wheel drive he has ever driven, with a salesperson from the rental company. After having gone perhaps 400 meters, there is an enormous thump, the vehicle drops much lower, and the salesperson and traveler watch the right rear wheel of the vehicle go rolling by. The salesperson. in his nicest salesperson voice, asks “Would you excuse me for a moment?”, and goes running down the street after the wheel, much to the delight of the traveler. A quick discount was offered on the rental, which the traveler quickly declined.

Stick off
Our traveler (the next day, really!) still in the market for a cheap 4wd rental, visits another company and goes out for a spin. Downshifting going into a corner, the gearshift comes off, leaving the traveler holding the gearshift and its shaft, waving it around like a magic wand. It takes a long time to drive the vehicle back to the rental agency in second gear.

Flat tire in the bush
Our traveler takes a small passenger van out into the bus with a group of school kids. The vehicle suffers a flat tire, not an unusual occurrence on outback roads. The problem is that while the vehicle had a jack, there were none of the parts that lever or wind the jack up to lift the car, which is sitting in a 6’’ deep layer of bull dust. After grubbing around in the dust for half an hour, the group improvises and finds a couple of logs to lever the car up and change the wheel.

Flat tire in the bush
Our traveler, early in his car rental career, rents a four-wheel drive and heads out bush without checking one of the tires: not a good move. Murphy’s law proves true once again, as it turns out there is the oldest, baldest, most cracked up tire imaginable on the vehicle, of course it goes flat, and of course it is as far away as possible. When the traveler gets to a town he calls the rental company, only to find out that he must pay for replacing the tire (not reading the rental contract is another mistake.)

Since the rental company was not very apologetic about the tire, and the traveler is not very happy about buying a replacement tire, the traveler buys an equally old and decrepit used tire as a replacement. Two months later he gets his credit card statement, with a charge by the rental company for a brand new tire.

Lost bus
The traveler visits a rental company for the first time. There is one person ahead of him in line at the rental desk. The rental clerk has a bottle of beer on the desk with him, and two empties keeping it company. The general disheveled appearance of the clerk is a second warning sign.

The clerk is having a long and animated phone conversation with another employee. Seems the employee has decided to borrow the company’s only big passenger bus and take it out for a spin, just a short 4 or 5 hours down the coast. The customer at the front of the line has come in to pick up the bus, needing it to drive for a hen’s party (bachelorette party) in one hour’s time, and having reserved it several weeks prior. Traveler decides to take his business elsewhere as the phone conversation degenerates into coarse language.

Breakdown and replacement
Here is a typical good news story. Traveler embarks on a trip into the bush with a couple friends crammed into a small little 4wd. About 8 hours down the road one of the wheel bearings goes out, and the car cannot be operated further.

Fortunately, the vehicle has broken down 200 meters from the only pub and telephone for 40 miles in any direction. After having a cold one, the traveler calls the rental company. The company agent is apologetic, “I’m sorry we don’t have any more vehicles like the one you rented available. The only thing we have is a Toyota Landcruiser”. (A much bigger, plusher, more comfortable vehicle), “…but we can give it you at the same price as the one you rented, would you mind having the landcruiser?”

The next morning a big flatbed truck pulls up outside the pub, and offloads a shiny new landcruiser, (Our vehicle!) and loads up the puny, cramped, underpowered vehicle we had rented.

Keys locked in
Tired and worn traveler in a hurry locks his car keys in the vehicle, way across town from his home, and his rental agency, and it’s past closing time. A call to the rental agency finds someone about to head home, who drives out of his way to unlock the car.


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