What was your best and/or worst holiday hire car?
Worst: Nissan Micra, in Ireland. So little power it struggled with any incline. On one hill, the Bus Éireann to Belfast overtook me on a single carriageway road. I was foot down in 2nd gear and losing speed the whole time.
Best: Nissan Patrol, in Cyprus. It was about 10 years old and looked 30. Very beaten up and dirty. Paid in cash, up front, no credit card details, with instructions to leave it in the airport car park with the key in the wheel-arch. Spent a couple of days driving it around the mountains, trying to remember lessons from that one off-road training course I went on in the 90s.
Worst was a Dodge Grand Caravan which I was convinced had something catastrophically wrong with its steering rack, but was later told by American friends that that’s just how they make them.
Best was a car I wouldn’t look twice at over here and previously found far too bland to consider owning: a Toyota Auris 1.6 petrol (MkI). The mountainous, decaying roads of rural Greece would be terrifying in many cars, but the Auris lapped them up. Its very blandness became reassuring predictability in a tricky driving environment.
The Best Worst one I ever had was Chrysler 300C with a 5.7 HEMI in the states, ragged that thing 4000 miles in 3 weeks, I can still remember the smell of the smoke coming of the tiny disks when I stopped on Highway 1 in Oregon. And the magnitude of the divet in the bump after bashing it into the huge steel bumper of an RV in Salt lake city.
The Worst Best one was a pre smashed up Polo in Tenerife, at one point it nearly ran on 3 cylinders out off the four, took that back with the engine light and a smoking exhaust, only to be given a far more adequate (yet boring Clio)
I’m currently on holiday in Portugal. I’d booked my car through an intermediary and had a voucher that I was supposed to present to some bloke at the airport meeting point.
At the meeting point, there’s a bloke with a clipboard, so I ask him if he’s the person I’m looking for. He looks at my voucher and says no, but to keep an eye out as the person will probably have my name on a card.
I hang around for a few minutes, and spot my name on a card…being held by the bloke who originally said he couldn’t help me. I go over and point out that he’s carrying my name. He apologises for the confusion, drives me to the compound and gives me a car and off I go.
Half an hour later, I get a call from the car hire company asking when I’m going to pick up my car…
Anyway, it’s a brand new Audi A3 1.6TDi and it’s a bit shit but not as shit as the 1.0 litre Micra I once had which couldn’t get up my mum’s drive.
Hired a Seat Arosa 1.0 in Majorca once. Have to say that despite its (very hard ) 130 000 km it was as tight as a drum with no squeaks/rattles. Laughably under-powered ( hit the ac button when on an incline & it physically slowed ) we took to this little car so much we bought one as a runaround for my wife on our return home. A tough critter.
The worst one was a 2015 Ford Explorer in Florida. A 290BHP V6 hooked up to an automatic gear box, and front wheel drive only. Was ok as long as you didn’t put your foot down, otherwise lots of noise, lots of torque steer and not much else.
Best one, Toyota Yaris in Lanzarote. Well used and battered, not much go, but a lot of fun on the twisty roads.
Best: Peugeot 604, with 200k on it, in Casablanca. All banged up, a little smelly, but the best car to blend in on a road trip around Morocco. We put 2k on this beast without any issue whatsoever on a wide range of roads, including dirt roads…
Worst: Some crap underpowered american car I got in San Francisco airport. I don’t even remember what the brand/model was as is was as uninteresting as a car can get. With rattles galore, awful ergonomics, ugly plastics…
Worst was a Kia Venga. Can’t recall the details other than it was utterly hateful in every way. Slow, uncomfortable and a hire class lower than I’d booked (not a great start, I admit).
I hadn’t driven a Kia for years (since the original Nexia) and this was about the time that people had started to say “You know, Kias are just as good as [European/Japanese brand] really”.
This one wasn’t. Not even close. I took it back and got a Meriva Turbo which in comparison felt like an M5, so that’s saying something.
Talking of M5s, although not a holiday rental, my lovely wife was once handed the keys to an F10 M5 at Düsseldorf airport. It was only when I got back and she mentioned the ‘cool display reflecting on the windscreen’ that I quizzed her and found out she’d been handed the keys to the 560hp monster for three days as an upgrade.
Personally I would’ve forgotten the purpose of the trip and spent the time ragging around the Alps. In the end she drove it in heavy traffic to Rotterdam and back. She did confirm it was “quite quick” though. Welp.
St Lucia. Some noname 20 year old shit box with bald tires. Had to turn AC off to get up the hill. It did work like a turbo button on the flat though…
Worst: Renault Twingo, in Spain. Took it across the border to Gibraltar, four people up. Drove up the Rock to see the apes. Too little power, far too much body roll, clutch failed, lots of smoke. Hire company had to send a repair man to collect us, he took seven hours to arrive, then said we had to pay for the repairs as “steep hills” weren’t covered in the ridiculously large insurance waiver we signed!
Best: Ford Fiesta. Was expecting a Category A car, but got a free upgrade. Two choices for the Munich – Innsbruck drive: the boring E52 and E85 motorways, or due South, down the twistys over the mountains. Fiesta made it a simple decision.
Worst: a Toyota Corolla hired at Denver airport for the drive to Vail. Triple disaster: a) not much power anyway, b) a three-speed automatic and c) Denver 5000 ft, Vail 8000 ft, side trip up to 13000 ft, so thin air and even less power.
Best: a Clio in Madeira
Back in 2006 I was sales manager at a Hyundai dealership. I attended a friend’s wedding in Australia, after which my wife and I were to spend 5 weeks touring the east coast by car. Mrs had booked a hire car – can you imagine my dismay to find an old shape, 3 door Hyundai Accent had been allocated to us at Airlie Beach? I was hoping for a Commodore, or Falcon.
To be fair, the little beast lapped up the 3000km we put on it over unmade roads and the like, and we were genuinely sad to hand it back.
Two weeks later we hired a Camry from Brisbane and it was rubbish (the car, not Brisbane). No faster than the Accent and used twice as much fuel (although it still only cost £12 to fill it up).
Worst – well 3 in a row from the same company. Had a Toyota corolla delivered with a bald tyre (down to the wire) which was mean to be a Mazda 3! This was replaced with a Honda jazz with faulty a\c and then replaced with a Honda crv that got the abs light on every time I hit a bump or pothole.
Lincoln Towncar – had to repair the cruise control 400 yds from picking it up, because there was a vacuum pipe noisily trying to suck up my shoelaces.
I took it into the desert and did some Special Stages. It literally looked like the 911 in Bill & Ted’s when I dropped it back. $70 surcharge.
I haven’t had many hire cars (in fact I think I’ve only had two) so it isn’t hard to figure out the best and worst.
A new shape model, about a month after they first went on sale. Very comfy for a long motorway schlep through Spain, and five-up with luggage, it was averaging an indicated 55mpg. At 95mph.
Mk5, 1.6 petrol. With the exception of a Meriva fitted with the same engine, it was the most gutless piece of crap I’ve ever driven. The seats were a bit pants, too. Steering was kind of heavy for a power-assisted car, but still felt numb.
I picked up a brand new, delivery milage Golf from Keflavic airport in Iceland.
10 days later I handed back a filthy, very gravel chipped Golf showing little sign of the original colour. They seemed perfectly happy with it.
After a couple of long delays, picking up a then brand new Fiat Panda at Malpensa airport near Milan. Driving for a couple of hours, not finding the hotel at Lago di Garda. Finally finding the hotel after driving the wrong way down a one-way street. We were met with an old, angry woman expecting us several hours earlier. She saw the car: “Is that the new Panda? BELLA! BELLA!”
Later on the same trip, I passed two Lotus Elises on a twisty mountain road in the same car. Definite highlight!
The worst: Chevrolet HHR.
The mistake was to choose a car because of what it looked like – admittedly a slightly dowdy cousin of the Chrysler PT Cruiser, in that very brief window when the PT Cruiser was fresh and cool; and before it became something driven by older folk who wear clothing with pictures of cats on.
It looked good in the hire car depot and even for a couple of days after that. Then the looks started started to grate.
So off we went round Florida.
Handling is generally irrelevant in the States, suffice to say that the factory probably didn’t have a ‘chassis guru’, a ‘handling guru’, a ‘ride guru’, a ‘suspension guru’ – or indeed anyone who could be bothered to set up a car.
The bar was presumably set at “does the steering wheel turn the wheels?” and “did we put the suspension on?” – and in those resects, they met their targets. Admirably. Compared to something European? You’d choose a bike.
The interior could best be described as ‘generic’. It fulfilled the requirements of having an interior, so that was another box ticked. Admittedly it was devoid of flair (and mostly devoid of design, but it had approximately the right number of gauges, switches and knobs (mostly put within reach), so no great problems.
Where it went rapidly downhill was the realisation that the HHR had been designed to look ‘neat’ and they’d not bothered with anything else.
The driving position was pretty much what I’d imagine sitting in a postbox would be like: a small slot to peer out of, with my head trapped against the roof. About as much elbow room, too.
Not a problem for a ten minute journey across the parking lot, but a very real pain in the neck on a cross-State trip. Also a pain in the back, the arse and the legs.
Engine? Yep, it had one. Under-powered, inefficient and insufficient to deliver anything approaching joy.
The rest of the interior was generally hamstrung by the 1940s-inspired exterior design, in that ergonomics and packaging had been mostly ignored.
An American car that can’t swallow a Samsonite case is perhaps more a symptom of a failing motor company than a reflection on the failings of a designer, but either way the interior space was near-useless.
A lesson, therefore, learned: don’t choose a car because of what it looks like from the outside. Because the inside will be more redolent of a previous age than you might have been hoping.
The HHR may have said “hey, welcome to America: here I am, a re-incarnation of the dream of car-ownership for all but with a modern sassy twist”, but it turned out to be a washed-up former dancer living in a trailer park, with a pile of empty whiskey bottles under the bed.
The next time someone offered me the choice of cars in an American car hire depot, I looked for the Japanese badge. Okay, it’s not a slice of Americana, but at least it works properly.
The best: I’m strangely partial to Fiat Pandas on Greek islands. Don’t really give a stuff about ride, handling and so on as long as I can pootle along with an arm flapping in the breeze. Would probably drive me mad back here, but just the ticket in the warm.
Special mention: a Matiz. No power (to the point where we had to turn the aircon off to go uphill) and a woefully useless chassis but it brought delight on certain bends when I realised that it was possible to utterly confuse the suspension with 100% repeatability. Nearly turned it over, mind.
I hire so many cars for work in Europe that they merge into one long bland can I get the Bluetooth to work or not procession.
Best car (for the job) was a upgrade from some very nice Ladies in Rome (it was my birthday and I was having a S**t day) to a big Fiat badged SUV Chrysler thing.
While not a great car it was great at the job as on the dual carriageway on the A1 (I think) it was big enough that I simply couldn’t see the lights of the Audi 2 feet behind flashing to get past to be 50yards further up the road as we all snaked our way past the continuous stream of lorries up the hill. (note to those interested if you want to see a small Italian go puce with rage just accidently slow down to the speed of the lorries.)
Worst hire car was arriving late into Zarrogoza in Spain with some long journeys ahead to be given the keys to a 1.2 Corsa.
“I’ve booked a diesel golf”
“Yes we know”
“If you don’t have that then you have to give me something bigger”
“They are all booked”
“This is the only car we have”
No apology, no nothing, it’s this or walk.
It was a miserable underpowered heap of crap, but it was tough, I tried very hard to break it but failed miserably.
A holiday isn’t a holiday unless we get a fiat Panda. What a joyous experience bombing around in the little fiat is. I love the fact you’ve got to change down for the hills and the luggage area takes a tooth brush – none on this matters, its an excited puppy that only wants to please.
Worst was a 6 person holiday, booked MPV got told at the desk I’d been upgraded to an A4.
“Hmm how many easts does that have?”
“can you count how many of us there are, I’ll lend you some fingers if that helps… ”
BUT ended up with a 14 seater mini bus, the kids were ecstatic and took it in turns to have a whole row to themselves. Parked it like a local and had a real blast.
Once had an original Austin Mini as a hire car. Bloody ridiculous of the company to hire out something so massive; I couldn’t even see above the steering wheel without using my special cushion. Loads of room in the back to have a scamper around though.
Worst: Opel Astra hired in Cyprus. Its pathetically weak petrol engine was so gutless, I needed to turn the A/C off when joining motorways. Utterly joyless in every possible regard.
Best: Saab 9-3 TTiD hired in Ireland. I’d accumulated a fair number of Hertz Gold Club points, and got given this monster of a twin-turbo beastie as an upgrade. The first time I took diesel seriously as a performance fuel.
Flew into a Hick American town miles from anywhere in Kentucky on a business trip.
Only one car hire firm there – but I’d booked my car (standard size) well in advance.
“Sorry Sir we have no cars available” – “what! I have one booked!”
“Sorry Sir we only have one car left in the whole lot – and thats a Mustang – so I don’t think you’ll want that? – but if you do take it we could let you have it for what you ordered”.
Wahaaay – Mustang for a week – best car hire deal I ever got.
Best : a Buick Lacrosse CXS, back in 2007. We booked a cat. C but were upgraded to this cat. D sedan. Did 3000+ miles in two weeks, around Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho, Utah and some more. Nice swoopy design, quite comfy inside, but not as spacious as I thought. Satellite radio was a nice gadget, but the music playlists became rapidly predictable, as usual in America.
I only found out after a week or so that the CXS was the range-topping version, with 240hp under the hood. Not dragster material, of course, but enough to safely overtake a row of trucks on the highway. And I certainly didn’t drive it on Bonneville Salt Flats, even though there was nobody watching, because that sort of thing is frowned upon by car rental firms. I certainly didn’t reach 60 mph only because the noise was incredibly loud, like driving on gravel, and didn’t spend a while looking for a car wash later in Salt Lake City because the salt is incredibly sticky.
Worse : a Chrysler PT Cruiser, a couple of years later, in New England. Not really what I expected as a cat. C car. Ridiculously small trunk space, with nothing to hide the luggage from the rear window. I only have vague memories about this car, such was its blandness.
Not really a hire car but about 15 yrs ago I needed to hire a car in Ellesmere Port to sort some family business out in Leeds but due to “licence irregularities” I couldn’t hire anything.
Scanning the free ads paper I found a 1990 rover montego with 2 months tax and test for £150.
Purchased it for £85 and £20 to insure it meant I had a usable car for peanuts.
It has to be the worst car in the history of cars EVER!!
Not hired anything since.
Only hired one and since I have no frame of reference it will be called best-worst… or Beorst (a Scandinavian singer?)
It was a Clio 1.2 brand new on a 14 reg plate with 1 mile on the clock! I picked it up from Glasgow airport for a honeymoon in Scotland.
Something metallic was loose in the passenger A-pillar which rattled all the time, the doors creaked, and the slightest pot hole or dip in the road at anything over 30mph resulted in such a surrounding body-wide clang you expected the front wheel to overtake you and enjoy a quick sojourn into a nearby loch.
I spent a week driving up and down the Rest and be Thankful, and returned it 1,500 miles older.
Worst – Fiat Stilo, to drive around Iceland in. Lousy gearshift, awkward seating positions and a rubbish motor. Plus it looked ropey. The only plus point was that on the final day we noticed a huge gouge in the top of the tailgate – couldn’t work out how on earth we’d managed it, but were all ready to lose the deposit. On shame-facedly pointing it out to the guy on our return to Reykjavik, he just laughed. “Oh, Ziggi did that the day we picked the car up. Boy was the boss pissed.” No, I don’t know how we missed it signing the car out in the first place…
Best hire car:Silver Vauxhall Corsa. Didn’t even get round to checking the engine size, but picked it up from Glasgow airport on a Sunday morning having discovered that there were no car hire places closer to Gretna Green open at a weekend. What made it so good? We’d been stranded at Gretna when our 1936 Aston Martin gave up 2/3rds way through the(vintageant only) Flying Scotsman Rally. Hung on to the timecards, route book etc and picked the event up just before lunch & ran through 2 regularities & all the checkpoints picking up signatures before signing in at Gleneagles (though we drew the line at running it through the triumphal finish arch with accompanying bagpipes). The looks on the marshals faces when we poked the timecard out at them were priceless. It also gave us a thoroughly enjoyable run back down south on the Monday – and quieter & easier on the motorways than the Aston too.
Worst: Between a Proton Waja in Malaysia and a chrysler sebring in Florida. We got the feeling that they’d run out of cars we caught the presumed owner clearing out Road atlases and loose change from the Waja. Good fun in a shit box sort of way.
The sebring was just a bad car. I wrongly assumed there was a fault with the steering as it was so vague. A quick test drive by the chap at the hire company and apparently that’s how it is. I couldn’t believe a modern car from a developed country could be so poor. Off ramps added unnecessary excitement to otherwise dull driving.
Not a holiday one but whilst I was in a long term hired C180 the hire company asked if they could change me out as the mileage was getting high. I was about to go on holiday to France so I asked if they could sort me out with a diesel estate. Imagine my delight when I got issued with a delivery mileage 330d M Sport Tourer. When my 420d finally showed up I was actually disappointed 🙁
I love hire cars, I’ve been trying to think all afternoon of the best and worst, so here’s the best and worst top 3s for what it’s worth…
3rd Never let the mrs book the hire car. Got off the plane in Cape Town to find a base model Polo Saloon, doom blue, wind up windows, hubcaps and no PAS. After I’d stopped laughing at the lack of quality upgrade (nondescript Hyundai anyone?) the mrs learnt never to insist that she booked the hire car again.
2nd Daewoo Matiz at Vasteras Airport in Sweden. Booked the small car option just for transport to Stockholm and back for the day. I can still smell the brakes and clutch when we dropped it off that evening.
1st Ford Fiesta at Malaga Airport. Never let the sister in law book the hire car either. Man with clipboard in terminal proudly showed us to a 90,000 km 5 door that had clearly seen better days. Oh the embarrassment of arriving at upscale Costa del Sol locations in something that I’d give £250 for in part exchange…and even worse was that I wasn’t allowed to visit a local Ford dealership to ‘borrow’ a radio aerial or hubcaps for it….
3rd The Yellow Camaro. Walked in to the Hertz garage in Houston expecting a V6 (which I would have been more than happy with) to find a bright yellow fully optioned 6.2 SS waiting for me. If you overlook the too thick A pillars it’s a fine car to blast between Houston, Austin and San Antonio in, and not only was I invited to enter a car show in it, I also talked my way out of a speeding ticket in it!! In the words of the waitress at a Sonic drive-in, it sure was ‘ a sweet ride…’
2nd So you book a large Cadillac sedan as this time in So Cal you fancy taking it easy, but Hertz have run out…so ‘how about a GMC Yukon instead sir?’ ‘Yes please’ I said!! Makes a Q7 look like a Prius, and the perfect car for everywhere from the Mall to El Mirage. I would have one of these for my daily driver immediately. Oh for Sirius XM and OnStar over here….
1st Well we’ve all hired Mustangs in the USA, and the Hertz Shelby Convertible (hahahahaha) will always hold a special place in my heart, but the 2013 Mustang GT Premium (yes, there’s a theme here) that took me from Vegas to Bonneville and back was truly beyond anything you could ever wish for in a car. Never mind the trip computer with the drag strip Christmas tree lights, the 24 mpg average I achieved, the amazing stereo, the covering of Bonneville salt it got, etc, it’s if you’ve ever in northern Nevada at 7am, southbound on that 30 mile straight (oh yes) near McGill, that you need a car that ran as fast and true as that silver bullet did….
My last foreign holiday was in 1987 on an island too small to need a car, but I spent 8 years working for a hire car company so I got to see things from the ‘other side’…
Car that accumulated the most complaints; Rover Metro.
I flatly refused to drive them anymore after one outing,a hateful little car-shaped-object with all the crash protection of a Styrofoam cup.
Car that accumulated the most praise; Skoda Fabia
No, I kid you not. This was when they first appeared and long before any stigma attached to that badge faded. People loved them. Personally I thought they performed adequately and without fuss, nothing to write home about but equally, no complaints either.
Shortest Rental Ever Award went to an American chap who managed to burn out the clutch in the space of 4 miles. After a hail of abuse from him I asked if he’d ever driven ‘stick’ before… no he hadn’t. He went elsewhere for a replacement vehicle and did the same to that the next day… lol indeed.
Best: Hmm. Fiat 500C as I always wanted to drive one and it didn’t disappoint. Teenaged niece and nephew both raved about it; roof came off and we fitted in it. It kept up on Hungary’s M1 and was fun to zip around town in Slovakia and across country roads I know pretty well.
Worst: Fiat Punto. My god, what can I say? Picked up in Nice to drive to the Var. I know, I’ll get on the A8, set the cruise at an indicated 140kph and relax a bit. Didn’t get up to 130, let alone beyond! Worse was to come: the road up to mothers house is a bit steep for maybe 20m. On one return from the shops I had to slow as I approached that bit. I dropped to first gear and gave it some beans. The car remained stationary, revving its engine against the clutch. No wheel spin (don’t be silly!), no progress: nothing. I had to back up and take a run at it. I also had a cross country spin in it to Marseille. It was fun as an Italian box should be when you kept the engine revving like a dentist’s drill and slung it around the N roads but the gutless motor lurking in the background spoiled the entire effect.
Best: Transit van which definitely had a different dashboard and drivers door to the rest of the vehicle, steering wheel was about 12° off-centre on the column and various warning lights flashed intermittently… so I abused it like it was a ‘ring taxi have never had so much fun on public roads.
Worst: some Daewoo/Chevrolet matiz/spark thing which was a perfect reminder of why £3.50 is not enough to build a car.
BEST Focus ST which was a wonderful drive (even if it did have gold wheels and stripes)
WORST Base spec Corsas and Novas
My tip is to use reputable companies as the cars tend to be in good condition and newish
Actually I have driven worse I was given a Dacia Dustbin by Enterprise and it was truly.hateful
Best: Vauxhall Corsa Pickup (!). Rented in Namibia to drive through various national parks. Always got us there without missing a beat (we saw a lot of punctures on other cars though). One night right before dusk we had to get to a protected camp which was too far to feasibly reach before it closed its gates for the night. So we drove 40kms WRC-style on gravel roads… One of the best drives I ever had 🙂
Worst: Chrysler Sebring Convertible. Rented in California to drive down the PCH from San Francisco tp L.A., I was very looking forward to this. Only to be bitterly disappointed by how obviously half-assed every single thing about this car was.
Worst – LDV Minibus for a charity ‘4 peaks in 48 hours’ event. Having to drive to and from the tallest peaks in NI, Scotland, England and wales (In that order), With a passenger list of 15 Military personnel with full kit.
I requested a 17 seater TRANSIT as I knew these had the comfort and oompf to do the job, The MT decided that the LDV van was cheaper. It was, it was also underpowered, top heavy and broken (You honestly cant understand the misery of a blue dashboard with Rover 800 air vents and Rover Metro switchgear, and mono radio cassette *broken*).
It wouldn’t even get to 60 mph let alone the limited 70 top speed, the brake discs were so warped it rattled your fillings out and gave you RSI every time you tried to slow down and it smelled worse than the vomit stained Skoda Suberb Saturday night taxi..
I even tried to sabotage it by bleeding air into the brakes so that it had to be recovered and a replacement given, They gave me an identical one with worse brakes :@.
Best – a boggo standard Dacia Sandero holiday rental in Tenerife, not the gutsiest going up that volcano, but a whole load of fun. I didn’t expect much from it so everything was a bonus. To be fair I was deeply impressed with it by the end.
Best: Trick question. No one has ever got a hire car that was any good. You could be given a free upgrade to a 288 GTO and you would still drone on and on about how dog slow it was and how much you had to thrash it to get anywhere. Similarly, the poor sod who didn’t duck out of the way fast enough at an office get together would be treated to your thoughts on how basic the interior was of the Maybach you rented the other day.
Worst: The one that some tedious tit goes on about at a social gathering. Oh, you went on holiday to some barely developed craphole and you hired some locally built motorised trap or maybe a SEAT and it wasn’t very good? Oh my word, you are discerning, aren’t you? You’re like Setright only more incisive. If your luck is in they will then start telling you all about the Michael McIntyre show they saw recently.
Worst – a Yugo Zastava running on three cylinders on a 300 mile round trip from Pula in Yugoslavia to Venice, with 5 of us crammed in it. The driver who delivered it zoomed off in a Mk2 Golf GTi, compounding the misery even more!
Best – a beaten up Suzuki SJ jeep in Cyprus. Simply awesome on the mountain roads and took on off road tracks with aplomb that we couldn’t even walk down. Astonishing little beastie!
Not a holiday hire but,
Worst: Vauxhall Vectra Diesel Estate.
I was working in North London and travelling a lot.Needed a short rental while company car was out of action.
What could be more practical for street parking in North London than a diesel barge!
The car arrived uncleaned.The inside was covered with the fragarent aroma of wet dog and layers of dog hair on every surface.
Ragging down the M1 towards Mill Hill it started to rain. Applying the windscreen wipers, I discovered the cleaner bottle was empty and was left with a greasy smear. Remainder of journey was done with head hanging out of window ala Dumb & Dumber. Stopping at a garage to top up water bottle I found not only was the bottle devoid of any contents, just to make sure the pipes had been disconnected!
The Vexedtra lasted a week, at which point was replaced by the second worst rental car I’ve ever had, a Vauxhall Astra Automatic. This car had the most sensitive and erratic clutch I’ve ever come across. In heavy traffic driving, which North London generally always is it was possible to go through 3 different gears whilst crawling at the pace of a pensioners day queue at the post office. I discovered the easiest way to remedy this was to constantly leave the box in Sport mode. This did substantially increase fuel consumption and after two weeks the engine decided to let go one cylinder at a time, in Barnet High Street. On the first failure I called the rental firm and was asked to drive it to a convenient location for them to send a mechanic out. When I explained the very imminent terminal nature of the problem, they didn’t seem too bothered, so I drove to instructed location. Fortunately the side road was on a slope, as by this time the Vauxhall Ashtray had now lost all mechanical propulsion and I silently glided into the yard. Much head scratching from mechanic as he couldn’t “hear the problem” that had been reported to him.
Best Holiday Car Rental: They’re all good aren’t they, because they’re not yours 🙂
I’ve only hired abroad once, but I hire in the UK regularly as I don’t need a car often, instead I just have one for a weekend when I need it.
Best car: BMW 320d M Sport – fast, comfortable, economical, seriously mean looking car! Honourable mentions to Ford Focus and Fiesta, both cheap to hire and fun to drive.
Worst car: VW Golf Match 1.4 TSI BlueMotion – good radar guided cruise control, but otherwise low spec, bad radio, broken Bluetooth, no USB port for charging phone, small boot. Not a bad car, but disappointing given the Golf ‘premium’. Dishonourable mentions for VW Polo 1.2 BlueMotion (so uncomfortable I took it back as it had given me backache after 5 miles) and a functional but boring Hyundai i30
As they say in Germany, the fastest car on the road is a hire car.. two goods, a massive disappointment and a bad:
1) Zurich airport, no Astra to get to Germany, but “if you don’t intend to drive too far, sir, and promise to bring it back in three days, you can have the Audi TT.” A dab of oppo and I was AWAAY… Note that the A81 is largely unrestricted and the southern Black Forest has some nice twisty bits…
2) Recent drive from Brussels to Munich and back with a Peugeot 508 1.6 turbodiesel. Packed with exhibition gear, still did 200 kph on the autobahn when flat and a really nice drive.
Should have been the best:
Paris CDG, no Fiesta to trundle around, was given what must have been one of the first BMW 530d. Couldn’t drive it at first, all that low-end torque made it a wild on-off experience for a few miles. Driving around Paris wasn’t its natural environment either. To cap it all some Parisian wide boy stole the bonnet (no kidding) while it was parked overnight in the hotel car park.
Paris to Germany and back in a Citroen ZX estate non-turbo diesel with three km on the clock. That trip ran it in, would not get above 105 kph for 400 km, then started to inch up to 123 kph which wasn’t even the French speed limit. Noisy like in a cargo plane, no aircon, woeful, thank goodness they don’t make them any more.
The only one we ever had really….
Back in 2006, we went to Rhodes and didn’t really know what the hire car would be.
It was an almost new Renault Twingo! The original shape ‘proper’ one.
We loved it. It wasn’t fast but it went OK (think it had the base 60bhp 1.2) and it was just generally fun to punt around in. We always had the big sliding canvas roof open where possible (helped, as I’m quite tall and the roofline..er…wasn’t)
A/C was a godsend…kept the temp bearable on those 40 degree days. Took it all over the island, had to do what many have mentioned and turn off the A/C to get up some of the inclines.
Found another one, same colour, same spec, so did a phot of them ‘kissing’, awww, how sweet.
Went around a roundabout ‘our’ way by accident….which was a trifle scary, but emerged unscathed!
The car I was most embarrassed to REALLY like as a rental was a Pontiac Grand Prix. It had wide wheels, tinted glass and a leery low stance – but it did live up to its name and go like holy hell . . . priceless. The least appealing one was a Ford Escort in Minneapolis, thought “at least its a car I recognise so how bad can it be?”. Very is the answer!
Best: 2014 Boxster S. Rented a cheap box for a quick trip to southern California. Arrived at Hertz to see a line of upgrade Porsches. Couldn’t resist, so I talked the upgrade price down from asinine to merely absurd, then off we went. Road trip up to Joshua Tree, lots of dirt roads here and there, and got it up to 145 on the highway before my wife started yelling. 700 miles in 3 days; I was as impressed by the livability as by the performance. Fun.
Worst: late 70’s Ford Econoline 15 passenger diesel van on a work trip to northern Honduras. Or at least it was originally a 15 passenger. Floorboards so rusted the last few rows of seats fell out. Sliding door refused to latch and would randomly open, disgorging tools and bodies. steering took about 2 turn lock-to-lock before engaging the steering box, then another several before having any effect on direction of travel. Got flagged and searched by the Honduran National Police, even they felt sorry for us.
Worst? Was staying in flat in Milan that had no airconditioning. As it was August this was uncomfortable. So I rented a Smart Mk 1 which was the only car still available with aircon. Stupid hard suspensioned short-chassied piece of crap didn’t work on Milan’s cobbled streets. Or on the tarmac 1s either as they were full of holes. A trip on the Autostrada indicated that it was no motorway vehicle either. My attempt to try it as a track tool was thwarted by the Swiss Ferrari owner’s club who had booked Monza for the whole day for themselves, the greedy tax avoiding cheese eating swine.
Best? The Austin Maestro we drove from Malaga to Jerez and back. Not because it was a good car but ‘cos my travelling companion, a man in the motortrade was comically upset by the return to hire car company procedure for ages afterwards. “They never even looked at it” he would whinge. “If I’d known that I’d have had the pedal rubbers, the gear knob and the steering wheel out of it and done a very minty little clocker with it”
Worse: choice of two here, in the 90’s I was a regional tech manager for VW Group and remember a trip to the Isle of Man to the SEAT dealer, work organised me a hire care and I collected a Corsa diesel at the airport upon arrival… Long story short, I’m a motorcyclist, I love the Isle of Man and hammered the arse out of the aforementioned 35 mile on the clock new Corsa around as much of the island circuit that would allow me to do it without restriction. Unfortunately this meant a large amount of heavy breaking and such like associated helmsmansness… Subsequently when I dropped it back four days later…. And more than several laps it had horrendous brake vibration and wheel wobble,
Second one, a hire car in Portugal that clearly had been in some sort of ‘incident’ drove like a nail and spewed air con water over the ex wife’s feet on any right hand bend.
best? Mate from Europecar who intervened when I went on holiday to NZ one year and upgraded my booking for a compact car to a 3 series convertible which I took round the North Island. The look on the fellas face in Auckland when I collected it for a silly daily rate was priceless.
The Holden Commonwhore the rental company tried to get me to sign the initial condition report on before I got to see the car. They stated it was perfect, it was pretty well smashed up at the front. No dice rental knobs
The Holden commonwhore that the rental woman tried to force me to sign the condition report over before even seeing the car. Glad I didn’t as she swore it was perfect yet the front end was smashed up
I’ve had a couple of Corvette ZHZs – one a convertible – which were quite fun, though the drophead had something seriously out of whack at the front end which meant the steering got the DTs at 75 mph. And again at 150. The best, though, was an Audi S4 convertible from Hertz in Phoenix in 2005. Milled from solid, volcanic heater, 340 bhp, gearbox with A-levels, four-wheel drive. 5000 miles in 17 days. That I got blown into the weeds over eighty miles of twisty Colorado back road by some non-local in what was essentially a Vauxhall Astra (Pontiac Terrible, IIRC) was in no way yhe fault of the car chiz chiz.
Worst was a Chrysler 200 convertible from Tampa in 2011. I had a Sebring in 2003 – which was itself very, very shit – and this was the same car but with 200 more problems. So little power it was being overtaken by fully-loaded 18-wheelers on the climb up to the Eisenhower Tunnel and brakes so appalling they wouldn’t pass muster on a £39.95 mountain bike from an advert in the “Radio Times”. And it crippled my right ankle because the pedals were laid out by a monkey with size 5 feet. The instruments were invisible, the boot with the roof down was the size of Kylie’s hot pants and it got infested with ants in Mobile. Even Daimler-Benz couldn’t sort out Chrysler and now they’re owned by Fiat???
(Dis)honourable mention to the 2004 Mustang with 165 bhp from a four-litre V6. FFS, there were two-litre diesels in Europe producing more than that. How did the Yanks ever invent the Top Fuel dragster?
Worst: Chrysler PT Cruiser rented in Texas. Houston, we really did have a problem…
Best: 1988 Ford Thunderbird LX run in Orlando, FL. A V6 monster with so little power it struggled to turn corners with the power steering pump working overtime. About a foot longer than a Thames barge and slightly wider, too. More nausea-inducing ride-wise than a mobile waterbed. Metal seatbelt tangs which, when left in the Florida sun, reached 1,000 degrees centigrade ready for your return to the car and accompanying third-degree burns to your fingers every time.
But for pose, poise and noise – “awesome”, I believe would be our colonial cousin’s vernacular.
Best: Chevrolet Caprice, aka Holden Statesman, Dubai, 2003. A 300 horse V8, and a little light that came on at 75 mph. Had to keep checking that.
Worst: a Ford Cortina pool car with rusty holes in the bonnet. Not very suitable for visiting customers.
Worst: Toyota Corolla: It had no brakes. And when I say no brakes, at one point it simply failed to decelerate in any way
The Best wasn’t hired by me, but back in the late 1980’s by a mate who’s tidy-looking Mk1 Astra 1.6 was burning alot of oil, indicating a not unusual valve guide wear issue. He had a quote northwards of £150 to fix it.
I jokingly suggested he hire a new one for a day and perform a cylinder head swap – knowing he didn’t have knowledge nor tools for such an operation.
This backfired when he realized that I did and a bribe of twenty notes saw us performing said swap, sort of hidden away in Dad’s back garden one Saturday morning.
So well organized was the operation, (I’d insisted we remove the head of his car the evening before and had as much as possible ready to go) that he had time to also ‘swap’ a few other choice items from the newer Mk2 car like battery, coil, interior door handles, superior soundproofing and countless other small bits. We even re-uesd the gaskets back on the hire car. No idea how long it took the hire boys to notice, but he got away with it.
The Worst was earlier this year, a ‘sporty’ trim Yaris rented in Belfast. Although not expecting much of this free ‘upgrade’ from the cheapest ‘Chevy Spark or similar’, I was surprised at how mediocre it was.
A competant-enough chassis was overwhemled by awful non-linear steering, overly-sharp brakes, mushy clutch, a throttle with 1/4″ initial dead travel, pointless 6-speed box and at night feeble headlights. It was misery to drive in town and makes my Missus’ less than brilliant 2009 Aveo seem well deveolped by contrast.
Worst ever was a … Lotus! Which they said was an upgrade. Picked it up from the garage in the Midlands, pulled away from the lights and somebody tried to race me away in another and came straight into me at the curve. Bastard. Gave a sense of deja vu curiously, can’t think why. Going to Belgium soon and will be interested to see if my complaints get me something decent, like a Honda.
Best/worst – all in the same car.
Was sent to work in Athens for 6 months back in the late 70’s and needed something to get around the city in and go out at weekends. Traffic in Athens is dreadful so instead of hiring when I needed to, I bought a car from a student next door for 100 quid. A Morris 1100 he’d “imported” from the UK. It had no second gear, was covered in awful student graffiti and was in really crap condition, but it lasted 6 months and the other traffic kept well clear of me.
I “returned” it with the keys left in it at some random garages forecourt the night I left the country. Never sure whether I ever got it properly insured either, since I don’t speak Greek.
100 quid for 6 months car rental – now that’s what I call a good deal.
Worst – Daewoo Matiz. I got this as a rental through work, after asking for “a big boot”…..I am 6″4′, my leg jammed the steering wheel when I moved to get the clutch…shocking car!!!
Best – BMW 218d Touring. Had this last week in Italy. A great car, smooth auto box, nippy handling and a surprisingly good Aga under the bonnet. Plus very very good A/C thank God!!
Similar experience to Albert – my first car was a Peugeot 505 bought after discovering the horrendous cost of talking a hired van abroad for a week. It lasted a further three months and a couple of trips to the Frozen North afterwards too.
(1) Car: Seat version of Polo,but with Boot
Sad looking car with oversized boot slapped on. Centre of steering wheel covering air bag kept coming out in the heat, so was slapped gently back in, hoping not to triggered the air bag. 1.6 petrol but with aircon on max there was no way we could keep up with out friends who lived there in their TDI Audi A3s. I can remember the steering wheel being thin and that it seemed to drink petrol. Tried to give it to friends to drive to local night club at 3am, they went and somehow got back the worse for wear but the car was unscratched – staggered at their driving skills, but I decided not to go with them!
(2) Car: Citroen ZX 1.8 Auto.
Location: France –
High hopes it would be quickish, but it was a dog from the word go. Topped out at what appeared quick, but being young and on first trip to France we converted the speed to MPH and it was only 80 on the auto route with the engine/gear boxing screaming flat out. Had annoying key code pad that had been located so low down it should have been on the floor, not too many dramas but no idea how such a dull car was signed off!
(3) Car: Mitsubishi Space Star 2.0 TDI
Work hire car – brand new in black and kinda looked half decent with sporty wheels and roof rails. Things got worse on the inside, driving position was like an old Mini/Metro but not as good, felt like wheel was at weird angle. Also it felt like it wouldn’t hold the bends too well being a bit top heavy – went well in a straight line, 2.0 TDI, so after a big cloud of black smog was chucked out the back it did go well!
Car: Seat Leon Cupra R
Nice engine, rubbish stereo and rear wash wipe, it must have been last in the hand me downs parts bin from VW – but boy did it shift, did I say it had a nice engine!!
Best an HA Viva hired in Dublin to go across Ireland to Galway-I was 18 and it was free and so much fun compared with my 1965 (and very weary) Minivan.
Equal best A suzuki sj 413 with a tiny triple engine which was a hoot but couldn’t quite do soft sand on a greek beach.
Worst a Trabant Tramp hired on a greek island for its Afrika Korps looks. Made of cardboard, no discernible performance and a clutch so weak passengers had to get out to try to get up hills
I’ve hired many cars over the years on business trips and for holiday use. It would be easy to give the “worst hire car” award to one of the base spec Fiestas that would be handed to you as a loan car by the local Jag and Land Rover dealer, while your regular car was having accident damage fixed. Your fault or not, your penance is to drive a Fiesta for a few days. Another contender would be the ’97 Thunderbird I rented in Detroit that from the foot well oil stains, appeared to have been used to transport engine and transmission components by its previous driver. None of these was the worst, this award must go to the Cadillac STS that was rented to me by Hertz at LAX. A truly horrendous car that was trying to be a competitor for premium European saloons, but was never going to get close. What made the experience worse was it raining for most of the trip. Unusual in LA and with a 4.6 litre V8 and front wheel drive, not good for the Cadillac. Impossible to move off and keep up with the other traffic without spinning up the front wheels. Whilst waiting to move off, the suspension was so soft, the torque reaction from the wipers would be provoking noticeable movement of the STS’s body, a bizarre feeling that I don’t believe I’ve ever had in a car before or since.
As for the best car award, then I’ve also been fortunate enough to rent Camaros and Mustangs in the US, as well as large SUVs, like the Escalade (Cadillac would surely have died, without having these to sell) and a monster Suburban, but my favourites have been the three Dodge Challengers from Hertz, all in bright orange, one with delivery miles, all with a strange mix of German and US engineering. Underneath, it’s an old E-Class, on top it’s retro styling and has a push-rod 2-valve per cylinder V8 powering it. Unlike the Camaro and Mustang, you can get luggage for more than one person in the boot, OK it isn’t a convertible, but does have a reasonable sun roof. If only they were available in white with Colorado licence plates, and if those plates read OA-5599, but if Hertz knew how many times I’ve seen the original “Vanishing Point”, they probably wouldn’t let me have the keys.
The good the bad and the ugly.
The best have been a couple of Camaros hired in the US. Hard top for a trip from Altlanta to Nashville. And a convertible in Houston. Covered some memorable miles in the former especially along the Tail of the Devil. The convertible was good for a punt around the freeways. Yours truly being the only person in Houston travelling with that top down. Weird limeys.
The bad was a FIAT 126 in the early 80s. A sewing machine with wheels wasn’t a bad description. It couldn’t get the three of us to the top of a mountain road in Corfu. At least it couldn’t until two of us got out and pushed.
The ugly was one of my first hires in the US when the novelty hadn’t worn off. A Crown Vic I thought. Yes definitely a Crown Vic. Wallowy with a largish inefficient engine. On one straightaway, no traffic and sightlines until the horizon I thought I’d see how fast it would go. 55, 65, 75 past the speed limit. Got to 100 still pulling reasonably. Then at 110 it stopped accelerating. I could only figure it had a limiter on it. I didn’t ask when I handed the keys back to Hertz.
@The lone ranger: speed limiters have been a property of quite a few USAnian vehicles latterly; the one on the outgoing V6 Mustang being fitted by Ford, not the car hire firm. Without the limiter it’ll do about 140 but not for very long as the rear axle will explode.
@The lone ranger: Setting a lowish speed limiter means that the car company can fit lower spec. tyres (or should I say tires?), in Ford North America’s world, every cent counts.
Worst – Yugo 45. With a body kit FFS. Possibly the worst car ever made. Rented it as I was working at the RAC Rally (late 1980’s) and it was cheaper than walking. I actually drove the hateful pile of junk through several stages, God only knows what the assembled spectators waiting for the Integrales and Cossies of the day thought as this pathetic white shitbox wheezed it’s way through the forest to wherever I was supposed to be filming from. I even slept in it once.
Best – Early Mondeo, had great fun chucking it around back roads (another rally) at speeds only hire cars can achieve. Top fun.
Best and worst – same car. The Fiat Palio 1.0 Celebration is a bitch, and I spanked it.
Immediately after 9/11, travel just stopped in the USA for several months – the car hire lots were literally overflowing with cars and I could pretty much just pick what I fancied; had a Jaguar for a while, then a Lincoln Navigator which was great fun because it was so ludicrously OTT.
Best in Europe was a unasked for Hertz upgrade in Germany – from booking a Mondeo automatic to a Mercedes S class. That was a NICE car…
Worst? An endless procession of Fiat Bravo/Bravas from Roissy every damn week. Put me off FIATs for life
Can’t remember the make and model, but it was in Cyprus 4 years ago.
The car came with dog puke on the back seat. Still makes me laugh…
Worst is a tie between a 1998 Toyota Corolla in Iceland and a 2010 Chevy Cruze in Jordan.
The Corolla was a lovely shade of green but no power and wouldn’t go in a straight line without holding the wheel 10 degrees to the left. Not fun on Iceland’s many very-long-very-dull-very-straight roads…
The Cruze had even less power, auto box and Jordan is a shitty shitty place to drive. Everywhere is a hill, and everywhere that isn’t a hill is full of other shitty cars driven by lunatics.
Best, I guess, was the brand new diesel Astra GTC I got at Heathrow earlier this year. Lots of poke but extremely uncomfortable ride. One of James May’s Nurburg-tuned hate machines. Looks like that was so good either then. Oh.
A Daewoo Matiz.
Hired for a friends wedding up in Aberdeen, this piece of crap would wheelspin at every attempt to pull away, no matter how gently, and understeer at every corner. It actually burnt off some boy racers (in a 1 litre Fiesta probably) because they were too busy laughing at it. I’ve never driven a car with less grip.
We hated it so much that we found a seaside carpark where the waves were coming over the rail, and gave it a good salt water drenching. Hoping to shorten its life, reducing the potential misery it would bring to fellow humans…
Hats off to whoveer wrote this up and posted it.
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I cannot see how anybody can have the moral right to hurt another person? (In this post I ignore “legal right” as that is someone else’s judgement about what is right or wrong and does not necessarily accord with our morals).But I don’t interpret selfish in that way, at least I try not to these days.To me being selfish is to take care of ourself. Only IF we take care of ourselves will we be capable of helping another. To not take care might be….selfish!My problem is that when I help people I expect them to want the help I offer and to be damned grateful too! How selfish.
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Well-oiled car correspondent’s great lost novel is published at last, as he explains here
Brain boffins brand fresh form of mind maddery
Freddie Bulliard of the Gas Dandy website, merchandise business and podcast recounts a visit to last week’s Esposizione di Stile