Thursday, January 19, 2012

Consumer Watch - Not-so-Cheap-&-Very-Nasty car hire

Dear Consumers,
       If you want to hire a car in Johannesburg steer clear of the one in Republic Road in the suburb of Randburg which has a large billboard on the roadside advertising cars at R99 per day.
         I had a lucky escape at Not-so-Cheap-&-Very-Nasty, real name Cheaper Car Hire after I went there because my brother-in-law’s daughter hired a car from there without any problems.
         That R99 sign is just a come on because the firm’s documentation that hirers get doesn’t mention it and has rates starting at R139 day.  I would love to hear from anybody who managed to get one at the lower price.
         When I phoned I was told that all the cars at R99 had been taken by corporates on long terms. Well, as I subsequently found out, no firm in it’s right mind would hire one of Cheaper’s old bangers.
         I was told the best rate was R139 a day for a minimum of five days. That turned out to be a lie as there was an additional admin fee of R91.20, which they didn’t mention when I phoned.
So that made this cheap hire R157.24 a day. Not so cheap after all. There Miss I-don’t-care was behind a desk and she certainly lived up to her name with very indifferent service that turned out to be almost as bad as the car I got.
After giving her cash for the rental and my credit card to cover the R5000 required in case of an accident she asked me for proof of home address in the form of a rates or telephone account for my home in Cape Town 1 500 km away. Who carries this with them when they travel and what other car hire company asks for this?
I asked Miss I-don’t-care if I could speak to the owner about this as well as her indifferent service and she replied I don’t care. According to her he was conveniently in Australia and the only name she would give for him was Craig. She was not allowed to give his surname, she claimed.
Anyway I managed to provide proof for the address of my daughter’s home in Johannesburg where my wife and I were staying and went out to inspect the Volkswagen Chico Golf that I was to drive.
The check list on the Pre- rental form had a cross next to gear lock and the staff member I was with explained that the U shaped pin that locked the gear lever had been lost.
 So I asked for a car that had one because I would not have been able to insure my own car without a gear lock. We looked at half a dozen other cars all of which had no gear locks so I ended up taking the one I started with. 
The bodywork had some dents here and there which I had expected for a so called cheap car but it was only when I drove away that I realised how bad the mechanical side was.
I had to push the foot brake to the floor to get it to come on and even then I had doubts about its efficiency. When I stopped at the entrance to my daughter’s townhouse complex after going only a few km I battled to start the car even though the choke had been jammed in the full on position.
I immediately returned the vehicle and on the way there I found the hooter didn’t work which was another indication that the vehicle was not roadworthy.
And, judging by the hire agreement I had to sign, I was extremely lucky to get my money back. Highlighted in the agreement was a clause that stated that I had to pay R590 plus Vat if I cancelled under any circumstances.
I only noticed afterwards that the check-list showed that there were four different makes of tyre on the vehicle turning it into a dangerous death trap, a tyre dealer told me.
As you can see from the insert from the consumer website Hellopeter somebody else was not so lucky. He got ripped off for R1 000 for a four day hire which he described as the worst experience I have had with a care hire co. 
Hopefully Not-so-Cheap-and-Very-Nasty’s unroadworthy vehicles will soon be off the road. I’ve given Superintendent Wayne Minnaar, the spokesman for the Johannesburg’s Metro Traffic Cops, details of my experience as well as the one on Hellopeter.
It turns out that the person that Miss I-don’t-care was making such a mystery of is Craig Freeman at He answers emails when they involve a potential booking, but don’t expect an answer when you have a complaint.
Surely Australia is not so off the map that they can’t get emails, but perhaps not with a address.
Jon, the Not-so-Wide-Awake Consumer Watchdog. 

 P.S. Rentalcars were offering cars in Johannesburg from R139 and they guaranteed they would be from leading suppliers such at Budget, Europcar, Hertz etc.

Buy my book 'Where have all the children gone?' on Amazon com It s a thriller with an underlying love story that defied generations of prejudice. 


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