Saturday, 11 October 2014

Economy Car Rentals (A contradiction in terms)

Economy Car Rentals 

I would like to share with you the start of a nightmare holiday in Portugal and also give you the benefit of our observations on this experience!

Hiring of the Car

This was our third trip to Portugal.Our relations generously give us the use of their house in Central Portugal and to reach their house and get about we usually hire a small car from Lisbon Airport.I surfed the net and found a web site called Economy Car Rentals who gave a choice of Hire car firms that operate from Lisbon Airport.I chose a firm called Gold Cars after paying an insurance premium to Economy Car Rentals to Ostensibly   cover the first €1200  of any potential accident that we might have! At mid day on the 9th September we picked up a smart Fiat Panda and decided we would drive to Peniche for a swim and bite to eat.

Nightmare at Peniche

 Imagine the scene,a bright sunny day,azure blue sea ,a great start to the holiday ! I parked in a busy car park just above the beach at Balleal.We unpacked our costumes and towels from the boot of the Panda,carefully leaving our hand bags in the boot away from public gaze and locking up.



We swam ,basked in the sun, ate a snack at a beachside cafe and finally returned to the car a couple of hours later.I didn't recognise our car at first .The only Panda had a large beach towel draped over the passenger rear side window.We realised why can as we came closer !The towel hid the fact that the window had been smashed ,scattering glass all over the back seat.We also noticed in horror that the rear seat back had been pulled forward and our luggage tampered with.When we opened the boot we realised that our hand bags had been taken in which were kept our passports,credit cards ,driving licences and foreign currency leaving us fairly destitute apart from 20 euro in Heather's pocket.
With the help of an english speaker from a nearby beach cafe we contacted the local police station(Thank the lord we still had our mobile phones !) who eventually turned up in a squad car,gave a cursory look at the damage and indicated that we should follow them to the local Police station.We spent the next three hours giving statements ,contacting insurance companies,British Embassy and the car Hire company "Gold Cars"who told us to drive the damaged Fiat back to their depot at lisbon airport.
We endured a breezy ,noisy, drive back to the Airport.The staff of Gold Cars examined the damage and told us to report to the shop in the foyer of the airport.We were there presented with a bill for 650 euros for a smashed window and a forced door lock and also had to pay for another hire car rental which was touch and go as strictly speaking without a driving licence we should not have been driving in Portugal !
This was the low point of our trip.Fortunately we managed to get my brother to pay for the cost of a hotel room for the night and the next day we obtained temporary debit cards from our portuguese bank which enabled us to pay for temporary passports (135 euros each Ow!) and we finally could resume our Holiday.
When we arrived home i tried to claim on the extra insurance I had taken  out with www.economycarrentals.com 
This insurance was supposed to cover the first 1200 euros of any potential damage to the hire car which was not covered by Gold Car's insurance.They told me to my horror that a break in to a hire car was specifically EXCLUDED from their policy.No mention of this GLARING exclusion was made in the promotional advertising on their web page.As far as i was concerned it was an all singing ,all dancing ,fool proof insurance policy.How wrong can you be!!!!!!!
The final twist of the knife in our financial belly was that our travel insurance which was taken out and endorsed by" The Mail " would not pay out for our theft of money ,documents and out of pocket expenses which amounted to over £700 because the theft was from "an unattended motor vehicle" (No doubt if we had been  sitting in the vehicle as the thief carried out the smash and grab we would have been covered ! NOT)

Anyway we learned a few grim lessons from this trip
1.Never leave precious documents and money in an unattended hire car.
2.Never leave advertising stickers on the back window announcing that it is a hire car !
3.Always keep precious documents on your person.
4.Take out comprehensive insurance with the car hire company for damage to the car and not with a third party such as www.economycarrentals.com
5.Read every bit of small print including exclusions from your insurances.
6.Dont let the b......s grind you down !

The End






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