GN Focus | Auto Rentals and Leasing

Getting better mileage

Salesmen are notorious for portraying lemons as great finds or hiding costs and benefits. Here's how you can beat the business and get your money's worth

  • By Iona Stanley | Special to GN Focus
  • Published: 16:35 June 18, 2012

  • Image Credit: Gulf news Archive/Atiq-ur-Rehman
  • A line-up of rentals available in Sharjah

If you are travelling with children or have a lot of luggage, you will need a large car. If you plan to make a style statement with clients, you will want a luxury model. And if you are simply looking to drive from one place to another, the smallest model will do. Just remember that the price you pay for a rented car will depend mostly on the model you choose, and the difference is simply staggering. For instance, at Fast Rent A Car, a Mazda 2 is available for Dh112.50 per day, while BMW 740Li, BMW X5 and Mercedes S350 models cost Dh2,750 per day.
Another key factor that determines how much you shell out is the period of time you plan to use the car. If it is for a couple of days, major international rental firms such as Avis, Budget, Dollar, Hertz or Thrifty are your best bet. However, if you plan on renting for a week or longer, try asking some of the smaller domestic firms, and you may be surprised by the bargains on offer.

Online and onwards
Some of the most comprehensive car rental websites in the UAE are www.rentalcars.com, www.rentacardubai.net, and www.lowcostcardubai.com. Besides checking booking engines to get an idea of current market rates, also visit the websites of car rental companies. They often offer discounts and special offers. Buying online will also give you the comfort of comparing rates without having to listen to ceaseless sales patter.

Special deals
Many large car rental firms are affiliated with frequent flier, credit card, or other loyalty programmes, and you may get a discount or some added benefits if you do your homework well. For instance, an AAA membership may get you free breakdown service on a rented car. Likewise, consider joining a hire car company’s loyalty programme prior to or during your booking. These vary in nature, but most of them are free and entitle you to many privileges. Besides, your information will be filed on their system, and you can simply choose your car and drive off, instead of waiting in queues and filling
out forms,
 

Daily and weekly rebates
Some companies offer discounted rates over the weekend, but a weekly rate is usually the best bargain of all. For instance, a Toyota Camry for Dh176 per day may also be available for Dh862 per week, and you will save money even if you use it for only  five days.  Although it is convenient to rent a car at the airport, it is often costlier. A Travelocity study states that renting at an airport costs 11.5 per cent more than renting at a neighbourhood location. If you have a choice, try and pick up your car from a hotel or downtown destination, unless the company offers the same rate throughout the country. Company policies differ based on the number of outlets they own, and it is best to cross check rates for pick up and drop off points. At RentalCars.com, the day hire rate for a Mitsubishi Lancer varies marginally from destination to destination — pick up from Dubai Media City is Dh118.63, at Abu Dhabi’s Salaam Street it is Dh126.79, and at both international airports, it is Dh121.69.
Surprisingly, if you choose to pick up the car at Salaam Street and drop it off at Abu Dhabi Airport, the price drops down to Dh118.63. On the other hand, Budget charges the same rates for picking up a small car at Emirates Towers, Sharjah Saif Zone, and Fujairah City. Although Thrifty UAE offers one-way car rental inside the UAE, they do charge ‘an additional nominal fee’ for not dropping it off at the same destination.
 

All those extras
A care hire contract often lists many optional extras but only choose it if you really want it. For example, Budget Rent a Car offers Collision Damage Waiver at Dh25 per day, which protects you if car is accidentally damaged, and Personal Accident Insurance for Dh10 per day, which provides extra protection for your passengers. If your credit card, health insurance or travel insurance already covers these elements, you can easily avoid paying the premium. Infant, toddler and booster seats can be hired for about Dh75 per day, but if you remember to carry your own, you don’t have to pay for it.

The best bet abroad
Ask your travel agent’s help in finding the best car rental firm for every international visit. Different companies serve different cities best, and a knowledgeable agent can save you much time and effort.
 International car rental companies usually have four categories of basic rates: a daily rate with a mileage charge, a daily rate with unlimited mileage, a daily rate with a limited number of free miles, and a rate with free mileage over an extended period. In addition to the rental rate, many countries charge 10 to 30 per cent by way of taxes, and/or a Value Added Tax (VAT). At some international airports, firms also charge an airport surcharge fee, which amounts to about 10 per cent of the basic rate.
Familiarise yourself with the company’s policy on petrol when you book your car. While some firms charge a flat rate and expect you to return with an empty tank, most others will assess a charge based on their own (inflated) petrol rates. Petrol is usually cheaper at stations, and it is prudent to fill up before returning the car if you are expected to return it with a full tank.