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Car rental tips

Andrew Muzamhindo
Car rental business in Zimbabwe seems to be growing.

As both companies and individuals cannot afford to buy new vehicles they resort to hiring from rental companies that offer different packages and terms.

During the onset of the pandemic, rental car bookings dropped, leading rental companies to scramble.

Some went out of business.

They are now trying to replenish their fleets, but lack of vehicles is leading to increased demand and higher prices especially during peak periods.

The car rental industry itself in Zimbabwe is very different from overseas or established markets.

Locally, most car rentals do not own the cars themselves.

They pool cars from individuals who have idle cars and need extra income.

In most cases these cars are owned by managers from the private and public sector who get to keep their company cars every three to five years.

Instead of selling the car they at times rent them out to car rental companies who in turn rent them out to the public.

So, a car rental company will end up with access to lots of cars.

In the first world it’s easy for car rental companies to own their fleet.

They buy new cars every few years.

Their business model is very structured.

It’s usually cheaper to hire a car abroad than in Zimbabwe.

They have a number of packages as well.

Always negotiate

In Zimbabwe, because of the business model that is adopted by many car rentals you can negotiate for lower charges.

I always say there is no fixed price in Zimbabwe.

It’s one country that has almost every price negotiable.

This brings us to our first tip.

Always negotiate.

Car rental companies make money when their cars are mobile so always negotiate especially if they have idle cars.

Always research online

Remember to always research before you reserve a rental car.

Do your due diligence online first.

Nine times out of 10 we book with well-known rental companies such as Impala Car Hire, Avis and Hertz.

However, I have booked with third party companies and have never had a problem so don’t think they are all bogus.

These do not own a vehicle but pool vehicles together from corporates and individuals.

We now have websites that compare prices.

Use them.

You will get a better deal.

Your perspective might change after the comparisons.

These websites search through car rental players, provide lower rates, and may offer certain perks.

Book a car as early as you can

Do not wait for the day you want a car to start looking for one.

Look for a car a week or even months before you travel.

As soon as you know or think you’ll need a car, book it.

With low inventory and high prices, this will not only help you get a deal, but also get a car.

If you are travelling abroad or intercity by plane and you need a car at your destination, do the bookings simultaneously.

Avoid airport car rental locations

I know they are appealing and convenient but they do come at a premium.

It’s so easy to pick up a rental car right at the airport but you pay more for that convenience.

A few kilometres off the airport you are bound to get a better deal.

Almost always, there are dozens of other rental locations within 10 km of the airport where you can find a car at much cheaper price.

Cancellation policy

Always go for the one with a favourable cancellation policy.

One good thing with some car rental companies is that they have a cancellation policy that does not cost you a cent if you cancel within a certain period of time.

The Legacy Car Rental in Zimbabwe is  one such company with no cancellation penalties. They allow you to change your dates or cancel the rental entirely later on.

“One of the big benefits of hiring from us is that we are generally free to cancellations.

We allow room for speculation and we know that plans are always changing,” said Tinashe Nhengu the marketing executive of The Legacy Car Rental.

“Thanks to our flexible cancellation, you can also keep an eye on rates and cancel your booking if you find a better deal though I doubt there is anyone out there who will give you a better deal than us,” he said.

The Legacy Car Rental is a leading local supplier of transport solutions, mainly car rental services in Zimbabwe which is built on a philosophy of exceptional customer service.

Their service offering is designed to ensure client flexibility, comfort and convenience.

Insurance

Some car rental companies love to upsell you on their insurance plans, especially main line ones.

It starts during the booking process and will continue when you arrive at the office to pick up your car.

Sometimes, you must politely decline and they will not press any further.

In the developed world your personal insurance usually covers you when you rent a car.

This is one area that our local insurance companies lag behind.

Why don’t they cover their clients even when they hire a car from a reputable company? If you have your own auto insurance policy, it must cover collision damage and even personal liability for a rental car.

Do not rely on reviews but relationship

Do not rely solely on reviews.

Form your own networks, relationships and contacts in the car rental business.

I believe in relationships in business. Relationships are more long lasting than money.

Reviews are personal experiences and can be subjective. So, form your own personal experiences.

Most of the time it’s not what you know that keeps you ahead in life but it’s who you know.

Its paramount that you know the movers and shakers in the car rental industry and form relationships with them especially if you are a perennial vehicle renter

Always take pics of your rental car

If you sideswipe a pole with your rental car you might be charged for damages.

If someone ran into a pole before you and you did not notice it when you picked up the rental car you could be charged for damages.

Always, always, always, inspect every single rental car you get with great detail — inside and out — this is my most important rental car tip.

Take pics of the car with your phone before you drive off from the rental company premises.

Never assume that a scratch or ding is not important or big enough to note.

When you return your rental make sure you get a slip signing off that all was okay on the car.

Put up a fight if you think you are not the one to blame for the scratches or dings.

  • Follow andrew@muzamhindo.com

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