Imagine my situation. I’ve been stuck on the M25 for more than hour. Traffic is moving at a pace akin to Michael Rasmussen’s current attempt at the Tour de France. I’m going nowhere. We finally pass the accident that happened on the otherside of the motorway and those people who had brought traffic to a near halt finally decide to focus on their driving. Things start to move. Freedom! I finally hit 5th gear but then it strikes. A stone flicks up off the motorway and chips the windscreen of my rental car. It is no fault of my own but I know that I’m going to have to pay the cost of replacing it. Ennuyeux!

Unfortunately this situation can happen but to help you make sure that this doesn’t hit you too hard on your wallet we’ve launched our Windscreen Protection product in the UK. This product essentially removes all liability for damage to your windscreen on your UK rental and costs £1 per day, up to a maximum of £7. It is not available to pre-book but you can ask for it when you collect car. Unfortunately we are yet to find a solution to the M25!

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m4s0n501

Thankfully I have been unaffected by the flooding (Xavier is still stuck in his home in Oxford) but I have been keeping tabs on the BBC website and I have been hearing all kinds of stories on the radio. Stories are also coming in from our own staff but none quite as epic as this one. Karen Joce, our station manager at Exeter Airport, recounts how she and a colleague became embroiled in the weather disaster that is currently affecting our country…

“Nicky and myself both volunteered our services to Jenny at Birmingham Airport, so that she could go off and happily get married and have her team with her to help celebrate. Nicky and I both live in Plymouth, one could argue the furthest point away within Region 2 to help cover, but nonetheless, we were not phased by the epic journey to man the desk for 5 hours.

We set off in plenty of time leaving Plymouth 12.30 on Friday 20th July, this day I’m sure will go down in history. We went via Exeter just to make sure both teams we were leaving behind were all OK. At this point no problem. We merrily chatted away about the business (of course) and then gossiped about everyone (as you do) and then settled down into what appeared to be an ok trip.

How wrong could we be!! It started to rain just as we passed Bristol, nothing too bad – wipers went on and we carried on. The motorway matrix signs started to flash 40, mmmm we thought, we carried on at a crawl. At junc 12 we came to a standstill, the rain was heavier, the phones calls started to be made. It was 16.10, we knew we would not make Birmingham Airport by 17.00. We contacted regional office and Birmingham Airport starting to advise them of our predicament. At 1740 we had traveled less than a mile and at this point we realized with the best will in the world we would not make Birmingham Airport. We notified Marcus and proceeded to come off at Junction 9 to turn around and come back home, feeling miserable at failing our mission to help out the guys at Birmingham Airport.

We spotted the sign, 1 mile to junction 9 Tewkesbury at 1745, at this time we were acutely aware of the southbound carriageway now grinding to a halt, our misery deepen at the prospect of turning around only to find ourselves sat in another jam the other way (it’s not as if the scenery would have been any different!!) I grabbed the map and came up with a plan of action to take us away from what was now a huge Car Park.

Right, I said, we’ll come off, turn left then left again down the A38 towards Gloucester, onto M5 J11a and then we’ll be on our way again. Wrong!! We passed houses that had the flood water up to their front doors, cars at this point were being abandoned on the roadside, traffic on the otherside heading towards the motorway was not moving, we still had belief in our plan B and kept going. As we headed down the A38, other motorists were shouting ‘Turnaround, you’ll never get through.’ Seeing is believing and we carried on until we saw for ourselves there was no way out. The A38 and A419 had been closed so we quickly turned around and headed back the way we came, only to find to our dismay the road to take us back to Junc9 was now also closed. We were well and truly stuck and it was now 22.50. What were we to do?

We parked up on a grass verge, one of many cars settling down for the night, local radio kept us advised of the closures and how thousands of cars are trapped on the M5 due to it also being closed. In some ways we felt lucky, we had managed to find a garage where we were able to stock up on supplies in readiness for the long night.

Marcus kept in touch, we were advising him of the conditions so he could let customers know not to head this way. Poor Marcus ended up do a double shift from 16.00 through ’til 07.00 because Craig who was coming in to takeover from us could not make it in either.

At 23.30, we covered ourselves with anything we found in the boot, luckily I got the picnic blanket, turned off the lights and settled down, if only!! Helicopters were flying all night rescuing people from their homes just a few miles from where we were. Fire, ambulance and police all charging up and down the road blue lights flashing, it resembled a scene from ‘Casualty’ not a very restful night.

At 01.45, the last update from the radio informed all stranded motorists to settle down for the night and wait for morning in the hope that the flood water would have subsided, provided it stops raining!!! At 04.55, light was appearing over the horizon. We both sat in a daze, clearly we could see the road back to the motorway had not been opened. Do we continue to wait or now that we could see where we were going, do we try to find a route through? We headed back down the A38, passing many motorists still snoozing and turned onto the A419, only to see casualties of the night before. Cars stuck in flood water, one vehicle upside down in a ditch and motorists still stranded looking around in utter amazement.

We forged a plan to head away from the area whilst still keeping in a southward direction. We went through Cheltenham OK and headed onto the A417 towards M5 junc 11a. We finally at 06.20 got back onto the M5 southbound and the road was clear. Excitement and relief came together as we laughed wondering what the hell we had just been through. Misery was still apparent on the M5 north as it was still closed. We felt nothing but pity for those still stuck.

We refreshed at Michaelwood services in readiness for our quick jaunt back down the M5 homeward bound to home and bed. Finally, we were back at Avis Plymouth at 08.10, with a realization of achieving nothing and yet experiencing so much!”

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We’ve had our share of problems in the recent floods with many locations surrounded by water and losing electricity over the last couple of days. Fortunately, most locations are now open in some capacity. Only our station in Oxford remains closed. Our key corporate accounts are asked to liase with the station and their booking department to ensure we can best meet your needs. For those corporate accounts who qualify for a delivery service, where possible other local stations will deliver your hire car subject to roads being passable. All other customers who are having problems returning a vehicle to a particular rental station because of the flooding can either return the vehicle to an alternative Avis location or keep it until it’s feasible to return it at no extra cost.

We won’t be taking any more bookings in affected areas until we’re in a position to provide normal service, but will do our best to meet any existing reservations. Please do contact your rental location if you have any concerns.

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Well I’m stuck at home today in Oxford as the town is currently under a “serious flood warning”. I’m pleased to say that I have already managed to move the surround sound system upstairs (priorities!).

If you are in the danger of driving into a flooded area today, the best advice I can give is to avoid driving at all. Sometimes this can be unavoidable and in this event I have supplied some tips for driving through floods…

• If the water looks deep or fast-moving, do not attempt to cross!
• If you do drive through a flooded area, drive slowly in first gear but keep the engine speed high by slipping the clutch – this will stop you from stalling.
• If you drive too fast through standing water you can lose control of the steering as the car ‘aquaplanes’. If this happens take your foot off the accelerator and hold the steering wheel lightly until the tyres grip again.
• Remember to test your brakes when you are through the flood, before driving at normal speed.

You can keep up to date with the latest news on today’s weather and traffic conditions on the BBC website or by listening to your local BBC radio station. Please remember to drive carefully!

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The BAA have warned that the dates between Friday the 27th of July and Monday the 30th of July will be London Heathrow’s busiest weekend, handling approximately 850,000 passengers, according to a report on the travel news website e-tid. The BAA are advising passengers to be prepared with the current hand baggage and liquid restrictions picked out as particular causes of delay. I would advise taking the time to familiarise yourself with these restrictions and security information is available on the BAA website.

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I’ve read a number of questions on other car hire forums asking about age restrictions for young drivers wanting to rent a car so I thought I’d take this opportunity to clarify what our policy is on this.

In the UK, the youngest age our customers are allowed to rent a car at is 23; however, all drivers must have held a license for minimum 36 months. If you are under the age of 25 a “Young Driver Surcharge” will apply at a cost of £39 per day (incl VAT), per driver. Drivers under the age of 25 are only eligible to rent vehicles in Car Group A (example Peugeot 107), B (example Peugeot 208) or C (example Kia Cee’d).

There is no upper age limit for renting a car with Avis in the UK.

The minimum/maximum age limit and the cost of a young driver surcharge can differ by country so remember to look out for this and I would suggest checking at time of booking to find out what these are. If you would like me to clarify what our policy is for a specific country then let me know where you are travelling to (by posting a comment below) and I’ll be more than happy to get back to you.

* Prices quoted are for rentals collected from “Standard” locations. Rentals from “Premium” locations will be higher. Please check the prices during the booking process.

 

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It is my pleasure to post the first blog from the Fleet department at Avis UK. As the Fleet Director, I have responsibility for the buying and selling of all the cars that our customers rent. The supply of cars is a topic that generates a lot of interest from all our customers and staff. Many have been asking questions such as:

- Why does Avis have particular manufacturers and not others
- Why are only some models of cars available and not others? (e.g. we have the Peugeot 207 but not the 107)
- Why can’t I always get a diesel?
- When will Avis be getting new models on fleet such as the new Ford Mondeo?
- When will we be introducing a “Green fleet”?

Over the next few months, my team and I hope to address most, if not all, of these questions. However, in my first blog, I’d like to share with you a simple summary of how we choose the cars that we take on fleet.

The starting point is our customers. I work very closely with our sales and marketing teams to understand what type of cars our customers want. The car market has expanded enormously to cars of every shape and size and we need to put together a fleet that meets our customer’s requirements and expectations. Our customers want a straightforward and clear choice that starts with the size of our cars (how many people, how much luggage etc) and then expands to recognise customers desire for different levels of comfort (engine size, premium brands, convertibles). This choice has recently extended to guaranteeing certain Select Series models (e.g. VW Golf and the Audi A4 and A6) which are listed on our website. We also need to ensure that all our cars are supplied safe, clean and reliable as well as being available at a competitive price.

We then work very closely with the manufacturers and other suppliers to source the required cars. The most cost effective way of providing these cars is buying new cars and then holding them for a limited period (generally up to 12 months). This ensures that we provide the safest and most reliable cars. However, we are only able to buy cars that the manufacturers want to see sold as “nearly new” as all our cars are sold again either by the manufacturer or Avis after less than 12 months. This explains the reason behind the variation in makes and models that our customers experience.

While our primary focus is ensuring that our customers are able to get a car that meets their expectations, we also have to buy a mixture of make, model and specifications to ensure that we have the right fleet for our final customer – the buyer of the nearly new car. The result, we intend, is that we will always meet our customers expectations in terms of the car group booked but often we will exceed, even delight, with higher specifications. We are only able to guarantee the higher expectation, though, if the higher car group or Select Series cars are booked.

I look forward to sharing more details with you on how our fleet is developing next month (as an example I am delighted to welcome Citroen’s award winning C4 Grand Picasso on fleet in the next few weeks).

Please keep your questions coming in.

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Manchester tramManchester has reinvented itself as a contemporary metropolis with modern landmark buildings, a vibrant source of art and culture, great bars and amazing hospitality. It has every experience imaginable, from fine dining and top class theatre, to major sporting events and year-round festivals. As the gateway to the North West of England, it’s also just a short trip from some of the World’s most beautiful countryside and historic towns. The Lake District, with its 16 Lakes, the Peak District and the Yorkshire Dales are all easy day trips from the city. 

When I visited recently, I went to the Lowry, home to the largest collection by LS Lowry, a year round exhibition programme, two theatres and a restaurant. It’s a stunning building and contains some amazing artwork. However, if shopping is more your thing, you can always try the Manchester Arndale, officially the busiest shopping centre outside of London or the Trafford Centre, which has over 10,000 free parking spaces. 

First class chefs, fresh local produce and great service combine to make eating out in Manchester an experience in itself. Ultra-chic restaurants include Stock, The Restaurant Bar and Grill and The River Restaurant within the fabulous 5 star Lowry Hotel. 

When you decide to visit, Avis has offices at all three terminals at Manchester Airport. They are located in the arrivals hall in Terminal 1, and across the road from the arrivals hall in Terminals 2 and 3. Once your paperwork is completed, your car will be waiting in the adjacent car park for you. Our top tip from Nick, the Manchester Airport station manager is to provide us with a flight number on your reservation, which will let us know at which terminal you are arriving. This is especially important for Avis Preferred members and reservations with child safety seats.  

To return your car at terminal 1, follow the signs for Departures and then follow Car Hire Return signs to level 11 of the car park. For Terminal 2, follow signs for Departures, then Car Hire Return signs and leave your keys at the Avis office on the bottom floor of the car park. For Terminal 3, you can return your car to level 5 of the car park. If you return during office hours, our Rapid Return agents will check the car and give you a receipt, after which we guarantee there’ll be no further charges! 

Have you been to Manchester recently? If you have any recommendations, post a comment and let us know.

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I was having a flick through the 2007 Spring edition of Roadsafe magazine and came across an article that reported on some research conducted by the Dutch research institute TNO. According to the research satellite navigation has significant road safety benefits. A summary of the findings include:

  • Sat-nav improved driving behaviour in an unknown area with drivers stopping 25% less frequently with over a 50% reduction in inappropriate actions such as ignoring traffic signals.
  • 78% of users feel they have everything under control when using sat-nav therefore reducing stress levels while increasing levels of alertness.
  • Reduces distance driven by 16% (so is good for the environment) and reduces time spent travelling to an unknown area by 18%
  • Drivers without sat-nav are 12% more likely to make an insurance damage claim for their vehicle.

I have to admit that having sat nav would have saved me a lot of stress last Friday when I got lost trying to navigate my way home from Clapham Junction. I parked my car at the station to watch Kent play Surrey in the Twenty20 cricket game at the Oval and I managed to waste a good hour of my time due to a very poor sense of direction!

If you want to book a satellite navigation unit then Avis GPS is reservable when booking your car hire through www.avis.co.uk (for locations where Avis GPS is available). If you are renting in the US then unfortunately the Where2 sat nav (the product we use in the States) is not yet bookable on the website but you can still request for this to be added to your booking by calling 0844 581 0004.

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Jaya the orang-utanApologies for the delay in responding to your blog comments this week. I’ve only been logging on intermittently as I’ve just got back from a short break in Jersey. We flew from Southampton with Flybe, on a short 25 minute flight, yay! I rented a car from the Avis Licensee in Jersey operated by Falles Car Hire and I have to say they gave me great service. My flight was delayed due to the extra security following the recent events at Glasgow Airport and so I wasn’t at the hotel on schedule to have my car delivered. You might remember I’d booked a Mazda MX5 and didn’t have room for my luggage :o) No problem, they gave me my car at the airport and dropped my luggage to the hotel for me. That was really great, thanks guys!

I stayed at the fabulous Club Hotel & Spa in St Helier, and if you want to you can read all about it in my review on Trip Advisor (I’m EiboNewbury). I have to say the customer service skills demonstrated by the staff there were the best I’ve ever seen anywhere. However, the highlight of my trip was my visit to Durrell (formerly Jersey Zoo). It was my husband’s 40th birthday and I adopted an orang-utan called Jaya for his present. We went to visit Jaya and met all sorts of interesting people and found out about the fantastic conservation work that Durrell carries out worldwide.

As it happens, Avis in Jersey supports Durrell and do a lot of partnership activity, which can be seen by the car in this photo. (My husband hid with embarrassment when I stopped to take the photo). So if you’re stuck for a present for that special occasion, adopt an animal at Durrell! You can get to Jersey really quickly if you live in the south of England with Flybe and rent an Avis Car from the airport to get you to Durrell to go and visit your adoptee:)…

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Please note:

The details of all blog posts are correct at the time of publication. Information and offers are subject to change without prior notice. Please check www.avis.co.uk for the most up-to-date information.

All comments will be moderated so there may be a delay in your comment going live. We will filter out anything that is confidential, inappropriate, abusive, defamatory, profane, or anything considered as spam or an advertising link. We promise not to cut something just because it's not favourable to Avis.

We ask that if your feedback is regarding a past rental, you include your reservation details (which will be removed from the live post). If your comment is a customer service issue, you can email customer.service@avis.co.uk .
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At Avis, we really do try harder. We pioneered blogging in the car rental world and we aim to make our blog much more than just an information source. You can use our blog to ask questions or tell us what’s important to you when you hire a car. We try harder because we care what you think, so we really do value your feedback.

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