Following the disruption caused by the closure of European airspace a number of customers have wanted to rent a car one-way to another country. There has been some press commentary on the levels of charges for such rentals and some unfounded accusations of profiteering. I wanted to set the record straight on this issue by explaining why Avis (and other car rental firms) have these charges in place.

As a consumer, rather than an employee of Avis, I can understand that a fee of €1,000+ for a one or two day rental might initially seem excessive, if not outrageous. However, when you begin to look at the costs involved for a car rental company in fulfilling such a one-way rental the picture changes somewhat and you can quite quickly appreciate our position.

Firstly, many such rentals will typically incur significant mileage. Whereas we would usually expect a car to run up around 100 miles a day, these one-way journeys can easily add up to 1,000 miles – plus 1,000 miles back. Therefore a “one day” rental has used nearly a month’s worth of allocated mileage! Depending on the car type, this can be £2-300 of cost to us as we will need to return the car to the manufacturer one month early.

Secondly, we are not set up to cope with a large volume of such rentals and typically need to hire a driver to take the car back. Assuming it takes 3 days on average this means a further £300 of cost. On top of this we need to account for fuel, motorway tolls, hotel and food allowances for our driver and a flight home which in total can exceed £400.

Finally, we need to account for the opportunity cost of the likely missed rentals we miss while the car has unexpectedly been taken out of its home country, which again could mount up to hundreds of pounds of lost revenue.

Once they understand the very real and significant costs incurred by us, customers I have spoken to about this over the past couple of days have recognised that Avis is acting reasonably to apply these fees, however counterintuitive it may seem at first glance. Indeed in many cases we will end up losing money on these rentals. Volcanoes notwithstanding, there are usually better ways for customers to make such a journey, for example by plane!

We would like to ensure that customers still returning from the Continent inform us before bringing any continental car into the UK. This will ensure they are fully aware of costs, and also avert the potential for them to be driving uninsured in the UK (which may be the case if we are not informed at point of pickup).

Avis UK has taken a number of steps to help our customers over the past few days. Firstly, we have waived one way fees for left hand drive cars being taken back to their home location on the continent. Secondly we will of course refund or amend prepaid rentals which were meant to pick up during the flight ban and will not be applying our standard non-cancellation fee. Thirdly, we are making sure we cater for the needs of customers finally arriving back into the UK by moving fleet to key ports and airports, extending opening hours and until Sunday offering a one-way rate within the UK for only £76 for up to two days to help people get back home (this offer is valid until midnight on Sunday 25th April 2010).

I hope this post helps to clarify the situation, and would be happy to answer any further questions.

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2 Responses to “Avis Rent A Car explains one way rental charges for car hire between countries.”

  1. Mike Ward Says:

    My family(3 kids) and I have just had to deal with this situation. Faced with the option last Saturday of dropping our hire car off at Geneva airport(and being stranded for God knows how long) we realised are only option was to drive to a port in Belgium and get a ferry. We acted responsibly by ringing Avis in Geneva, but could not get through.So we rang the Avis office in Belgium to check it was ok & inform them we would be dropping the car with them(they were very helpful but told me there would be a one way drop off fee but they had no idea what the charge would be). 10 hours later and 1000km I dropped the car off. They informed me they were still unable to tell me a charge. They then said “because you already had a hire contract taken out before the ash problem you probably wont be charged the new higher one way drop off charge that is now being charged”!!”and it should be around 500 euros but until the Geneva office closed the contract they would not know for sure”. We got back to the UK on Monday. I then rang Avis UK to find out what the charge was, the girl on the phone told me “to sit down ” before she told me how much it cost. £780!! fee. She apologised to me and told me the European Avis offices were doing it to all their UK customers and she was really sorry and if I emailed customer service they would try and appeal for me. Fummimg I rang the Avis Switzerland office and spoke to their accounts department. I was told – I should be grateful they allowed me to drop the car off in another country – If I had to get a hotel in Geneva it would have cost me much more – and I should think myself lucky they didnt charge me more because they have 40+ of their cars in Belgium and it would cost more that the CHF1056 + Tax they charged me to get them back.

    Avis you had the opportunity to win a customer for life and all you had to do was be reasonable.

    By the sounds of it all the major rental companies are acting the same way but Avis you did it to me!

    Contrast this with the car park operator at Liverpool airport who refused to charge me any more even though I was 2 days over time. He said “I couldnt sleep at night if I took advantage after what you guys have just been through”. AVIS you have let yourself , your emplyees and your loyal customers down all for the sake of a few extra £’s.

  2. Nick Mountfield - Marketing, Avis UK Says:

    Mike,

    I am sorry our Belgian colleagues were not clearer with you (or better informed) about the charges before you set off across Europe. To be very clear, whoever you spoke to when you returned our car was misinformed about “new higher charges”. Our pricing for one ways from Switzerland to Belgium was not changed following the volcano and has always been the same level as you were charged to reflect our costs and discourage such rentals. Clearly it would have been better if you had been fully informed about the costs before you committed yourself.

    Since we were all dealing with a very fluid situation it took some time for proper briefing to get to the frontline over the weekend. Your situation highlights the fact that cross border one-ways are very rare and our teams were sometimes not used to dealing with the necessary charging before the current disruption happened.

    Whilst my colleague in Switzerland’s accounts department is factually correct – it will very likely cost us more to repatriate the vehicle than you have been charged – it does sound like they could have been more sympathetic to your circumstances. Please accept my apologies for this. I can only hope that this was perhaps a linguistic/cultural mismatch rather than a normal reflection of our standards of customer care.

    Whilst your comparison with long term parking at Liverpool demonstrates great customer service from them, I don’t believe the analogy is fair. There was no extra cost involved for them in waiving your additional parking fees whereas to reiterate the point we will probably lose money on the one-way fee we have charged you despite the large sum involved.

    I believe we have been reasonable in terms of the charges involved. However, we have clearly let ourselves down somewhat in terms of communication, leading you to making a decision you might not have made had you been fully informed. I will email you directly to explore if I can lend any weight to the representations the UK Customer Service team is making on your behalf as clearly I sympathise with your situation.

    Nick Mountfield
    Head of Marketing

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