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Holiday Autos (www.holidayautos.co.uk) is part of the www.lastminute.com group and has been in existence for a number of years. Essentially they operate as a broker to find the best deals in car rental across a broad range of countries.
Although booking through a broker, the company has deals with all the major international car rental companies such as Europcar, Alamo etc and so you can be assured you won't have to pick up a car from "rent-a-wreck" or someone similar! The main obvious attraction is that you are provided with the best rates and availability for the dates you choose, and therefore do not have to waste time visiting lots of different sites to get the best deal.
I have used the service a few times now, over a period of four years and I feel it is important to try a service such as this several times to get a good feel for the service provided, before reviewing it. I have noticed that holidayautos seem to be rated quite low on the consumer websites, and therefore wanted to be sure that my previous positive experiences were not merely luck on my part!
Website ---------- The website is quick and simple to navigate and you do not have to do any pre-registration to get a quote for a vehicle. By simply entering in the basic information of pickup point, dates and age of main driver you will be presented with a number of vehicle options. The basic terms and conditions of hire are shown on the website and are clear and easy to understand. What I particularly like is that all prices are shown including the Collision Damage Waiver protection, liability insurance and unlimited mileage, with the CDW in particular known to raise the basic price quite considerably. My preferred five day rental period in San Francisco resulted in a choice of 14 vehicle sizes with cars available from £80 to £189. It is possible to get an emailed quotation within seconds or proceed to book. It is possible to book over the telephone, but this is actively discouraged simply by the difference in cost, which was as much as £70 for my chosen vehicle!
A particularly helpful feature of the booking process is that once you select a vehicle and proceed to book, you are given some upgrade options however the price is shown as an extra xx pence per day, clearly a sales tactic but a clever one as when you are given an option of a higher specification car for a mere 40p a day, who is going to refuse! (And this might explain why I ended up with a 2 door convertible..). The total cost of the Convertible for my five days was £180. I did cross check this after the fact with Alamo's own website, and the pricing was identical for my dates, which gave reassurance that they have a sound pricing structure.
The website is fairly user friendly and booker friendly, with areas for FAQ and the terms and conditions clearly laid out (and with car hire, these ARE important to read). There is also an area for so called "Offers" but I did not find that particularly helpful, as it was just as easy to use the main pricing search window. Finally there is a driver information section, with information for each country, although some information in here has not been updated recently.
Holiday Autos Main Terms and Conditions ----------------------------------------------------- There are in essence two sets of terms and conditions which will apply to the booking, those of Holiday Autos and those of the rental car company itself. For Holiday Autos, I believe the most important terms and conditions are those which are relating to cancelling and amending your booking.
It is possible to protect yourself from cancellation fees by taking out their own cancellation protection insurance, for £5.50 per rental week, which is fairly reasonable. I didn't opt for this as I had to be in San Francisco no matter what and as I only booked my car about two weeks in advance, I felt cancellation was unlikely. However if you cancel 7 days out, you will be charged £15, between 3-6 days will result in a 50% charge and between 0-2 days will result in 75% charge. If you are booking several months ahead, it makes sense to take out the cancellation protection as a security for the small cost involved.
If you make a booking and need to amend it, there is a £5 fee.
To add to the insurance confusion, there is an excess with all car rental companies that cannot be waived even with the Collision Damage Waiver insurance. In the case of my recent rental this was $100, which is reasonable for most people, however with a rental I made in France three years ago the amount was €600 which was a little steep. However as the car suffered two separate parking dints while left unattended within a 24 hour period in Nice (drivers there simply don't care!) then I can see why there is a €600 excess in that instance.
Holiday Autos have their own insurance product called Damage Excess Waiver which covers you for this excess too. You still have to pay the amount stipulated by the car rental company if there is damage, but at least you can recover this when you get home, which is quite useful, particularly for the higher excesses in Europe. Holiday Autos terms and conditions state they will refund within 28 days, although thankfully I have never had to put this to the test, as Europcar accepted the dints in the doors as a fact of life for driving in Nice, which was very nice of them. Damage Excess Waiver is a flat £2.50 per day of rental regardless of destination.
Customer Service ---------------------
As with any organisation, the real test of Service is what happens if something goes wrong. In the case of my most recent booking everything went absolutely perfect. I booked on line, had confirmation within minutes, printed my documentation, and had no problems with the booking on arrival in San Francisco. I took the car back, undamaged, and therefore had no Damage Claim to make either.
I do recall on a previous booking that my ISP failed me right in the middle of the booking confirmation, when I was waiting for the online confirmation. I contacted customer services via phone at this time, and I was advised if I didn't get a confirmation, then go ahead and rebook. I did this and unfortunately was charged twice on to my credit card. However once I explained this, holiday autos did rectify the problem without any further problems.
I have read/re-read all the other reviews and when people have had problems, they seem to be around the booking process failing and the customer services division being slow in putting things right, or, quite frankly, they didn't understand the terms and conditions. I did make a quick call to the customer services division and got through right away, and my question was handled with confidence and knowledge - and I was definitely given the correct information. I also feel the website is clear and accurate with regards to terms and conditions.
I do recommend www.holidayautos.com as they offer competitive rates, it saves a lot of internet trawling through different companies, they use reputable car rental companies and their Damage Excess Waiver is a great selling point. However, as a precaution, if you are concerned about booking with them, once you have your vouchers and a confirmed booking, you could always follow this up with a quick call to the rental office where you are picking the car up, to ensure the booking has been received by them.
A company I used to work for used them all the time and had a special rate set up with them and we were allowed to quote the reference for our private holidays and got about 20% off on top of what was normally the cheapest price anyway. Never had problems with them I must say.
carol_uk17 30.07.2006 16:48
Great review - loads of details etc - I think Holiday autos are a great trusted company - sometimes your definetly better going with the names u trust
tekin21 28.07.2006 20:13
I just don't have the guts to attempt driving abroad so not likely to ever use them. Jane x