Irene & Ian Bristow have struggled to get their money back from Argus Car Hire
Hiring a ‘mystery car’ may sound like an interesting experience, but the only puzzle for one family holidaying in Las Vegas was why they weren’t given the type of car they had paid for.
Irene Bristow, 55, and husband Ian, 68, decided to book a so-called mystery car for their nine-day trip to Vegas with Irene’s brother and sister-in-law.
The mystery car was advertised on the Argus Car Hire website as ‘the manager’s special’ and promised to give the customer a compact, or medium-sized, or larger vehicle ‘guaranteed’.
The mystery car the Bristows opted for was advertised as a vehicle that would hold five passengers, three cases and have four doors.
They made the booking and paid the full price of $272.93 in advance to Dollar, the rental company.
But when the group arrived at the Dollar desk at Las Vegas airport, the vehicle offered was a Chevrolet Spark, which by Dollar’s description is an Economy car with two doors for four passengers and two cases.
The staff at the Dollar desk said the Spark was the only car available.
Irene, a printer by trade, added that her group was laughed at by the desk staff for booking the mystery car deal to begin with.
One of the members of staff even said the mystery was where the group were going to fit their bags in the vehicle
She said: ‘One of the members of staff even said the mystery was where the group were going to fit their bags in the vehicle.’
As the Chevrolet was not going to be big enough, the group felt they had no choice but to accept the ‘upgrade’ offered by Dollar, at an additional cost of $256 (£202) – almost doubling the amount they had paid.
She said: ‘We paid up because we needed a car straight away and I felt we could lose the $272 we had already spent on the car hire if we refused to pay for the upgrade.
‘I feel this an appalling mis-selling of a car hire agreement and I really believe the advertising of the mystery car was misleading.’
The Bristow’s paid almost double the original amount after they were given a too-small hire car
When the Bristows contacted Argus Car Hire on their return to complain and ask for the money they paid on the upgrade returned, they were told that as they signed the rental agreement at the desk, they therefore agreed to the upgrade terms and conditions.
Dollar have advertised the mystery car on their website as a Manager’s Special choice
Whilst they have not heard anything since from Argus Car Hire or Dollar despite escalating their complaint, they have since had contact from Car Trawler, who are the company behind Argus, saying they were looking into the matter.
This is Money attempted to contact both Argus Car Hire and Dollar.
But both companies make contact to anything but customer services very difficult, and even such numbers and email addresses that were available produced no helpful response.
By the time this article was published we had still had no reply, despite numerous attempts.
Dollar company currently has an overall one star rating on review website, Trustpilot, with a number of customers highlighting their bad experiences with the firm.
Views: One of the many one star reviews left on Trustpilot said that Dollar was ‘dishonest’
‘Avoid’: Another review said they had receive terrible service from Dollar and were very rude
This review claimed they also ended up paying a lot more for their rental car than expected
It is not just Dollar, however, that have introduced the mystery car feature. Car rental giant Hertz also offers the same service.
An expert at online car hire broker, Rentalcars.com said: ‘There are lots of different options when it comes to car hire – which is why it’s important to understand what’s available to you and make an informed decision to suit your trip.
‘Even though you can’t usually choose the exact make and model you’ll be given, by selecting a car group from a reputable provider when you book, you will be guaranteed a certain set of features as a minimum, such as number of seats and luggage capacity.
‘As well as the type of car, there are other factors that differ from one car hire deal to the next, such as fuel policy and mileage limits. If you have clarity when you book, you can make the right choice and save money on the total cost of your rental.
‘Always read the terms and conditions so you know exactly what’s included in the price – and this way, you can challenge the rental agent if you’re offered less than you’ve paid for when you get to the pick-up desk.’
Tips when hiring a car
Renting a car can be a confusing business – especially if it is your first time doing it. Rentalcars.com have given their tips on what to look out for when hiring a car to keep costs down and choose the best deal for you.
1. Book in advance – Booking three to six months before you travel is usually best for getting a good deal and gives you plenty of time to do your research. Prices tend to be most competitive during this period.
2. Swot up on the supplier – Before you choose your car hire provider, make sure you read up on their recent reviews. You can do this by browsing online, or if you book through Rentalcars.com you can click on the company’s score to find more details.
3. Consider what’s making the price so low – Remember too that if you choose to rent a car at an airport, it tends to be a fair amount cheaper if the rental company’s counter is a short shuttle bus ride away from the terminal. Similarly, rental counters out in the suburbs often offer cheaper deals than the ones in the city centre.
4. Don’t overlook the small print – Always read the terms and conditions that come with the car hire policy in full to ensure you aren’t hit with unexpected fees – booking in advance online gives you more time to do this.
5. Choose the best fuel option – When booking car hire, there are usually several options available when it comes to choosing a fuel policy, for example, full to full, pre-paid, pre-paid (refunded) or free tank. ‘Full to full’ is usually the most cost-effective option to choose.
6. Check for a mileage limit – Some car rental companies will offer unlimited mileage, but there will often be several options with limits on how far you can drive. Initially, limited options may appear cheaper, but the charges you’ll face if you go over the limit could be greater that what was paid if you went for an unlimited option.