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Car Hire During Covid 19

Limited vehicle selection and increased rates. Avis rental scam.

October 24, 2022
By Torgeir Johansen

Car Hire During Covid 19

Before the Covid-19 pandemic, renting a car was easy, log into a rental car website and select a suitable vehicle. But during the lock down in 2020 everything changed. Car rental companies sold off their vehicles. Hertz in Italy sold off two thirds of the vehicle fleet and it takes time to restock the fleet. Car production have been slow due to transport issues, lack of materials and semiconductor shortage. Customer service has declined, and rental rates increased.

Hertz Customer Service.

When the Covid-19 situation improved In September 2021 we booked a Group (R) Ford Kuga or similar intermediate size with Hertz at Rome FCO Airport. Usually, the Hertz parking area is full of vehicles ready for pick-up and lines of customers at the counters. This time only one customer was at the counter and the parking area was almost empty. We received a Skoda KAROQ, almost new and cleaned in accordance with the Covid-19 instructions. This is within the “similar” in Group R. It was installed with Vector 4Seasons tires, these all-season tires had bad braking action on the hot streets in Naples (40 C) and scary roll tendencies on the highway. We made a complaint to Hertz customer service back home in Norway. Hertz customer service responded positively on our concern with a rental certificate on 50 US Dollar for use on a future rental. This is how customer service should be.

Avis Rental Scam and Customer Service.

Next travel was in October 2021 to Padua, Italy, in the Veneto region. Hertz rental company had only a few vehicles available, but Avis rent a car had a BMW 316 or similar vehicle available. Rental rate was 1442 Euro for 11 days! On pick-up day the rental office in parking lot was closed, a security guard handed over the keys in a Budget envelope to a Seat Cupra Formentor. Should have walked back to the Avis Office in the terminal and made a complaint. Seat is not comparable to a BMW. But it was late, and we wanted to drive to the hotel. The Seat Cupra Formentor is small SUV type with size equal to the Renault Kadjar. The Renault Kadjar was in group G with a rental rate approx. 50% of the group H rate. The Seat Cupra has a quite simple plastic interior with limited seat adjustments. While driving above 80 km/h it is not possible to hold a conversation due to the high noise level from tires and wind. That’s why I had reserved a BMW. If you have done a reservation for a BMW 3 series or similar before Covid-19 you would have an Audi or Mercedes, but Avis in Italy has sold away the most valuable vehicles and decided to “expand” the similar vehicles to very different types, including very noisy vehicles.

My review on Google Maps

I did call Avis Rental Car Reservation in Norway a few days after we did the pick-up, the agent said that Avis in Milan had made a mistake and asked me to change the car at an Avis office or have the rate corrected after return. There were no major Avis offices close to our destination. I must make a complaint when I am back in Norway, and they would return the excess rate to my credit card.

Mail to Avis Rental Customer service in Norway:

We are very disappointed with the Avis Mxp office, seems that they handed over a Budget Rent A Car group G vehicle. Vehicle Details in contract specify color as white, but it is dark grey. Windshield was also dirty.

I have done a comparison at the website www.carsized.com and the Seat is smaller than the group G Renault Kadjar 2015-present. In my opinion the Seat we rented is a group G vehicle and Avis should reduce the rate by 50%. I have checked the Avis website and group G vehicles rate is around 50% less than group H, see screen-dumps below.

Location Specific Conditions attached to the contract specify group H and L as luxury vehicles. The Seat vehicle we got is not a luxury vehicle. It is a very simple vehicle.

Please reduce the rate at Rental Agreement Number 98xxxxxx from 1560 Euro to 750 Euro.

After several e-mails to Avis Customer Service in Norway and Avis Budget Group my claim was forwarded to the International Team:

Thank you for contacting Avis Customer Service regarding the you recent rental. We apologize for any inconvenience as we understand how frustrating these situations can be. We will be more than happy to review this matter with you.  

In order to resolve this matter, your information has been forwarded to our International Team for review. Our team will contact the rental country on your behalf and then you will be contacted directly, once a response has been received. Please reference Avis’s case number 42768951 in all related correspondence and allow 15 to 30 business days for our investigation.  

Again, we apologize for any inconvenience this matter has caused and thank you for allowing us the opportunity to review this matter with you.  

We appreciate your patience. If you should have any further questions, please do not hesitate to ask.


The response from wrcintl@avisbudget[.]com:

Good Day 

Thank you for contacting Avis Budget Group.

 Attached is a copy of your SRA and receipt .  You reserved a group (H) vehicle and received a group (H) vehicle . You were not downgraded .  There is no refund due  . Charges billed is valid and will be upheld . 

Thank you for choosing Avis Budget Group. 

Q.xxxx  Avis Budget Group

Maill from Avis Budget, there is no refund due.

Avis Norway Customer Service is relocated to Barcelona in Spain. In my last phone call an English speaking agent said: Just keep sending e-mail to customer service, we do not care. You will never get any refund!

That is why I will never rent a car through Avis again.

I have also sent this complaint to the credit card company and the European Car Rental Conciliation Service, but without success. ECRCS writes: As Avis have already confirmed to you, when you accepted your rental, the vehicle booked was a category H and you received a category H vehicle. We have been provided with screenshots that confirm that the correct vehicle was provided to you. Vehicle makes and models are never guaranteed when booking the vehicle and the website informs the customer of this. Please note that not all vehicles are grouped with regards to their make – rather it will be functionality and space that is considered with regards to the vehicle categories. As you utilised the vehicle for your rental and you were given the correct vehicle in line with your booked category, we are not instructing Avis to provide any refund.

My credit card company in Norway used the same arguments, we had received a group H vehicle. In addition, told me they had received many complaints on Avis in Italy.

Seat Cupra Avis Renta Car Milan October 21
Seat Cupra Formentor size vs Renault Kadjar size.
Avis Rentals Italy, taking your vehicle outside the country.

My conclusion:

Avis Italy advertises high quality vehicles but deliver low quality vehicles.

Do not accept a vehicle if it is not “similar” to your reservation. If you have signed and driven away, it’s very difficult to have a refund.

Always make your reservation directly with the rental company, avoid third party, with cheap offers. Always read the fine print, crossing a border or taking the vehicle on a ferry might be forbidden. Calling your local representative might give you a better deal.

Pay at return is more expensive than prepay. But it is easy to cancel and with Hertz you will get money back if you return the vehicle days before contract ends. Avis do not have this option.

Check insurance rates, a few credit cards have insurance for Super Cover. Or it might be possible to have Super Cover insurance in your personal travel insurance.

If you get into trouble, contact the rental company first, next your credit card company and in Europe it is possible to open a complaint with the European Car Rental Conciliation Service. https://www.ecrcs.com/