If you can't trust OJ, who can you trust?

Boy! Was I ever shocked when I went to pick up my Hertz rental Toyota RAV SUV in Costa Rica.

Three weeks earlier, I had booked a vehicle with good clearance to handle the atrocious roads I had read about on trip forums. I had carefully read the fine print on insurance coverage, which is mandatory and expensive in Costa Rica unless you can prove to the agent’s satisfaction that you are adequately covered.

On February 6 two days prior to pick-up I got a “friendly reminder regarding your reservation details.” All was well. On February 8 at 7:15 I got another email reminding me of my fifteen-day rental starting at 8:00 am. It was a beautiful day and we couldn’t wait to get on the highway.

I arrived at the airport shortly before 8:00 am armed with a letter from my Canadian insurance broker confirming third-party liability coverage and a printout of the collision-coverage policy provided by my credit-card issuer. The agent was solemn. “We don’t have any cars. If you wait until 3:00 pm, we might have a compact coming in.”

“What about the other agencies, do they have anything available?” I asked. “No, none.” It was the height of tourist season and I’m led to believe a very common occurrence as agencies can charge more to walk-in clients.

“But I have a Hertz #1 Gold Card!” He smirked, as in “tell someone who cares,” then aloud he said,“You might try one of the hustlers out on the sidewalk to see if they have any cars but they’re going fast.”

I approached one of two young men and asked if he had anything. After three unsuccessful calls he asked if I’d pay US$110 per day for a small SUV, all insurance included. “Definitely.” He told me to stand by a post and wait. And wait. After a half-hour he advised me the traffic was very heavy but the transfer car was close. I was picked up and driven forever to the world headquarters of Follow Me Rent a Car in a corner of Alajuela that was a bit sketchy—the official address is listed as “200 metres east and 25 metres north of the Juan Rafael Meono School.”

I frowned when Jorge showed me a small car but was relieved when he “upgraded’ me to a Suzuki Vitari SUV with only 46,000 km. His wife Hilda, who didn’t speak English, completed the paperwork, each of us nodding in agreement and smiling at the appropriate points in the contract.

Fifteen days later, I texted Jorge so he and Hilda could meet us at the passenger drop-off area at the airport. They were there, waving as we arrived. Too rushed to fill the gas tank, I paid a reasonable amount to them in cash and Hilda returned our damage deposit. We were grateful, because they had saved the driving portion of our holiday and, in particular, we didn’t miss our first day’s activities and accommodation had we waited for Hertz.

Over 500 miles in 14 days staying in six locations with highlights along the way

Hopefully Jorge and Hilda’s business is still viable despite the void of tourists during the COVID pandemic. It may not be—www.folowmecr.com is no longer active as a website.

In Costa Rica, we’ll be sure our car rental never “Hertz” again.

Epilogue

From Jorge:

Hi Kerry, thanks to remember us. We still renting cars, we are fine and thanks to our service and compromises our rental business are in the market, saving many people from companies like Hertz. You know how it is. You are always welcome to Follow Me Rent a Car, you got my email. If anybody need a car also could get me on the phone (506)8882-3499, will be my pleasure to help anybody

This is our office remember?  We are ready for Christmas  You were here not too long ago.

It’s great that we’re still able to rent and drive a car, giving us a better chance to explore nature:

Please click on any picture to enlarge the images and start the slideshow!

 


What have I learned from this experience? Search for and find the hidden fine print. The six-page Rental Terms and Conditions in the Confirmation email from Hertz dealt mainly with insurance issues. But on their website, and I challenge you to find it because it isn’t linked to a pull-down menu (hint–click the link in Navigation below), are 28 Sections of Rental Qualifications and Requirements. The Section “Making Reservations—Legal” is eight pages long (6,400 words). After renting from Hertz (and others) for years I was shocked to read:

Confirmed and Standby Reservations not Legally Binding

Hertz does not charge for confirmed and standby reservations for non-prepaid rental transactions, and those types of reservations do not commit you to make the associated rental. Because of that, confirmed and standby reservations for non-prepaid rental transactions are not intended to give you any contractual or other legal right to compel Hertz or any Hertz licensee to enter into a rental transaction …

If having a car available when you arrive is critical, you should enter into:

Prepaid Rental Transactions

A prepaid rental transaction creates a two-party legal agreement between you and the applicable Reserving Company with the following terms:

If you arrive at the specified pick-up date and location, satisfy the then-applicable rental qualifications and requirements of the Renting Company and are willing to sign the document or documents constituting the rental agreement in the form presented by Renting Company, then the Reserving Company undertakes that the Renting Company will, within one hour of the later to occur of the specified pick-up time and your arrival at the rental counter, rent a vehicle of the specified class to you on the terms set forth in the rental agreement.

Navigation

Hertz risk-free rentals: No Cancellation or Change Fees [ and maybe no car!] when you pay later.

6 replies
  1. Avatar
    Barry+MacLeod says:

    Interesting how often rentals are all about trying to upgrade you, the downside to this bigger, better vehicle is of course, having very poor fuel mileage. I have never been impressed with the standard all season tires, which by the way are pretty well useless once you get to 7 Celsius, in winter in Canada that covers a lot of country.
    Something interesting too is the owners manual is never in the glove box, comes in handy for a vehicle you have never seen or driven before, ran into this in Edmonton one winter, could not shift into gear, the trick of course, you need to hold the brake down, first time I had seen that and found out by accident how to resolve. Or my personal favourite was my first, new, push button start, luckily I had my cell phone to figure this one out, when I picked up car it was running so no need to know right, until I shut it off.
    The owners manual might be a theft item, fine, make it a sign for item, then we could add, block heater, block heater cord, snow brush, 1/4 roll of paper towel, local map. Also with current vehicle electronics, does anyone know what every light and icon means on every dash out there in the world, I know I do not. 🤔🤔🤔
    Most of the time the use of a rental indicates your not from the area, why not help out the customer, I think “Customer Service” is a thing of the past.

    Reply
    • Spice
      Spice says:

      Must be in the DNA as I have similar problems trying to figure out stuff like how do you unlock the doors to let someone out from the back seat, intuitive for Magellan but not for me. We’re not positive but we think Jorge and Hilda provided a manual in the glove compartment: glove compartment, now there’s a descriptor that needs to change!

      Reply
    • Magellan
      Magellan says:

      Never having done it before, paying in advance to a major rental agency seems very strange. But in the height of tourist season or a major convention, it makes sense.

      Reply
  2. Avatar
    Patrick Christiansen says:

    As a frequent renter over the years, I now understand why from time to time the rental company did not have the car I had booked available for me when I arrived at the counter. Being a “Gold’ member did not always guarantee the vehicle booked – but it often did provide a nice upgrade.

    However one thing I did learn is that in some states / countries police do not care that you have “credit card” insurance if you have an at fault accident. It is a good idea to carry a copy of your insurance for your vehicle at home with you. I was told this by a police officer when I had an accident in Florida that was caused by the other driver.

    Fortunately the fact it was not my fault was obvious to the police. I did not have a copy of my insurance papers for my home vehicle with me and they said if it was my fault they would have had to take me in until the insurance details were confirmed. I just had the credit card insurance – not the rental car company insurance.

    Another FYI re rental cars….:-)

    Reply
    • Magellan
      Magellan says:

      That’s an excellent point, Pat. You might recall that we use 1Password to save our passwords, but we also use it to save pdf documents such as ICBC Insurance, Credit Card coverage and Trip Medical and Cancellation coverage. So we can at least show the authorities electronically our coverage and have immediately at hand our responsibilities if we need to make a claim.

      Reply

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