Car rental in Italian style


I started to plan and prepare for my Italian trip mostly for the car rental as I have heard it can be complicated. Clients are often tricked with various additional services, contracts are tricky etc. I couldn’t travel without a car this time and having worked in car rental field for 10 years, I wanted to experience on my own skin to find out how difficult it really is in Italy.  

So I started to explore what is offered in Italy and how it is offered. When I saw the prices for rental cars then I immediately realised that probably everything I had heard is true. If almost brand new middle range cars are offered for only 9 euros per day then there must be a catch somewhere. After familiarising myself with the offers in more detail, I realised that if I would rent them in normal conditions, then the car price can be up to 40-60 euros per day. This would actually be a reasonable price considering cars, the location and time period. For 40-60 euros per day, I could get a car similar to the size of Ford Focus, a child seat, full-full fuel policy and reasonable insurance with excess. But as a car rental veteran, I wanted to try and rent a car by paying only 9 euros per day. 

In order to get the car for the advertised price of 9 euros per day, I had to give up the child seat, full-full fuel policy and the insurance excess increased up to 2000 euros. Of course, I wasn’t actually going to give up on all of those elements as I still needed a seat for children and considering the parking style of Italians, the 2000 euros excess seemed a too big risk. According to Google maps, there was a big shopping centre across the road from the airport and car rental. I planned to buy the child seat from there. The rental price for children’s seat was 11 euros per day and I can now say that we were able to purchase it for only 10 euros.

There was an explanation about the fuel policy on rental car’s company, which stated that if full-full (also known as fair-fuel-policy) isn’t selected as an additional service, then you will have to pay for the used fuel after rental. That means, if the car is provided with a full tank and you return it with the half-full tank, then they will fill it up themselves and charge you only for used fuel. This doesn’t make sense to me (why would they be interested in doing extra work for free?), but because the full-full fuel policy only came with additional insurance which cost 30-40 euros per day, I decided not to use the fair fuel policy. 

In order for not having to pay 2000 euros excess because of a local ’parking genius’, I bought an insurance for the rental car from a car insurance provider. Estonian car insurance companies don’t offer that type of service, but there are international companies that actually specialise in this. This cost me 7,5 euros per day. But this was still five times cheaper than the option offered by the rental company. Most importantly, it meant I was still able to rent the car for only 9 euros per day. If the price difference wasn’t that big it would still make sense to get the additional insurance from car rental provider. In this instance, it would have meant that I also got fair fuel policy and a lot smaller deposit.

Finally, we reached the day of landing at Bergamo airport. The car rental company’s bus collected us and other clients from the airports and transported us to their nearby office. The bus driver had a very temperamental driving style, meaning he was driving in a very careless manner and shouted at other drivers with a loud voice. Although I don’t understand much Italian, it sounded like he felt he had to give a verbal lesson to other drivers. However, we managed to arrive safely and those who were in front us in the queue were able to process everything in 10-15 minutes.

The lady who worked in customer service team explained convincingly that an additional insurance must be purchased. The gentleman was a little bit disappointed but after some discussion he still paid for the insurance and got his car.

Having prepared for this in more detail, I answered categorically (but politely) “no” to the sales assistant. As a response, I got told I have to pay 2100 euros for the deposit. I responded “Okay, but I have counted with this already”. The sales assistant got really upset with this, at least this is how it seemed to me. The following response sounded almost like a threat when she announced that if something technical should happen with the car then I have to deal with it myself – there will be no emergency assist or replacement car unless I buy the insurance. Of course this sounded surprising and silly but I still didn’t change my mind although it would have been annoying to pay for an emergency assist for a rental car if there was a technical fault with it. Therefore I kept insisting I am not interested in any additional insurance. This was followed by talk about the fuel policy. Unless I buy an additional insurance, I won’t be eligible for the the full full system and I will have to bring back the car with an empty tank which they will fill themselves. When I asked “what happens if I still bring the car with full tank?” The sales assistant got defensive once again and said I must not bring it back with a full tank in any case unless I buy the additional insurance. I acted a little bit stupid and said that I will drive only a couple of kilometres from the office to visit a friend and come back using the same road after a week, which means there will be no way I could even use the full tank. Should I make a whole in the tank? The sales assistant kept insisting that I must buy an additional insurance. Of course I wasn’t going to buy the additional insurance because of that and thought how much can they charge me for a full tank. I ended the argument about the fuel in order to get the car and leave the office.

I didn’t quite get away with just 9 euros per day. Since we got Ford Focus with a Diesel engine, we had to pay an additional 1 euro per day. Actually it should have been a case that if a client books a car with Diesel engine then they will have to pay an additional 1 euros per day because the rental company is not able to move the booking to a petrol car if necessary. This was stated on their website. This requirement was actually pretty reasonable and understandable. Since I booked a middle-sized car with a petrol engine then they shouldn’t have asked me for an additional fee regardless if I get a car with diesel or petrol engine. But since the difference for a weekly rental period was only 7 euros then I wasn’t going to make the sales assistant even more upset, otherwise I may have not gotten the car at all. The whole bargaining took around half an hour but in the end we managed to get the car for only 10 euros per day.

The car itself was clean, worked well and looked fresh. Although there were scratches on all sides and quite a few of them. By the way, the mileage was only 21 000 km. I remember this well because as soon as I started the engine, I saw a notification that the car needed a service 1000 km ago, it seemed like the car needed the first service at 20,000 km. There was a big amount of scratches made with keys. Probably quite a few of them were caused by previous upset clients. If you have to pay 30-50 euros worth additional insurance for a rental car that costs 9 euros per day then it must be rather upsetting. And what would be a better relief than “using” the additional insurance in that manner. And our mood had been also ruined by the whole argument, despite the fact that we practically got away without additional fees. Anyhow, I made a dozen of pictures of the car in order to use them as a proof later on in case we get a blame for any of the scratches.

The journey went without any complications and we had a little over half tank when we returned the car. We left the child seat for them, which we had purchased for 10 euros from the shop. After a couple of weeks, we received back our deposit. Our fuel had been taken off from that amount. The amount was noticeably more that would have ever fitted in an empty tank of Ford Focus, whereas we returned the car with a tank that had more than half a tank of fuel in it. We were charged incorrectly for about 50 euros but I didn’t protest about it afterwards since we got the car for a very good price. After three weeks we also got back the deposit booking, which went actually quite well despite having quite rocky start. 

Andres Tuuksam