Trouble with Turo and Easyrent/ Car rental issues in the UK
Our first re-entry to international travel was London. We had about a week on our own in the city and then a lovely housesit in Chiswick, a wonderful little suburb of London with great rail service into town. The housesit had a car for us to use, but we barely drove it and we didn’t need a car when we were in the city either. Little did we know what car rental issues lay ahead for us.
Transportation got more interesting when we were preparing to leave London and the great public transportation behind. We looked into car rentals from the usual suspects and the prices were outrageous. We needed a car for 90 days and in that time we would have essentially bought the car for the agency. Knowing that we were going to visit places all over the UK we knew we had to find a car that fit into our budget so we looked on Turo. Turo is a fun site that works basically like Airbnb but it is for renting out personal cars. You can find all kinds of cars for usually a much better rate than rental agencies. We had used it before with great success in San Diego so we were pretty comfortable with the platform.
The car I found was extremely basic, we really didn’t want a huge car because the roads in the UK can be more like bike lanes in some areas. We had to have a vehicle that our luggage would fit in that had air conditioning. We found one, only one, that matched our criteria and was about a third the price of using a rental agency. Predictably it was an older model car and some of the reviews on the site disparaged some cosmetic aspects as well as mention of it not having much “oomph”. Neither of those issues concerned us very much and we booked the 3 month rental.
The day came to meet up with the owner of the car in question and we discovered he was about an hour by tube and bus from our location in Chiswick, Because we were housesitting and had a sweet pup to take care of we had to plan the trip strategically. We got all the way out to his location and called him to let him know we were there. A tall fellow, from some African country came loping down the street to greet us. He was really nice and helpful showing us the car and getting the paperwork completed. That done he loped off to rejoin his friends watching a football game.
Dan and I got in the car and it was immediately apparent that it was a well-used vehicle. There were plastic bits that didn’t want to stay in place around the stereo, the aircon vents needed to be propped up because they just pointed down or closed. Nothing major that really concerned us. Those are the kind of car rental issues that can happen from any agency. It was certainly cleaner than any car we’d ever rented and he seemed like a stand-up guy. Then Dan turned on the aircon to see how it worked. It didn’t. So we called him and he came back and told us that the car had been rented out the day before and the guy must have “used up all the charge”. Our choice was to leave the car with him and he would have it charged or we could go “around the corner” to “his guy” and get it charged ourselves and he would pay for it. He said it was perfectly normal. UK cars had to be recharged all the time. Sounded a little sketchy to us but we needed the car for the next morning so we opted to go to his guy. We put his address in our nav system and found it was more than around the corner but in 15 minutes we were there and the mechanic said he could have it charged for us in about 90 minutes. We went to the nearest (and only) pub around to watch the game. We ended up being the whitest people in the place, attracting a great deal of attention! This was obviously a local hangout that didn’t get many outsiders. Good beer, great wings, friendly folk glad we went, then we wandered back to pick up the car. We were told that it didn’t need a charge, it needed a whole new compressor and would cost about 600 pounds, and they couldn’t do it that day. We called the owner and he wanted to keep the car for a couple days because his buddy could supposedly fix it for 200 pounds. We wanted to take the car and get it worked on when we had a couple days we didn’t need to drive. He refused to allow us to do that so we had to choose between not taking the car or take it without aircon for 3 months in the summer. At least the UK’s version of summer. We were on a tight timeline so we decided the summer couldn’t be *that* hot and we would just take it without the air conditioning. He did credit us a bit for the trouble (after Dan strongly suggested he should) so that helped. Now the car rental issues, or rather Turo issues, were heating up.
We then took off, racing back across London to take care of our sweet step-dog for the couple weeks we were in Chiswick and pack up the car to head out for a tour of a few small towns in southern England in the following days. This was the first real driving that Dan would do in the UK and Google Maps took us right through the center of London. Like, across the Tower Bridge at rush hour center of London. Dan was right brilliant as they say. But by the time we got back to Chiswick we were drenched in flop sweats and ready for a cool walk in the park with the dog.
Dan’s impression of the car was that it was a good size, it ran but it didn’t have much “oomph”. Fine for what we needed. We loaded it up and the next day we were gone. We visited Cambridge, Plymouth, Stonehenge, Penzance and St. Ives having a grand old time. The car ran out ok, we were doing good. Leaving beautiful St. Ives we were out on the highway pretty much with nothing around and the car suddenly overheated. We weren’t going uphill or struggling, it wasn’t hot out, the car just overheated. We pulled over remarking that now we knew why he put a bottle of coolant in the car. Dan put that in and we let it cool off some more and off we went. About two miles further the overheating started again and this time the car shut off as Dan got it off the highway. Here is where we are thinking we are totally hooped. l
We rented on this sketchy platform to avoid the extortionist pricing of the rental agencies and now we were stuck with heaven knows what kind of service and a dead car.
We could not have been more wrong. Dan called Turo, the number listed on the contract we were given when we got the car. They handled contacting the owner. They called the wrecker as well who was out surprisingly quickly given where we were. They liaised between the two about what was happening with the car and they covered our costs for a hotel for the night and transportation to get to location to rent a car. The car had a busted water pump and we were not going to wait around to see if he was going to have it repaired or junk it. Turo was AMAZING! In spite of all the car rental issues we had they turned what could have been one of the journey’s worst days into a mild inconvenience, and to top it all off, we ended up better off because of it.
We still needed a car for about 90 days. We were very concerned that th.is was going to be a budget buster. Covid supply chain issues had dramatically affected the rental car industry and prices were very difficult to handle. We hopped online and were stunned to find one agency with one class of car that was actually the same or maybe a little less money than we were paying for the Turo car. It was only a couple months old and the price included all the insurance and tax. SCORE!! We cautiously hollered. We wanted to get there and see for ourselves. A cab ride, a train ride and a shuttle got us to the rental and while I stood watch over all our earthly belongings Dan went to the office to get the car. After quite a long while during which I was getting increasingly nervous, he returned with the beautiful new rental. He was laughing because they kept trying to give him a larger car for the same price. He did NOT want to drive or park a larger car on the tiny roads we had been driving on. Just as promised, inexpensive with insurance and taxes all included. Aircon working, doors opened on BOTH sides with the key fob, great navigation system. We were stoked. Our potential fiasco had turned around in under 24 relatively pain free hours to work in our favor.
Moral of the story is don’t be afraid to use Turo, they will have your back if something goes wrong.
Update: we used Easyrent for the agency rental. Up front and during the trip everything was definitely “rosy”. The turn in was a simple drop the keys in a lock box in a parking structure in Edinburgh which was hard to find, but ultimately an easy way to check out. We did have a rather nasty experience a couple weeks after we dropped it when we were charged 420 Euro (way less fun than it sounds) for scratches on the underside of the front of the car and 75 Euro processing fee. Dan did a thorough inspection of the car upon pickup and we almost took it to get a dent in the door fixed until we looked at our paperwork and saw that it was there when we picked it up. He did not check the underside of the front of the car. I would be willing to bet that it was already scratched up. Of course there is no way to contest this and we were stuck paying the additional fees. A quick internet search and I found that this is common practice for this company and they get away with it because people have to get to flights or do blind drop offs. It seems car rental issues are prevalent and you just have to do your best to protect yourself, but at the end of the day they have you over a barrel.