on October 3, 2010
We needed to hire a car for a few days while staying near Cairns as we needed it to get to our host family's place as well as for some local touring. Cairns is chock-a-block with car hire companies, from the big national and international chains to local outfits. The prices offered by local companies are very comparable, with most offering the smallest car with no a/c for about 35 AUD per day and the small economy ones with a/c for about 50-55 AUD per day. We were looking, as usual, for a bargain, and after a positive experience hiring a car from a company called (NOT a nomen omen in that case) rent-a-wreck in Canada, we looked forward to hiring one from Cairns Older Car Hire, who offered "backpacker" cars for 29 AUD per day. Initially, it all looked fine and professional and we were even picked up for free from the town centre (their depot is near the airport, about 10 minutes' drive from the Esplanade). However, on arrival, and when we could have a better look at a car offered to us, we decided that there one should take economy only so far. Now, we are not particularly fussy. We drove old cars in the UK for years (and by old, I mean cars well over 10 years old), we hired from the aforementioned rent-a-wreck and we also rented an older (about 8 years old) car in New Zealand later on. So we don't expect shiny, new vehicles with all mod cons. But what Older Car Hire was offering was a Ford Laser that was not just past its youth, but a real old banger. I don't know much about cars, so I can't judge its age accurately, but it seemed to be pushing twenty years old and with over 30,000km on the clock and noticeable rust all over the bodywork it didn't look particularly reliable at all. Considering the fact that Australia doesn't have a MOT as we know it and the fact that the legal blurb made a lot of references to "having regard to it's [vehicle's] age" (yes, that's the punctuation in the original) we became rather dubious about the whole enterprise. Add to the fact that the excess on that thing was supposed to be 1,000 AUD (I am not sure about car prices in Australia, but the whole car was surely worth much less than that) we decided to pass. The people at the Older Car Hire didn't really like it: they were rather brusque and rude, tried to manipulate us or threaten into actually going through with the transaction and when asked about another, newer car, were not very forthcoming (the cheapest other option they had was 65 AUD per day, and as such much more expensive to what competition offered). We walked out in a huff, and rented a newish Hyundai Getz down the road for 50 AUD per day. All in all, not recommended, although maybe worth considering if you are looking for a long-term hire and are working on an extremely limited budget. For us, the risk of a breakdown and doubts about safety were not worth the price reduction for the few days we needed the car.
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