Rent a Wreck is a budget car rental company that operates on a franchise basis in the US, Canada, Scandinavia and Iceland. In addition to renting cars they also offer second hand vehicle sales. The company motto is "Don't Let the Name Fool You".
We were recommended Rent-a-Wreck by a fellow Brit we met on Vancouver Island and when we decided to hire a car for a week towards the end of our stay, and found out that as it was a "Long Weekend" (something equivalent to our Bank Holiday Monday) and thus many high-street rental companies locally were closed. I did a little price research on the Internet and found out that not only they were open, but they also seemed to have significantly cheaper rates than other companies.
The cars offered by Rent-a-Wreck are by no means wrecks or old bangers. They are older vehicles than what you'd get in a standard big national car hire chain, being often between 3 to 10 years old rather than newer than 3 years old as it's the case with the likes of Enterprise, National or Budget. But they still seem to be well maintained and in perfectly reasonable condition: comparable to renting a car from a local car hire company in the UK rather than a big chain.
Now, the whole area of car hire in Canada is a bit of an initial minefield for anybody used to British ways. The deals offered often have a daily maximum mileage, with extra miles (or rather kilometres) payable on top. Insurance is EXTERMELY expensive, and what is included as a standard in the hire charge is only the basic, compulsory third party cover: if you don't buy extra waivers, there is no coverage for damage whatsoever. All rental companies offer such waivers though, and they often seem to cost as much or in fact more than the actual hire.
Rent-a-wreck had a deal that gave us a car for 200 CAD per week, with 200km mileage per day and three insurance options, from 15 to 30 CAD per day, depending on whether it had an excess (called "deductible" here) and what was included.
What we found out, however, when we arrived in the Rent-a-Wreck location in Nanaimo was that they had no vehicles! I had not booked one as the website had no description of the different waivers) and we simply turned up in hope. The hope was not completely unfounded as they had a car coming back two hours later and we decided to do a bit of research locally (there was a Budget branch next door) and wait for the phone call from the agent. We were offered their "gold" waiver for the price of the "silver" one, which cost us an extra 170 CAD - at least it was less than the actual hire! Thus, the total cost was 370 CAD.
The Budget deal was substantially more, in the region of about 440 CAD for a smaller car, so we decided to stick to Rent-a-wreck which was a good decision. The car we were offered was a Kim Sephia, tough I am not sure if car model names are to be trusted, the Ford Focuses (Foci?) I saw in Canada were nothing like the UK ones for example. It was of course an automatic and petrol-powered (diesels seem rare in Canada and many garages don't even sell diesel fuel) and probably around 10 years old, but it was in good nick (noticeably better then our own 10 year old vehicles), pretty economical to drive and caused us no trouble getting around the island. It had air conditioning but nether electric windows (not a big deal) nor central lock (a bit of a pain with four people including two children).
I liked the price and I liked the service we received. Obviously, it was opened on the day many other car rental companies were closed, and it seemed much more individual and customer focused than the Budget had and I don't mean that in a sleekly professional way (the office was smallish and the staff more of a corner-shop-friendly variety) but in the way that matters: when we hesitated we were offered a better insurance waiver for a lower price, the car was ready for as soon as it was returned by the previous client, we were given advice about driving on Vancouver Island and when we returned the vehicle, we were given a lift to the departure terminal for the ferry to the mainland.
Don't use Rent-a-wreck if you are looking for a high-end vehicle with all modern bells and whistles, but if you need a more affordable hire for local touring, and a choice of insurance options, do give them a try.