The time had come for us to pick up our car from Vancouver airport. We had a lot of luggage (two big suitcases, one big rucksack, three small rucksacks and myriad camping equipment), so we left it at our accommodation and took public transport out to the airport. At this point, I was excited. I had no idea what was to come.
We had booked the car online ages ago via Expedia. It was booked for three weeks, giving us enough time to drive over to Alberta and visit Jasper and Banff National Parks before heading back to Vancouver in time to meet Mum and Dad at the airport.
We arrived at the Avis check-in desk and queued to get the car. When we were called up to the desk, we hit our first problem. For some reason, the deposit for the car could only be taken on a credit card. I don’t own a credit card.
Now, annoyingly, the debit card that I was using for our travels often counted as a credit card as it was a ‘foreign’ card, which wasn’t always useful – like I literally couldn’t use it in some places. But for the purposes of Avis car rental, it was a debit.
Obviously they can’t rent the car out without the deposit, so I began to feel a bit worried, all our plans revolved around us having a car. I hurriedly handed over all three of my cards for the man to check with his manager: my UK debit card, my New Zealand debit card and my Travelex currency card.
The man went away for a while, I began to get a little paranoid that he was stealing all my card details, but no strange transactions as of yet. He came back and explained that he couldn’t use the currency card, he couldn’t use the New Zealand card as it doesn’t have my name on it (I got it at the bank, so it just says ‘cardholder’), but he could try my UK card. Not ideal, but that’s okay.
He put the card through. Then our second problem occurred. An automatic charge of $500 went through. FIVE HUNDRED DOLLARS.
From this experience, I have learned two very crucial things about hiring cars:
- If you are under 25, don’t even think about it.
- Always read the small print.
I am 23. This means that that $500 was a $25 a day surcharge for being a young person. Obviously, if you are under 25, you aren’t allowed cars. Probably because you are a reckless mess who will deliberately crash and try to sue everybody. Young people don’t even need cars, they have everything anyway: mobile phones, the internet, crippling mental heath issues. The one thing we don’t have is money. So they make nice things, like houses, cars, university degrees, too expensive for us. Then we’re told it’s our fault that we don’t save our imaginary pounds.
I’m not bitter about this at all.
This brings me to my second point. The online car hire gave me a price along with a lovely sentence: “The total price includes all mandatory taxes and fees”. I thought that meant I’d paid for everything. But no.
Expedia has a very tiny little clause in its small print that says “Additional charges or restrictions may apply for drivers under 25 or over 70”. Sneaky sneaky. Read it, if you ever hire from Expedia. And then expect the worst.
Thankfully our car hire experience did end in us getting a car to drive around Canada. We also got upgraded from our pre-ordered “Chevrolet Spark or similar” to a beautiful VW Golf TSi with more power and most importantly, more space! We were able to fit all our bags in and rearrange our stuff to fully recline the seats to sleep at night.
We, rather organically, named the car “the expensive bitch” and set off to explore this beautiful bit of Canada.