How to fix a rental car in a foreign country
I recently went to France; hired a car, didn’t take the insurance, created a bit of body work mayhem and then bluffed the rental company into getting my AUD$1600.00 deposit back.
I’ve told this story numerous times over a few beers. Here’s the condensed version should you need it.
Things you’ll need:
1. A Walter White Breaking Bad attitude. If you’ve just seen Season 1, that’s good enough.
2. Google. You’ll want to find some local garages. Be aware of roaming charges. Some networks have a $5.00 per day data plan.
3. Renault Clio or similar.
4. Booze. I was in between the Champagne region and Loire Valley. This wasn’t an issue.
5. A phrase book. Foreign mechanics speak about as much English as you do French – or whatever the hell language you are trying to spit out.
6. Black gloss spray paint – or colour required
7. Stub nose pliers.
9. Sand paper
Here’s what happened.
I ran over a guiding marble stone trying to avoid an oncoming bus in a tiny French village. This made a huge dent underneath the back door (making it un-openable), plus a plastic panel dented and snapped off.
After a good few hours of freaking out, we rented a Chateau and bought up on cheese, pate, boudin noire and champagne; then told ourselves travel insurance would take care of it.
In a drunken haze and after flicking through our travel notes...we were very wrong.
Combien? I ask the mechanic. $2000.00 Euro he tells me in broken English.
There was no way I was spending AUD$3400.00 to fix a car, let alone let the rental company take my deposit and charge up to $15,000 Euro for the value of the car, which was in the contract.
Here’s what we did:
1. Freak out. Tears, anger, swearing and acceptance. All the emotions and things you’ll do/have when you royally f$#k a rental.
2. Get drunk. This eased the pain for one night, numbed the anger, and brought the acceptance stage forward much sooner.
3. Have a kebab – or something that brings you close to home. There is nothing worse than hatching a scheming plan on an empty stomach. Perspective.
4. Take the car to a mechanic – try and get a quote. We went to about 15 garages; none that could help us for what we were trying to do.
5. Assess the car for a carpark DIY job (Walter White knowledge comes in handy)
6. I kicked that back door open finally and googled the French version of Bunnings.
7. Go to said French Bunnings, buy up on items 6,7,8 & 9 and get to work. We were set up in a self-wash car wash. Very ghetto. It felt pretty cool.
8. I used the pliers to flatten out the back door issues, sanded down the rough metal and used the mallet to tap away until the door closed properly. The glossy spray paint finished the job.
9. We found a garage that could replace the plastic part on our final day.
We dropped the keys in and boarded a bus to San Sebastian, Spain.
It took a while before we could find out the status of our deposit; only once getting to Barcelona and visiting a rental car branch who could bring up our file. Deposit released, ‘No Damage’.
That night involved a $200Euro bill at Michelin restaurant Tickets in Barcelona. Hustle successful.
I told myself when I got to the UK I would take the insurance – but, who is spending an extra 25 bucks a day in case they get into a sticky situation?
*Note: I think I’ve made this pretty obvious...but I have zero knowledge of cars.