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Renting a Car and Booking.com

10/16 Just returned from a memorable month in France with my husband. Two weeks in Paris, two weeks driving to various locations. A dream come true and memories to last a lifetime.

I want to add however, we did have two events which I feel would help others on their way and it probably fits for most countries.

Stay clear of Hertz. I used Rick's suggestion of booking a car with Autoeurope. I booked a car in the US but needed to change my return location once I was in France. Autoeurope changed the reservation easily but switched my rental company from Europcar to Hertz. I did not realize/know what a difference that would make. The Hertz rental at Charles de Gaulle was horrible, which is the nicest way I can describe it. Just be very careful if you do pick up from Hertz as the integrity of their personnel is low in our experience. Make sure you clearly understand every line item even if you have to ask for repetition of the explanation or a supervisor. The agent who "helped" me ended up charging me for insurance that I thought I had declined. Remember many if not most credit cards you use have some form of insurance for rental cars when you travel abroad. We spent quite a bit of time researching that before we left and thought we knew what we we doing. Alas, not the case. I do speak French but in this case it did not help us.

Booking.com also let us down and I since learned that my experience is not too far from others. So my advice is to look at more than the Booking.com reviews for places you find on that site to confirm the glowing reports you see on their listing. Also know that if you cancel a booking which we did after arriving and finding it unacceptable, you can not give a review for the location because technically did not stay there even though we had to pay a cancellation fee and we did so because of the state of the location.. (That is Booking.com's policy according to customer service who did not want me to talk to her supervisor.)

Our trip was truly phenomenal on the whole. The French people were extremely helpful especially outside of Paris and we plan a return trip in the future.

Posted by
21332 posts

It is always a good idea to check several sources. In the past when we have used brooking.com for Europe it has worked well but it has been a couple of years. I am sure you had a problem. But when a first time poster comes to this site with a rant about some great disservice it is hard to know how much credibility to give to the problem. I know you are trying to a give a strong negative review but I am sure there is at least another side to the story and maybe two or three others. So I just don't know what to believe or disbelieve from your story. You didn't indicated what was unacceptable and Booking policy seems reasonable.

And if you had spent some time on this site before, you would have read several postings about issues with relying on credit card insurance coverage. Generally not a good idea.

Good luck with your future trips.

Posted by
2916 posts

Rental car agencies can be unpredictable, since they seem to vary from location to location, and maybe even from employee to employee within a particular location (although I would think that management sets the tone for any particular location, and sometimes system-wide). I have rented cars in France for several decades, most of the time from Europcar and most of those times through either Autoeurope or Kemwel (same ownership), and have found them very good and reliable ... until this year. Because of that, and because of some other complaints, I had thought about using Hertz instead. Now I'll think twice, especially after reading some other complaints. I have never purchased CDW from a rental company in France, always relying on credit card insurance, and I plan to continue to do that. Until this year, Europcar had always been very relaxed about that; not so this Spring.

Posted by
7205 posts

I agree about Booking.com - an otherwise reputable booking site. We booked with them for St Petersburg Russia, checked in and the first morning covered in bedbug bites. Obviously we immediately checked out and were able to cancel the remainder of our stay via booking.com. But that meant we could not leave a review of the dismal property which was gloriously described on the booking.com website.

Posted by
7858 posts

And we had the same problem as Robert at the same Europcar rental location with the same employee this May, after 20 years if fine service with Europcar. Europcar has started some upsell tactics this year that we had to decline and double-check at each rental. So you didn't double-check before leaving the rental agency and were caught in a gotcha. It could have happened with some Europcar agencies, too. You don't have to draw a line against all France Hertz Agencies, but you do have to check before driving away. BTW, happened to me in my hometown but I caught it. Bratty kid signed that I was paying for a fill up. It was Enterprise.

Posted by
823 posts

Just my two cents... But, I have found customer service declining and pressure to up-sell increasing at rental car agencies all over the world. With the advent of on-line expeditors and re-sellers, the profit margins are being reduced to razor thin and they are finding creative ways to boost their bottom lines. I have found that customer loyalty goes a long way in combatting this trend - if they see that you rent an average of 120 days a year (I do), they treat you a little better. I'm just glad that my job-related car rentals are made using a corporate contract code and the rental companies are far less likely to risk alienating a corporate client. It might be worth checking whether your financial institution (USAA is one), insurance company, or membership-only box store or buying club (Sam's Club/COSTCO) has member agreements with one of more rental car companies.

By the way, this seems to have parallels across the entire travel industry to include airlines and hotel chain as well. My theory is that it's a byproduct of consumers always looking for a rock-bottom deal whether it's the cheapest airfare, cheapest hotel room or the cheapest car rental.

Posted by
6570 posts

AutoEurope is a consolidator that buys X number of rentals in Europe at a discounted price. Then they "retail" them. I've always had good luck and most often end up getting a Hertz car. I also will check prices with Hertz direct. Sometimes AutoEurope's cheaper and sometimes Hertz with my fleet card is less expensive.
Hertz in Europe are company owned locations--and not franchises. I would think in most places their service is consistent. Your experience with Hertz in Paris may be a "French Thing." Conducting business in France genrally just doesn't seem to be smooth--a people issue.

Last time we were in Paris, the Gard du Nord (train station) staffed their information booth with young adults that wouldn't speak English. And that's where the Eurostar fast trains come into Paris with thousands of English speaking tourists every day. That's France.
The more you smile and the nicer you are to people, the better service you'll receive.

Posted by
430 posts

I have had nothing but good experiences with Booking.com internationally and in the US. I carefully read their reviews and reviews from TripAdvisor as well. We just used them to book 12 properties in France and 15 properties in Ireland last year. I have a personal bottom limit for the review score and have not been disillusioned yet.

Posted by
2916 posts

Work2Travel's analysis is spot on. As to French rental car agencies, until this last experience, they've been fantastic. Courteous, and several times when I said that I thought my credit card would cover collision damage, they agreed that was probably the case. And one time when there was no promised automatic at the Lyon train station, they had one of their agents drive us out to the airport to get one.

Posted by
3924 posts

I've never had a bad experience from booking.com hotels and use them each year, along with Expedia, for all hotels in Europe. I do check final selections' reviews on other hotel sites and also virtually walk a few blocks in each direction on Google Maps to check out the neighborhood and outside of the building.

Posted by
6369 posts

"We booked with them for St Petersburg Russia, checked in and the first morning covered in bedbug bites. "

I'm not sure I understand booking.com's stance on this. If you spent one night there then technically you 'stayed' there and should be able to leave a review of your stay, whether it was just one night and then cancelled or the whole time you originally reserved for. This kind of bothers me because I strongly recommend them to everyone I know. I've never had a situation with using them that has not been resolved satisfactorily.

Posted by
12773 posts

But when a first time poster comes to this site with a rant about some
great disservice it is hard to know how much credibility to give to
the problem. I know you are trying to a give a strong negative review
but I am sure there is at least another side to the story and maybe
two or three others. So I just don't know what to believe or
disbelieve from your story. You didn't indicated what was unacceptable
and Booking policy seems reasonable.

I'm afraid that I'm in Frank's corner here. Without having the name of the accommodation and the reasons you found unacceptable, it's difficult to give a complaint about booking.com from a first-time poster a lot of credibility. We use the site frequently for reviews/making reservations and have yet to have been disappointed. I do check reviews of a property on more than one site, though.

Posted by
7205 posts

Nancy: You're correct I did stay there one night so you would think I'd be allowed to review the property via booking.com. However, that wasn't true - but you can see my detailed review tripadvisor.com for that property.

Posted by
2916 posts

I've used Booking.com several times w/o any problem. However, I don't really even pay attention to their ratings. I use TripAdvisor and other sources for that. I've only used Booking.com for the actual booking.

Posted by
671 posts

I first search for a hotel on booking.com (BC). After narrowing down choices, I then look at reviews on tripadvisor.com (TA). I've found that hotels that rated very highly on both websites have turned out to be outstanding. I consider a high rating to be all 'excellent' and 'very good' scores (with virtually no lower ratings of 'good', 'average', or 'poor') on TA, and a score of over 9.0/10 on BC. My last check is the hotel's website. If the price is the same as quoted on BC, or if they offer a special rate, I book directly with the hotel. If much cheaper, I will book on BC. I have never booked through TA. I've never had any problems with either the hotel or BC during the past 10 years and have booked hotels in Italy, France, Austria, Czech Republic, Germany, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Illinois.

Posted by
756 posts

A few thoughts: First off, we have had generally excellent results with Booking.com. I look at their average rating and go by it. If you look at all the ratings for a place, you will see that depending on who rated it mos places are rated somewhere between the Taj Mahal and the Black Hole of Calcutta. That is why I look at the average. Relative to bed bugs, that is a condition that comes and goes and people have found them in some of the best hotels in Paris.

Second is with car rentals. Autoeurope is a consolidator. They do a fairly good job but can drop the ball miserably. We were on a family trip with my in-laws and they were going to fly home from Munich so the plan was we would turn in our mini-van and pick up a smaller car when we dropped them off at the Munich Airport. I dropped everyone off at the terminal, turned in the van, went to the Hertz desk to get the car and got a blank stare instead. Turns out the new car was at a Hertz facility in downtown Munich! Autoeurope was gracious enough when I got back home, they apologized and sent me a check for my cab fare but they will never be forgiven or forgotten. Remember that rental car companies, airlines and hotels are all in business to make money and when we go through a consolidator we cost them money and should anything go wrong we will go to the back of the line when it comes to getting help, right behind all of their direct customers. For that reason I will always pay a couple bucks more to buy directly from the airlines who are bad enough anyway without antagonizing them.

One last suggestion. If you are going to use need a car for 3 weeks or longer definitely look into leasing. The only drawback is that if you need an automatic transmission, you need to book way in advance. Overall the whole experience is a bit cheaper and vastly superior to renting.

Better luck next time.

Posted by
18056 posts

I've traveled economically and successfully in Germany and surrounding countries for over 15 years. Two principle of my travel are 1) use public transportation, and 2) don't use booking websites.

Case in point, I'm currently planning my next trip to Europe and plan to stay in a little (pop. 16,000) town on the Main river near Würzburg and visit attractions in Bavaria.

Most days, my sidetrips will be made using Bayern-Tickets for 28€ for two. To go to Bamberg by train will take 1h47min. Going by car, according to ViaMichelin, would take 1h43min (assuming no stops or wrong turns) and cost 27€ for gas alone, let alone taking into account the daily cost of a rental.

Booking dot com lists 7 hotels in town. The average price of these hotels on Booking is 105.29€/nt, DZ. The same 7 hotels are shown on the town website, with URLs. If booked through their websites they average 96.14€/nt, DZ, almost 10% less than if booked directly on Booking. One hotel shows the same price on Booking as on their website, but on Booking, breakfast is not included; it is if booked directly.

However, the town website shows 9 other hotels that are not shown on Booking. Their average price is 66€/nt, DZ. The town website also shows 21 FeWo (vacation apartments), for an average of 37€/nt, none of which shows on booking.

But this is Germany. I don't know how well this works in France. First, France does not have the robust rail system that Germany has. They have 30% fewer km of track in a country 80% bigger than Germany. Second, I don't no how well town website accommodation lists work vs booking websites in France. In Germany, I have no concerns about staying in the least expensive places. The rooms might be smaller, but they are always clean and well maintained, even in places without star ratings. The Germans just have high standards.

Posted by
1146 posts

Thanks for all the great reviews for Booking.com, makes me more comfortable to use them for booking now. I did find that when Booking.com indicates to be sold out, if you contact the hotel directly they may still have a room. I also use TA to confirm the review on Booking.com and then will see if I can book directly with the hotel with the same conditions as booking.com.

Posted by
671 posts

One other reason for no available rooms for a hotel on booking.com is that the hotel may not have set its prices for the time you are looking to book if it is months in advance. This happened for a particular hotel that we will be staying at in Florence in March 2017. I started checking for room rates a few months ago and ended up writing to them to inquire why none appeared to be available. They said that they had not yet set their room prices for 2017 and only recently did so, so now rooms are available on booking.com as well as the hotel website.

Posted by
18056 posts

One other reason for no available rooms for a hotel on booking.com is
that the hotel may not have set its prices for the time you are
looking to book if it is months in advance.

I'm sure that is sometimes true, particularly like now, late in 2016, if you are looking for a room price in early 2017. But for the most part I don't think that is the case.

Let's face it, hotels would like you to book through them, and they get the full price, rather than have you book through a booking agency, and they get only 85% of the price. I think hotels only make available through booking agencies the rooms that they don't expect to book themselves at that time of the year. I've seen hotels have the same number of rooms available on a booking site no matter how short or long the time is in advance.

Never rely entirely on booking websites. Always try to find the hotel's own website and find their prices. Sometimes this is very difficult as booking websites are ingenious at getting their listing in first on search sites. I've had to go back several pages, once five, in order to find the hotel's official site. But I often find better deals on the hotel's own site than I could get from a booking site. Hotels often give to booking sites only their most expensive rooms (like with a view or balcony) and save the less expensive rooms for their own booking. Several times I have found great package deals, with a price for multiple days or including meals or entrances to attractions for not much more than the room alone.

But more importantly, town sites often have at least as many more accommodations listed as does a booking site, and these are usually the smaller places, places that are very economical because they operate on a shoestring, places that cannot afford to pay the booking site's commission. So always try to find places not listed on booking websites.

Posted by
12773 posts

Lee, I don't disagree at all with some of the benefits you've illustrated with booking direct. At the same time booking.com (or other favorite sites people may have) provides different sorts of benefits which are also nice: the ability to make reservations 24/7 even for accommodations which don't have 24/7desks; good records of the transaction; no language complications; assistance when needed.

They were very helpful when a B&B at which we'd booked a flat in Belgium was unresponsive when sent info they required for final confirmation. The owner must have been away, and (we discovered upon arrival) the caretakers didn't speak any English at all thus some communication snags. Clock ticking, I finally sent a note to booking.com and they finally managed to get the necessary confirmation. LOL, they said that they had the same responsiveness issue I did!

Posted by
671 posts

@Lee. Actually, it was true for the hotel in Florence that we had stayed in twice before. I originally contacted the hotel in late May 2016 about a late March 2017 stay. I figured it was less than one year ahead, I had already booked plane tickets, and many other hotels had posted room prices for that time. But this hotel did not. Their response was: "We have availability in 2017, but since we didn't put official rates online, it seems there's no availability." I kept checking every few weeks until they finally posted the prices in early October 2016.

Posted by
156 posts

I have used an Americian firm Gemur.com to,book cars for me on my last three trips to Europe. They do the leg work and their prices match or are better than web prices. The advantage is they can be reached if you have a problem. They will navigate the various car rentals companies for you. Give them a try.