Originally I planned to be in the United States for two weeks so when the time came to stay longer than that, I just extended the hire car. It was a big and costly mistake. I had confirmed at the time of hiring that extending the contract was doable and the rate would not change, what I didn’t confirm though was that the insurance would remain free. The hire rate remained unchanged at $245 a week but there was also insurance charges of around $200 a week – in effect the cost of the car had doubled!
I spoke to the Dollar customer service on the phone and found them to be the most unhelpful and unpleasant people to deal with. I was calm and polite (I always have the logic that getting annoyed at an individual achieves nothing) but couldn’t extract the information I needed from the representative and in the end he actually put the phone down on me. Talk about terrible service! In the end, I ended up driving from Las Vegas back to Los Angeles to return the car and pick up another I’d hired from the excellent carhire3000.com. I complained to the manger of the depot and whilst she understood there was nothing she was prepared to do initially as I’d signed a contract – my argument was that although I signed the contract, it was under the belief that the “new contract” was simply an extension. In the end, the manager refunded me the “RoadSafe” charge of $6 a day for the entire duration I had the car. Whilst I was still out of pocket I realised the futility of taking it any further and was glad of the refund!
As a slight aside at this stage, I will say in Dollar’s defence, although the telephone customer service is abysmal, the people on the ground are great and were happy to help me out with the swapping of cars. I would use them again via carhire3000.com and I wouldn’t extend the contract!
The drive back to Las Vegas was amazing – I left the car pickup place at 3pm or so and it took me ages to get across town due to the traffic and an accident on the 405. I ended up leaving Los Angeles itself around 7 and drove back to Las Vegas at night. As I neared Las Vegas I was mesmerised by the road – it’s so straight and visibility is so good I could just see a trail of red and white lights stretching into the distance. I crested one hill and fell into a trance created by the white cats eyes whisking past me on either side of the car – they were a blur directly in front of the car, individual dots in the mid distance and then appeared to take off into the air. It was extraordinary and twice I realised I was drifting off into a trance so had to get out of the lane!
The Cars – Dodge verses Ford
The first Dodge Charger I had was lovely. It was bright red, had a presence on the road, the engine was loose and it just felt a nice place to be. The second Dodge Charger was the exact opposite. It was bullet grey and disappeared on the road, everything felt stunted and there was a vicious vibration throughout the entire car. It needed to be changed so I took it to the Dollar depot in Las Vegas and swapped for a deliciously black Ford Taurus. That was flawed in that it had the “my key” protection on – lots of things were limited to promote “safe driving” so I took it back in favour of red one. I tried arguing for an upgrade to a Mustang, but they wouldn’t hear of it – they did however give me a free tank of fuel so in a sense the return leg from Los Angeles to Las Vegas was free.
People tell me the Dodge is a terrible car and that the Ford is a nicer place to be, but I’m undecided. The Red Dodge Charger had a great sound system, it was happy to accelerate, had a presence on the road and in the car park, it had a simple console and was Rear Wheel Drive meaning it handled relatively nicely. The Ford on the other hand had a terrible sound system (always too tinny), it had a vast array of buttons on the console to choose from, it just blended in with everything else on the road and it was Front Wheel Drive meaning it torque steered badly and would understeer through all the corners. The only thing in the Ford’s favour was that the engine felt more powerful, smoother and was more frugal, and it had a flappy-paddle gearbox (which was hideously slow on changes but great for keeping it in one gear). I liked both cars and preferred the engine in the Ford, but well, the Dodge is a “muscle” car. It wins every time.
Click here to load a map showing you the location of this post and images from the digitallery taken nearby.