How to rent a car during lockdown: Sanitised, self-drive option from Avis India experienced

The Avis India car that we got was the Toyota Etios and it was used for an airport run wherein we checked on the facilities provided by the rental agency as well as the ease of renting the four-wheeler during these uncertain times.

By:Updated: Jun 19, 2020 6:14 PM

The government-induced lockdown has put into place many a thing. Policies like sanitisation, not shaking hands, social distancing and more. While the overall implementation is still not complete, we believe this pandemic will definitely coerce us into not behaving like animals in a herd. A similar case presents itself when we resume work. How will we travel in buses, railways coaches or even taxis. Will we throw caution to the wind and instead focus on getting to work at any cost, lest we report late to office? The answer could be ambiguous and I might not be in a position to give any solid reasons at this point in time. While work-from-home is a viable solution, it isn’t benefitted in the long term. A case that presents itself is that of self-driving rental cars or personal transportation. While buying a car right now might not be viable for many or hiring a taxi which many others have used wouldn’t be feasible, a rental car makes sense.

Express Drives happened to get in touch with one of the rental agencies which agreed to loan us a car for a day. The occasion coincided with my wife coming down from Mumbai. A perfect time to test how a rental car works and how safe is it. Avis sent us a car and this is no-watered down account but a guide on how to go about choosing a rental car during these testing times.

The booking process

As is evident, most rental cars can be booked online. Go to the company website and select the car and package you want. In this case, logon to Avis India website, select the self-drive option and choose the dates, city where you want the car and the time. Given that right now there is a melee to book self-drive cars, I had to let go of several options before settling for a Toyota Etios. Avis will not charge for the kilometres covered but instead concentrate on the days you want the car. There is free pick-up and drop while the company says that it will not handover the car in public places like malls, airports or railway stations. If you’re planning to drive from one of these places, it is recommended you provide a friend or relative’s address who stay closeby.

The Toyota Etios basic rental is Rs 4,149. This depends on the number of days one is going to use the car. I used it for a day. Add to that a Rs 5,000 security deposit (refundable) and the cost comes to approximately Rs 10,000 with the taxes factored in. Rs 5,000 for your own car for a day. Expensive, eh!

How good are the rental cars

My first reaction on seeing the car was this is a taxi. Unfortunately, due to the new regulations in place, certain states including Delhi-NCR require all rental cars to now sport a yellow number plate. The condition of the vehicle was good with even the tyres in decent shape. There was only a small scratch on the rear bumper and that’s all. The cabin too was good and considering that the car had barely done 20,000km, it was almost new. Avis replenishes its fleet every 18 months. A full tank of gas is given and Avis expects the customer to return the car likewise. The driver takes you around, explains the various functions and even tells you where the jack is kept. In the case of the Etios, it is below the shotgun’s seat. That’s some good advice there. This particular car also had an air sanitiser as well as a music system with six and USB capability.

The driver takes your aadhar or driving license, clicks a photograph of it and makes you sign an indemnity form. Once this is done, you are free to drive the car.

How was the experience

The first hurdle many will face while driving a rental car with a yellow number plate is the image of a taxi. Moreover, the car model I was driving is a popular taxi, the feeling got exacerbated. No matter how well dressed you’re and or how you obey the rules and drive, there will always be the step-motherly treatment on the road. Akin to how one will perhaps treats a taxi while using their own private vehicle. At the Noida border, I could see the toll attendants rubbing their hands in glee at the sight of a taxi. I was asked to pay the toll and it was Rs 100. A few months ago, while driving another rental car, the booth guys didn’t even bother to check. Similarly, at the airport one needs to enter the taxi lane and pay Rs 150 for entering the airport. However, this is the case with almost all the rental agency cars as these are considered under the tourist class.

The top speed is capped at 80kmph. Here, I was driving a car with an 80kmph speed limiter for the first time and now I understand how frustrating it must be for the cab drivers. Nonetheless, mechanically the car was sound and there were no squeaks or rattles. Even the clutch and gearbox were quite sorted in their operation.

How would you rate the overall experience?

I may be a miser here but then spending Rs 5,000 plus for just an airport run isn’t my cup of coffee. However, for those who have multiple errands or are on a short visit to town, it seems like a good deal. Once the car is returned, the deposit money is refunded within 15 days. Avis says that they sanitise the car at a special ozonised booth before handing it over to the customer. Moreover, the driver wears a mask and uses gloves too.

Out of five stars, I will rate this experience as 3.5. The cost seems a bit higher and at the same time, I couldn’t get over the tourist yellow plate. For an airport run, it is a bit costly but for roaming around the city or using it for an entire day, a big thumbs up. Perhaps, Avis India could introduce an hourly rental version?

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