Renting a car in Athens is one of the hottest topics discussed in numerous tourist forums about Greece. People search for some uptodate information about reliable car rental companies, their policies, rates and so on. Unfortunately decent quality information is hard to find.
Browse by Category: Click any of the links below to jump to the desired section:
- Athens Car Rental Reviews
- How the Car Rental Scam Works
- How Rental Companies Prove Damage
- How to Avoid Paying for Damages You Didn’t Make
- My Experience Renting from Hertz and Avis
- My Experience Renting from Drive Hellas
- My Experience Renting from a Tiny No Name Company
- Vote for Your Preferred Car Rental Company in Athens
In this post I’ll provide you with some guidance on how to rent a car in Athens and not get scammed. The main idea of the post is to workout a reliable way of selecting a trusted car rental company for your next travel to Greece.
Athens Car Rental Reviews
I made my first attempt to find a reliable car rental company in Athens before taking one of my first trips to Greece in 2007. I was shocked to see a large number of negative reviews and discussions on the internet about rental process. There was a large number of travelers willing to save some cash and getting scammed. They signed rental contracts with some small local companies that offered more attractive rates. This resulted in overpays, missed ferries, and in some cases physical damage.
Here are several examples of these “bad stories” with links so you can further explore on your own. There are a lot more of these examples on the internet, believe me!
The traveler from Slovenia booked his car at the company called Aramis.
Here are some of the problems he encountered during the process:
- Rented car’s gas tank was close to empty
- The car was unwashed
- The body of the car had a lot of minor damages
- Prepaid GPS didn’t work
- The car had an over pressure in it’s front right tire
- The spare tire was missing and no wheel repair tools available
- The customer was unable to drive faster than 55 miles per hour (90 km/hour) due to bad engine noise
Another negative review is about the company called ACR.
Here the customers from Canada were driving towards their vacation destination in Volos. Unfortunately their rented car broke after driving 170 miles (270 kilometers) away from Athens. They ended up paying some repair bills (with no luck) at some local mechanic that they managed to find. In addition to that they held multiple long distance calls with ACR before the company agreed to give them another car.
None of their repair costs were compensated.
Here the customer wrote a review about his rental experience with the company called Lotus.
In this case the customer spent almost 2 hours waiting for the company representative to pick them up from the airport. After arriving to the office they were told that their prepaid car was not available. The car that they ended up renting was more expensive and broke down 3 days later. This resulted in the missed ferry to the islands. After returning the car Lotus tried to charge them additional money for the damages they didn’t do.
Negative experience of renting a car at Green Motion.
This case doesn’t sound as horrible as the previous 3, but still describes a negative experience. This is a great example of bad communication with customers as well as overall inability to setup clear business procedures. The customer was smart to return his car well ahead of the schedule and not rely on the company’s poor business processes on his departure day.
All of these examples share a number of common things:
- Customers were renting from unknown local companies
- Some of the vehicles have been fully prepaid in advance
- The booked car was unavailable at the time of pickup because it was allocated to some other customer
- Another more expensive vehicle was proposed
- The customers chose to agree on the new car as well as higher daily rate
- The rented vehicle had severe mechanical defects
- Rental companies tried to charge their customers for damages they didn’t do
How the Car Rental Scam Works
So basically this type of “unreliable” companies receive their customer’s prepayments (with no way to be refunded) and later make an “upsell” by making them rent a more expensive vehicle. Usually most of the cars owned by this type of companies are in bad condition. So what they do after customers return their cars is make another “upsell” by obliging their customers to pay for the damages they didn’t do.
A lot of this type of companies operate without a legal entity or registered using fake documents. Even when there is a legitimate legal entity in place, the contracts that they offer to be signed are very confusing. In many cases the cost of “damages” that they attempt to pull from the travelers are based on some fictional calculations and have nothing to do with the real market value.
And here is the worst part.
The worst part is that customers are put in the situation where they are left no choice – but to agree with these criminals. People agree to sign more expensive fares because they don’t want to loose money by missing their ferries and booked hotels.
How Rental Companies Prove Damage
There are two important documents that are signed after the main contract:
- The so called check-out form, that contains all details related to the car’s conditions at the start of rental
- The check-in form that lists all details related to the car’s condition at the end of rental period
Any new damages that appear on the check-in form at the end of the rental period have to be covered by the driver.
How to Avoid Paying for Damages You Didn’t Make
Well, its always important to read the contract that the company wants you to sign. Don’t sign anything that makes you feel uncomfortable or suspicious.
Otherwise it’s harder to hold a valid objection later on. Take pictures of the car when you sign your check-out form. This may be a great help to you in the possible disputes with the company, especially when all photos made by modern smartphones include the time, date and Geo-location. If you notice any damaged parts not included in your check-out form – report them to the staff and make sure they are included in your papers.
My Experience Renting from Hertz and Avis in Athens
After reading through all these terrifying stories I made a decision to pay more and stick with one of the better known franchises. I do understand that these local extensions of Hertz, Avis, Budget and Enterprise are totally independent companies. Their legal entities have nothing to do with the companies located in the US except their franchise contracts. Well, that’s better than nothing.
I booked my first auto in Athens at Avis located at Venizelos Airport. It was a small Toyota that had some minor scratches and bumps all over the body. All of them were honestly included in my check-out form. Local Avis staff spoke decent English and it was easy to communicate with them. At the end of my vacation I returned the car and didn’t have any problems.
During my latest visit to Athens in summer I made a reservation at Hertz Autohellas located on Syngrou Avenue. This is one of the largest Hertz franchisees in Europe. Their modern office is located steps away from Acropolis metro station.
Their staff spoke multiple languages and the office was full of customers from all over the world (it was high season).
It cost me 780 Euros (890 USD) to rent their smallest car (Hyundai Getz) for the period of 30 days in June. When I’m in Europe I usually book directly or use AutoEuro to find some better deals.
Keep in mind that the most expensive month to rent is August, when everyone in Europe goes on vacation. Here is a photo of my “beast”.
Most of the cars available for rent in Europe come with manual transmissions that are extinct in the U.S. The car I was renting had a lot of minor damages all over body that were carefully highlighted in the checkout form and signed by the staff. Again, my rental went well and there were no problems.
My Experience Renting from Drive Hellas
So far, my overall experience with companies like Avis and Hertz was positive. On the other side the rates offered by these larger companies are much higher comparing to smaller local companies. During high season the difference could reach close to 100%. So I decided to give it another try and search for some local independent company I could trust.
I searched through a large number of web pages and forums until I found the company called Drive Hellas. I remembered passing their branch every time I took taxi from the International Airport. I could see their new Toyotas standing behind the fence and their website looked informative. Overall it looked like a decent company.
The rates it offered were not as low as the ones offered by other smaller companies (about 20% vs close to 100%), but the company looked more reliable. So I decided to give them a try.
Here are my overall thoughts:
- The staff at companies like Hertz and Avis are much better trained. They speak better English and are better at managing their internal processes.
- I have been using larger rental companies for a long time in various cities around the world. I had several situations when I was NOT charged for some minor scratches that I was responsible for (lower side of the bumper).
Drive Hellas take these kind of minor scratches extremely serous. Their staff is trained really well to find anything that would allow them to make that final “upsell“.
I had a minor scratch on the bottom side of the bumper. The lady at Drive Hellas was very professional to find it and provide me with their price list options that contained a large number of possible scratches and bumps. Bumper scratches had a price tag of 220Eur.
Since the scratch was small, they agreed to provide me with a 50% discount, which was very nice.
- I can say that my overall experience was not bad, but that final aggressive attitude made me stick to larger companies.
My Experience Renting from a Tiny No Name Company
Here is another car rental experience I had with a tiny company during my vacation on one of the Greek islands. It was a family run business with just 10 – 15 cars. The owner spoke good English and was very helpful. Most of the cars had lots of minor body damages and were more than 3 years old. We used our car to explore the island and didn’t have a single problem with it. The owner was very polite and didn’t try to assign any of the existing bumps or scratches to our check-in form.
So you can see that it doesn’t necessarily mean that smaller companies are worse than the large ones. I guess in general I would advise you to get some positive references from the people you know before booking with a smaller unknown rental company when traveling to Athens.