Car rental in Ho Chi Minh city
The 21st century, car rental in Ho Chi Minh city is a ferociously competitive industry, which can provide travellers with outstandingly good value. For $35 a day or less, you can get unlimited use of an asset that is worth $34.000 or more. But like many dimensions of the travel industry, the whole business has become distorted and opaque since the internet intervened between the holidaymaker and their wheels. This guide can help you get good value — and avoid the pitfalls.
Where do I start?
Like everything in travel, car rental rates vary dramatically depending on supply and demand; in the short run, supply is fixed, while demand is highly volatile.
To get an idea of price levels, enter your requirements at a price-comparison website,. But be aware that the very lowest quotes may have some or all of these features: a very high excess on damage; a fuel policy that isn’t “out full, back full”; and awkward access arrangements.
Having established the prevailing price level, either ask a travel agent to book a car as part of your trip, or pick up the phone. This last recommendation is based on a couple of things. Clicking through to the best deal on a price comparison site may take you to a broker; both these enterprises will collect a margin, so in general firms prefer to sell direct. And if there are problems it helps to cut out the middlemen.
Talk to the Vietnam office of two or three of the car-rental, such as Asean Master, Avis and Green Leaf, and any local companies that have been recommended to you. for example, I find Phu Quoc is very good. In addition, if you belong to an airline or hotel loyalty scheme, it is well worth seeing if there are discounts or special deals, such as a second driver free.
After decades of renting cars abroad, and being clobbered for unexpected extras on several occasions, I have concluded that I would rather pay a few pounds extra and have the chance for a proper conversation with someone.
What do I ask?
- The price. It should include everything, including airport surcharge, taxes and basic insurance (typically the minimum legal requirement of the country you are in).
- The excess: how much may I have to pay in the event of damage? If I choose to take out separate insurance for that excess, will you accept the policy? And can you guarantee that I won’t be asked for a deposit?
- Can I add a second driver for free? If not, how much will it cost?
- What’s the fuel policy? The traditional plan is out full/back full. Many internet deals, though, insist on out full/back empty. You pay an inflated amount for the tank of fuel, and are cheerfully told to bring it back empty – which, of course, is an impossibility. Every drop of fuel that you leave represents profit for the provider. If it’s not an “out full/back full” policy, I will politely decline.
- Tolls. I ask: can I pay tolls manually? If I can, I do. If not, I ask if I can enrol online for a scheme rather than take a more expensive option.
Having phoned around, simply take the best deal.
Anything else to bear in mind?
Plenty, in particular when you pick up the car up. In many cases, car rental staff are incentivised on the extras they can persuade you to take when you pick up the car. My rule is politely to decline everything. They are mostly absurdly overpriced insurance options. Roadside Assistance Plus, for example, is not necessary. If your car breaks down, it’s their problem, not yours, and they need to sort it out. Decline the chance to pay for this benefit.
How can I keep prices down?
Don’t rent at an airport. Airports recognise the value of car rental to passengers and know they can extract a premium. This is passed on to the customer — with lots of other people trying to get a slice.
In a two-week rental, those charges can add hundreds of dollars, but you can avoid them by hopping on the train from the airport and hiring downtown.
What about GPS?
Car rental firms will be delighted to rent you one, or that old fallback, a road map.