Friday, May 11, 2012

Rental Car Woes

Less than two months after I wrote favourably about rental car deals, I experienced a major problem with a rental car. I had rented a Volkswagen Jetta from Enterprise ( and used it without incident for over a week, when the car suddenly developed transmission problems. That was strange, because it had less than 15,000 miles showing.
It was a combination automatic/standard, a fact that had not been made clear to me when I rented it. I managed to get the car back to the office, limping along at very low speed and making a loud whooshing sound. I was driving in an area where traffic was heavy, and I had been worried that it would conk out at an inconvenient place like a major intersection or a bridge.
The company did offer me a five per cent discount, but that turned out not to be enough to pay for the taxi I had to hire to do a final errand I had planned to do with the rental car.
I was thinking at the time that I had never before had a problem with a rental car, but later I realized that was not true. Long ago I rented a car in Paris to drive my parents to the south of France. To save money, I opted for a manual shift, but I was not very familiar with that type of transmission. When we reached Grenoble, we decided to take the scenic, mountainous Route de Napoleon rather than the boring, costly Autoroute du Sud to the coast. Bad idea.
The Route de Napoleon, so-called because Napoleon marched his troops along it when he made his triumphant return from his first exile in Elba, had seen little improvement since his day. It was a mere two lanes, very steep and with many hairpin curves. It was also heavily used by trucks. My car had great difficulty climbing it, and finally I realized we would have to turn around, with oncoming traffic and a sheer drop on the side. My father climbed out to signal oncoming trucks to stop, my mother sat in back praying, and somehow we made the turn and made it back down the mountain.
As I recall, the rental car company eventually gave us an automatic shift car, and we returned to the autoroute.


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