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Once again, van rental in N. Italy

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Jan 7th, 2013, 09:42 AM
  #1
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Once again, van rental in N. Italy

Once more I need to rent a 9-passenger van at Malpensa airport, Milano, this April. I've done this a number of times in Italy before and it's always worked out well, but occasionally the van furnished is really inadequate for nine people and their bags, thus my inquiry:

Has anyone rented this type of van recently (in the past year) in northern Italy (Milano-Firenze-Bologna-Pisa-Venezia) and found it of adequate size, especially for baggage; or alternatively, unacceptable? What rental companies were involved? It would be helpful to know, for instance, that someone picked up a good van in Firenze from Hertz.

(As an aside, I think it scandalous that rental companies, which always disclaim that they can't guarantee a certain model, promise to furnish, say, a Renault Trafic "or similar" with room for eight suitcases, then actually furnish something with room for barely two bags. Two is not remotely "similar" to eight, yet they claim the vehicles are comparable.)

(As a further aside, how can a rental agency furnish a van with nine seats but virtually no luggage space to a renter who is keeping the vehicle two or three weeks? It stands to reason that a North American renter who needs a van for three weeks will have passengers with ample baggage, as opposed to a local person who may need a van for only one or two days for short hauls. I just can't imagine the thought process (or lack) that goes into that decision.)

Any recent experience would be most helpful. Thanks, Fodorites!
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Jan 7th, 2013, 10:17 AM
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Unfortunately, I have to tell you that I had a similar experience. I arrived with a confirmation for a 7-seater minivan, and they gave us a 5-seater. Since we were 6 persons, we complained and they offered us two 5-seaters which did not help because our children could not drive the second car.

Finally, we waited for two hours at the airport and were given a truck - a really nice experience to negotiate the narrow Amalfi Cost roads.

I am afraid that such business behaviour seems to be typical for Italy, even if you book a reputable international rental car corporation.

But what do you expect from a country that once elected Mr Berlusconi as head of government?
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Jan 7th, 2013, 10:43 AM
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I think this is caveat emptor. You need to check out the website and find the smallest vehicle they show for that category -and assume you will get it.

Separately I would never expect a 9 passenger van to hold 9 people plus luggage. I would assume 9 people plus a few carry-ons. Vehicles in europe are smaller than in the US and with 9 people I would definitely get 2 vans - or else something that guarantees it will hold 12 or 13 (to allow for the luggage).
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Jan 11th, 2013, 04:45 PM
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Thank you, nytraveler and traveller1959. I had taken the precaution of finding the smallest (also the largest and the ONLY) vehicle in the category I was renting, and noting its luggage specs, but the rental companies don't seem to have a problem with substituting one teeny van for a larger one.

As for expecting a 9-seat van to hold 9 people, I have rented these vans perhaps 10 times in Italy and they've always been large enough for nine people. Same in France (maybe 30 times). Only a few times have I been burned – but those times were pretty bad. Hence my efforts to find a reputable company that will stand behind what it promises. Still looking.
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Jan 11th, 2013, 04:57 PM
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Don't book online. You need to call the rental agency directly and work out a guarantee of getting the car you want, plus get the name of the person you are talking to and the name of the person in the local office you will be dealing with and their cell phone number. Then you need to call at least two days before to the head office and re-confirm the set up with the person you made the arrangement with. The day before you go to the local office, you call the name you were given and confirm the van will be there the next day

If you book online, the system will confirm your booking -- all in good faith. The system says there is a van in that location. But if it gets rented out in the meantime and doesn't get returned to that location by the time you arrive, there is nobody tracking that unless you make them track it. The people in the local office won't even have looked at your reservation until you walk in the door -- and unless they have a van your size, they can only offer you the biggest car they've got.

So get some human beings involved from step 1, and don't fail to mention as you chat to the head office while booking your car about how much you like to post on the internet, how much time you spend on consumer review message boards and travel message boards, and how great social media is for spreading the word about great customer service, and how you are always happy to write a letter to the president of any company telling them what great employees they have -- or not.
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Jan 13th, 2013, 03:11 PM
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For what it's worth, I think that renting a 9 seater to North Americal tourists would makeup a very small component of car hire businesses.
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Jan 13th, 2013, 03:23 PM
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Sorry - but no agency anywhere can 'guarantee' any particular vehicle. On-line, or by phone to a 'real person'. The number of large 9-passenger vans will be quite limited. What if one has mechanical trouble, or the prior renter returns it late, or has a wreck?

Is there no way two cars will work for you? . . . Just as a plan B in case there is a problem when you arrive at the agency.
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Jan 13th, 2013, 03:32 PM
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I doubt two cars will work for George. He runs small tours, and I don't think he'd have a second driver.

Maybe a better idea would be, instead of using the usual companies like AutoEurope, to do some research on specialized van rental companies in Italy and France (there must be plenty of tour companies in each country that need them, assuming they don't own a fleet). I suppose it might drive up the cost of the tours, but if you could find such an outfit and promise them some regular rentals, perhaps you could negotiate a good deal.

George, I know this isn't pertinent to your current problem, but perhaps you're familiar with Les Cars Rey, on the road between Campagne and Le Bugue (surely you've driven by it a number of times)? That's the kind of outfit I'm thinking of.
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Jan 13th, 2013, 03:54 PM
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I recommend you try www.gemut.com. They are a reseller based in Oregon. You book through them, and they book your vehicle through AutoEurope. I have rented through them many times, and have never been disappointed. I get the car I want, at the rate they quoted me, and there are no gimmicks or surprises. They have come to my aid more than once when issues have arisen. And, they guarantee the lowest rates.

I don't work for, and have no interest in, gemut.com - just recommending good people. You can book on line or call Bob or Andrew - it's a family business.

Good luck!
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Jan 13th, 2013, 06:24 PM
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If this is for tours I would definitely work with local bus companies in order to get a guarantee of what you really need.

And I've never used a van in europe but we have used them for short trips in the US and found on several occasions that while the vehicle had enough seats - there weasn;t even enough room for a very small carry-on and computer bag for all of the passengers.
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Jan 13th, 2013, 06:43 PM
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>>What if one has mechanical trouble, or the prior renter returns it late, or has a wreck? <<

What if there is an earthquake? Or a flood? Or the car rental office burns down?

Do follow up with human beings. Call in advance of your pick-up date to confirm your booking no matter who you rent with so that if there a problem, people have 48 hours to correct it. You have to do with no matter who anybody recommends if you are renting a specialty item like a van and you have group where everybody is counting on you.

Yes, if there is an accident, there is an accident. No one was asking for a gurantee from God. They were asking for a contract guaranty. Grown ups know what those words mean.
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Jan 13th, 2013, 07:25 PM
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zeppole: " They were asking for a contract guaranty. Grown ups know what those words mean"

Yep - they'll have a contract - but the contract won't 'guarantee' a specific vehicle. Apparently the OP is leading a tour. He pretty much does need a 'guarantee' - which typical rental agencies cannot do, even over the phone a few days ahead. BTW - it is much more likely that a large van might be out of commission w/ no back up vehicle available.
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Jan 13th, 2013, 07:27 PM
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Oh and zeppole, if you re-read the OP you will see that he has had 'contract guarantees' before - not always w/ satisfactory results . . . .
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Jan 13th, 2013, 07:34 PM
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Yep, the OP does small tours. In fact, the first time I saw a 9-person rental van was when George pulled it into my driveway in St-Cirq many years ago. BIG car!!!,

You can talk yourself blue in the face with a rental agency like AutoEurope, even talk in a foreign language to the actual reps on the ground in the towns you're renting from, and it's not going to make a bloody difference as to whether they can "guarantee" anything or not. And yes, when dealing with an "unusual" vehicle, like a 9-person van, they just can't guarantee. That's why I suggested trying to find a specialized local rental place - like Les Cars Rey in the Dordogne. There must be something similar near Malpensa.
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Jan 13th, 2013, 10:56 PM
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A mystery clarified, I was wondering where Zeppole had disappeared to.
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Mar 19th, 2013, 05:56 PM
  #16
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Many thanks to everyone who weighed in on the van rental matter. I have rented recently with Gemut and like them very much, and ended up using them for this rental. I have high hopes!
St. Cirq, good point about a small mom-and-pop rental agency. I actually have used one (Bordeaux) and it worked out well. They do, of course, guarantee a vehicle, as they know exactly what they have. I will try to do this again in the future.
Again, appreciate the input.
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May 4th, 2013, 11:01 AM
  #17
 
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If you are staying a minimum of 21 days do a short-term lease-back with Renault, Peugeot or Citroen directly. You get a fresh-off-the-assembly line vehicle fully covered and insured and 24-hour service, even for a flat tire.
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Jul 12th, 2013, 12:03 PM
  #18
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Back from Italy, and all went well. The van I got (Renault Trafic, a van I have rented many times) had a small but adequate luggage area. (In my experience there are three sizes of luggage areas – vast, small and unacceptably tiny. This was in the middle. Confusingly, the Trafic comes with both vast and small luggage areas, depending on wheelbase, and it is essentially impossible to know in advance which model one is getting.)

So, renting through Gemut came through for me.

For the doubters out there – we certainly did fit nine people, plus luggage, into a 9-pax van and got around quite well. It was baffling to me how many people thought this could not be done.

I like Gemut's customer service and will use them again. (Disclaimer – I have no connection to them, only as a customer.)
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Jul 12th, 2013, 03:01 PM
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Glad to hear it went well with gemut.
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