The trouble is, pictures aren't always an accurate or reliable basis on which to make a purchase. Anyone who has ever inspected a car on Ebay and then turned up to view a rather substandard vehicle will know the feeling. This equally applies to classic hire cars.
Virtually all classic cars are booked based on the information and images displayed online. We regularly sell several thousand pounds worth of hire based on what we say and show online. As most customers tend only to buy once - so repeat purchases due to customer satisfaction are not critical - it would be remarkably easy for us at Great Escape to cut a few corners with some flashy photos of shiny cars that in reality are rather ropey.
Obviously we don't do that. I have to sleep at night and I have pride in what we do. But I can't speak for anyone else. I know from bitter personal experience that what others consider as suitable for hire would not leave my unit under any circumstances. The majority of well established classic car hire companies are reputable, but not all.
The issue is two fold. Fundamentally a car must be safe. A valid MOT does not provide that guarantee. The hirer must maintain the car on a weekly basis and monitor condition before and after every hire. Brakes, steering, tyres, suspension and countless other components can fail or wear and compromise safety.
Secondly, the car must be of a hireable standard. At Great Escape we expect any car we hire to be a good, solid and well presented example of the model you want to drive. If we have to excuse faults or deterioration, we won't hire it.
Over the years I have taken on or inherited many cars from other hire companies. Without exception none of those cars was suitable for immediate hire. The cars were either unreliable, aesthetically poor or downright unsafe. In two examples the cars each had four bald tyres, in several cases they had not been serviced for several years. One car had insecure doors that flew open on corners and had only one brake circuit connected to a servo.
Before I took the cars on they were on hire to customers. They looked great in the photos, in some cases they looked good up close. But it would have been foolish and morally dubious to hire them.
We are particularly concerned about this issue because we hire on behalf of owners, as well as managing our own sites in Yorkshire, Devon and Cotswolds. I want customers to be more than happy with the experience because it's my name on the door.
Recently we have trimmed our network of sites in order to maintain and improve standards. If we cannot guarantee the quality of the cars or service we won't represent the cars. It's as simple as that. Many of these cars have subsequently reappeared on hire with a competitor. All I'll say is this - an MOT is no proof safety and the website photos look great.
Since 1st January 2013 we have spent £10,000 on parts and 500 labour hours improving our cars. That work rate is typical of the level of improvements we undertake throughout the year. We also have a strict pre and post hire check regime to capture any issues reported by customers or that we discover.
The purpose of all this time, money and effort is to achieve one goal - to provide the customer with a good quality, reliable vehicle that will deliver the dream drive they may have waited a lifetime to fulfil.
To find out more about our cars and our maintenance regime visit http://www.greatescapecars.co.uk or call 01527 893733.