Back in the olden days when men wore smocks and women wore dresses and only a fool would question the difference, the fair exchange of muddy groats for a yard of linen, or a pig or a goat, involved actually seeing, feeling, smelling what you were buying.
Nowadays, of course, you can't. We are all used to the idea of buying online sight unseen and we accept it. But it has become such a common place part of daily life that perhaps we don't really see the risk involved any more. We see, we click, we buy. We hope.
The inability to touch and feel the merchandise is a challenge faced particularly by small business like Great Escape Cars. Like other hire companies we show photos of our cars and describe them. The car you see is the car you will drive. The trouble is, the problem doesn't end there. A photograph can be taken at any time, perhaps years ago, and everyone knows that even bad cars can be buffed to a shine. Fortunately most of our customers are trusting folk and, since we are honest about our cars, all works well. But I have never felt that nice photos and a smiling picture of me are enough.
When you are choosing a classic car to hire there are a lot of issues that you may just take for granted. You may assume the car is roadworthy. That it is presentable. That it is reliable. There are no legal requirements on hire cars except a valid MOT and there are no trade organisations for the sector that set and monitor standards. Since condition, safety and reliability are particularly critical with old hire cars, how do you sort the wheat from the chaff?
Unfortunately I have experience of some of the classic cars advertised for hire elsewhere and I want to demonstrate why we are different. For me, a car with a known head gasket fault is not ready for hire. Or a car with perished tyres. So we go a little further.
Great Escape Cars is the only classic car hire company to publish its maintenance, servicing and improvement work. Per car. For us a MOT is only the starting point. On each car page we list our investment in the car. We listen to customer feedback and we check and address even minor problems. As we do all the work on our Yorkshire, Cotswolds and Devon cars in-house it costs us less so we can do more. So I believe that our fleet of cars at these sites is in better condition than any fleet of classic hire cars in the UK. I'm happy to be challenged.
We also report our reliability record on hire. When you hire a classic car you expect it to be reliable. Nobody can honestly guarantee an old car will perform faultlessly but they can give it their best shot. Our maintenance and improvement regime has enabled us to improve our reliability record year on year for the last five years.
We categorise failures as either absolute or partial. An absolute failure means the car can't be repaired during the hire, a partial fail causes inconvenience but we get the car going again safely. Our absolute failures in 2013 represented 1.33% of all hires. In most of these cases we provided a replacement car for the rest of the hire - something we can do easily as we have 60 cars and a transport team to move cars. Partial fails were only 0.5% of total hires. These figures have been achieved despite average annual mileages per car of between 5,000 and 15,000 miles a year.
Nobody wants their classic hire car to break down, but it will always be a risk. The key challenge for any hire company is to minimise that risk for customers.
Wherever you choose to hire from, I hope that this insight into choosing a good hire car is useful. Feel free to call or email me for help or advice, even if you don't choose Great Eacape Cars.
To view our workshop business visit www.geworkshop.co.uk.