While I was in Switzerland, I rented a car to drive from Geneva to Locarno since the trains weren’t running at the time I needed them to and the car hire cost as much as the train tickets would have. So, let me share my experience with Hertz and the Ford Fiesta, if only to prove that renting a car in a foreign country is quick and painless, although potentially overpriced.
Hertz is available all over the world and has generally provided myself and my family with reliable vehicles and good customer service. In the case of Switzerland, this didn’t change. I made my car reservation at 9 am on a Sunday from Lausanne. I was speeding out of Geneva in my rental car by 10:45 (thanks also to the Swiss rail system). I had requested a GPS to help me through my travels, which I initially wanted to throw out the window due to lack of a wireless signal in the parking garage and its strong distaste for locations without actual addresses. However, after a brief detour to acquire a Google Maps printout resulted in a snail’s pace route through all the small towns in western Switzerland, I tried again, and managed to get the GPS to be helpful and worth the extra 20 Swiss Francs. Especially when it got me back to the hotel on Sunday night, to a gas station near the airport, and finally to the airport on Monday morning. I was also impressed by the Hertz customer service when I called them at 9:30 pm Sunday to notify them that I would not be bringing the rental car back by my previously promised 10 pm as I was stuck in parking lot traffic 3.5 hours away and by the time I arrived in Geneva the trains would have stopped running back to Lausanne, so I was going to return it early in the morning. Their response? “Ok. See you in the morning.” And I wasn’t charged a single extra penny. While the rental was overpriced, I am happy with the service I received and the freedom having a car provided me for the day.
I will admit that, in the past, I have seen these cars on the road and thought “meh.” To be honest, they look like most basic little cars in Europe, so I was by no means impressed when I confirmed my reservation for a Ford Fiesta. HOWEVER, this turned out to be a very trusty little roller skate. I initially found it to be quite an entertaining vehicle/experience when I was a) driving an “American” car b) in a French speaking region c) with a dash and console programmed in German. From a technical standpoint, it handled well, even at high speeds, on winding roads and through windy passages. It had a manual transmission–pretty standard in Europe–that transitioned well and wasn’t jerky, even on the cliff-side roads and in the tiny Swiss towns. My only complaint for the Ford Fiesta was that it didn’t have much get-up-and-go at altitude. It was fine around Geneva and Lausanne, but once I got up into the mountains (which was most of the end of my trip to Locarno), it took a while to accelerate to the desired speeds, especially going uphill. Now, am I going to buy a Ford Fiesta when I have the funds to purchase my own car? No. But will I be completely content when I have to rent one again or borrow a friend’s car? Yes.