Classic car hire appeals to people who adore classics as well as people who just like them. It’s the simple way to find out whether the car you like is a car you could own – or a cheap and fuss-free alternative to actually owning one or more classic cars.
The popularity of classic car hire has led to a growth in companies offering classic cars for rental across the UK. These companies generally offer a small fleet of 3-6 vehicles, although some like Great Escape Classic Car Hire are much larger. The advantage for customers is that this means much greater choice, plus the advantage of dealing with people who share the passion.
But there is also a downside. The wide choice of classic cars for hire from different, generally small companies means that the prices and package on offer vary significantly. Quite simply, what you get for what you pay is not always the same.
I have been running Great Escape Classic Car Hire for 5 years. It is now the largest classic car hire company in the UK. Here’s my advice for anyone considering hiring a classic car or buying a classic car rental voucher as a gift. I’ve tried to make it as objective as possible and it’s definitely not a sales plug for Great Escape. Because what every customer wants from their package will vary.
Classic Car Hire Checklist
1. Hire periods
Some classic car hire companies offer 24 hours hire and others offer AM to PM hire. Many 24 hr hire companies will also offer AM to PM at a discounted price if requested. Decide which works best for you. 24hr hire enables you to make a break of the trip but you need to make sure the car is securely parked overnight.
Most classic car hire companies include insurance within the hire price. An excess usually also applies – some companies request this in full as an insurance deposit, others just take card details as security. As the sum can be large this is an important consideration. You should check what the insurance covers and any additional liabilities you may have. These are usually contained in the terms and conditions and can include liability for loss hire income in the event of the car being damaged. At Great Escape we used to include this clause but removed it after feedback from customers. We have separate insurance cover for this liability so the customer is not charged.
3. Vehicle condition
The cost of classic car hire varies considerably. Classic cars are by their nature old vehicles that require continuous maintenance. So experienced classic car hire companies carefully balance the price they charge against the maintenance they incur – too cheap and the car will be very popular and wear out quickly, increasing the risk of breakdown for customers. Too expensive and nobody will hire it! I recommend being wary of companies that appear too cheap – experienced classic car hire companies do not make this mistake because it does not benefit their customers. I believe customers would prefer to pay a little more to hire a car that is in good condition, properly maintained and above all reliable
Don’t be afraid to ask a classic car hire company to prove how reliable their cars are. At Great Escape we hire out our cars hundreds of times every year and we have spent thousands of pounds getting our cars to a reliable standard. As a result our breakdown rate is less than 2% of all hires.
Classic cars by their very nature are less reliable than modern cars. For some customers, this risk is all part of their experience. For others it is a significant inconvenience. If the worst should happen, what will your classic car hire company do? You should ask this question when you book. Some classic car hire companies offer breakdown cover but you should check their terms and conditions to see what this covers – several companies only provide free breakdown within a certain radius of their site and they may charge you if you misuse the service. Great Escape, along with all other HCHG members, provides full nationwide AA cover – wherever and however you break down, we will sort it out free of charge
6. Mileage limit
When comparing prices between classic car hire companies it is very important to consider mileage limits. Some companies, like Great Escape Classic Car Hire, provide all inclusive prices with unlimited mileage. Other companies offer mileage limits, which can often be as low as 100 miles per day. Where a mileage limit is offered you should consider how you plan to use the car – excess mileage charges of £1/mile are not uncommon.
7. Beware short hire periods
Some classic car hire companies offer half day hires for low starting prices. Customers should take care when buying these type of packages because of the high cost of maintaining these cars. Over 35% of all our hire income goes into maintaining our cars. When you also take into account VAT and insurance it is easy to see why classic car hire can be expensive. To offer a low half day price at Great Escape we would have to find savings in how we maintain the cars. And we don’t want to make that short cut
8. Time in Business
When you book your classic car hire experience you should ask how long the company has been in business. Many of the companies involved in classic car hire are small businesses and they can come and go relatively quickly. This is particularly important when buying vouchers, which are usually valid for 12 months – you don’t want to find the company has gone out of business before you can redeem it. Great Escape is part of the HCHG and we put all voucher sales into a secure separate bank account.
9. Vehicle unavailability
It is a sad fact of classic car hire that sometimes cars breakdown and cannot be made available for your hire day. When you book your experience, check what happens in the event that the company cannot provide your car. At Great Escape we have the UK’s largest fleet of classic cars so we are well placed to provide an identical alternative or a very similar vehicle. If we can’t provide the car you booked then we will give you a free day in another car and let you rebook the original car free of charge.
Classic car hire is all about a great day out. But like anything, you get what you pay for. By following some simple checks on insurance, hire periods, breakdown cover and vehicle condition, you can guarantee a memory that will last a lifetime.