I considered amending my previous blog post on choosing the perfect car for a Namibian road-trip with the new information that I've learnt. However, after much deliberation I decided that what I've learnt today requires a post to itself and doesn't directly affect the content of my last post.
You must read this post if you are booking a car rental for your holiday! Ha, that's totally not click-bait (read-more-bait?) either.
If you've read my last post, you will know that I was very excited having decided to book my car through Asco Cars. This morning I checked my emails almost squealing in delight to see that they'd got back to me. Yay, I thought. My car is booked! I opened the email. My attention was immediately drawn to the word 'unfortunately'. My stomach dropped; there were no cars available. That's right - none at all. Not even other types of vehicles. I sighed although I wasn't feeling quite so despairing yet.
Instead of just emailing 1 car hire company, like I previously did, I scrolled through Google, contacting every single company that looked reputable and met my criteria. After hitting page 6 in Google, I had cars coming out my ears. There are so many car rental companies in Namibia. However, my spirits were feeling better. Once you get past page 1 in Google, the price of rentals dramatically decreases. I guess these companies aren't as big so need to make themselves stand out. Not only that, I was finding automatic options at decent prices too. Was it fate? Maybe being turned down by Asco wasn't that bad after all.
Then the responses started coming in. The first response came around an hour after my email. Fully booked. I gulped, my pulse starting to gain speed. Half an hour later and another company told me they were fully booked. How can this be? I feel my heart pounding furiously in my chest. These companies aren't even that easy to find as well. Queue my mini-meltdown.
You're probably scoffing right now thinking, well, that's what happens when you book right at the last minute. The thing is, I'm not booking at the last minute - at least I think I'm not. It's 6 weeks until my holiday which I assumed was plenty of time to book in a hire car. I even managed to book a car when I went to Seychelles and I only booked it the day before. Well, I guess it's time to re-write what I thought I knew about bookings!
Here's something that I can now say for certain.
Book Your Car Hire more than 6 weeks in advance of your holiday
So as I sat panicking this morning, all I could think was, damn, I wish I'd booked this earlier. Therefore my advice if you want a lovely, calm holiday with a car is to book you car rental a lot earlier than 6 weeks before your holiday. Actually, let's say 2 months minimum to play it safe. You do not want to leave booking your car any later than that, especially if you are going on a road-trip.
Also, I'd recommend looking into what cars are available before you even book your flights as if your trip relies on you to be driving round the country, it's pointless going without a car.
But this isn't the only lesson that I've learnt this morning
Research, research, research
Yep, that boring word. Research. I hate researching anything. I'm totally a doer not a reader. Yesterday I was quick to snap up the first car I came across that met my criteria. £100 per day - no problem! However, upon researching the vast car rental companies in Namibia today I have found much better pricing. For the exact same car I can bag it for £50 per day (half the price) or I can get an automatic pimped out one for £57 per day (well, I say I can get these but there's that other little problem of being too late to book).
Instead of just looking at the first 3 listings in Google, don't stop until you've reached page 5 or at least until you run out of options. I was nearly £700 out of pocket for the exact same product (Lol, I write a blog on how to plan travel and I don't know how to do it myself!).
It's not all doom and gloom
This morning I received 3 emails from different car rental companies stating that all their cars were completely booked up for the period I am going to Namibia for. I kept telling myself that there must be at least 1 car out there for me but really I was panicking. If I couldn't find a car, my holiday was quite frankly screwed. Most of my campsites and several activities are booked but I'd have absolutely no way of getting to them. How would I get anywhere? Public transport is so poor that it isn't even an option.
Anyway, after hours of sitting, constantly refreshing my emails, I received an email from a rental company that didn't start with 'unfortunately'. They had cars! I nearly squealed in delight, my heart fluttering in relief. Then I got another email and another. Right now I have 5 different companies to choose from. Although, knowing me, I'll take so long deciding which to go with, they will all have gone by the time I decide!
I know it's all seemingly turned out okay in the end but the stress isn't really worth it so my advice still stands. Moving forward I will always aim to book my car at least 2 months in advance of my holiday. I will also thoroughly research in future in order to get the best deal on my rental.
I hope this helps you to avoid a near-disaster!