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Swap a Rental Car – How to Change Your Hire Car

If you’ve booked your rental car and are expecting a certain type / class only to be disappointed when you arrive with what is presented, that doesn’t have to be the end of the story. Whilst frustrating at the time, you don’t want your holiday to start on a sour note or an argument with the rental agent and there is a usually a compromise or work around to get the car / type you expected and booked in the first place.

swap or change rental car

As we’ve covered in our car hire or similar article, it’s near impossible to guarantee a make and model when renting a car, however we should expect a car of similar size / class / configuration when we come to collect as the mode suggested on screen. For instance, if you were to book a Ford Focus and be presented with a Ford Fiesta, you’d be well within your rights to complain / demand a different car. The issue however can lie with supply and it might be that there simply was not a Ford Focus available on your arrival (like airlines, car rental agents often overbook and assume a small percentage of no-shows). If you are unfortunate enough to be in this situation there is usually a way around and the following tips / options likely to lead to a positive outcome.
  1. Accept the car but make clear you will be seeking to swap the rental car when a suitable car is available – this is usually possible for larger rental agents who manage larger fleets.
  2. Contact us from the rental office directly, you can call the number on your rental voucher and we will attempt to secure an alternative car on your behalf – however if it a case that the car offered is the last available, we are unlikely to have much influence either – however we can arrange the swap date / time on your behalf.
  3. Reject the car and seek to book elsewhere. WARNING – expect prices on the day to be far higher than you secured when booking online – You will also need to recover your initial rental fee
  4. Reject the car and seem alternative transport arrangements, again you will need to recover the initial rental fee as this will be considered a no-show.
We recommend option 1 in the first instance, whilst it’s a little frustrating and inconvenient, don’t let the wrong rental car ruin your holiday. If you’ve made your position clear with the rental agent you can either attempt to arrange the swap directly with them, or contact our Customer Service team who’ll make the representation for you and you should expect a call from the local office with details of the swap. For a little extra effort, you could soon be driving the rental car you expected and initially booked.

From Personal Experience

Indeed, on my recent personal experience of booking a Ford Focus (or similar) on a recent trip to Cyprus, when we arrived at the Thrifty office to collect the car, we were presented with a rather old and tatty Nissan Note. After an initial complaint at the time and being told it was the last car available and was a case of ‘this or nothing’, I loaded the luggage and family (we took our own car seats) and we headed west to Paphos to get our holiday underway. Whilst the little Nissan was fine, it was older that I would expect from a premium brand such as Thrifty and I knew was not the car we were supposed to have been supplied.

change or swap rental car

The following day, once we had unpacked and the family were settled poolside, I popped onto my phone and registered a case on the ‘Manage Booking’ facility, explaining the situation and how I expected an alternative car (of the class booked) to be arranged. The following day, I received a call from the Thrifty office who had arranged for a new car to be available and could be delivered at a time to suit or collected from Paphos Airport. As we had plans not far from the airport the next day, I arranged to swap the car over with no fuss. The friendly agent quickly inspected for damage to the rental car, checked it was refuelled and presented the new car. A much newer (just 9k km on the clock) Ford Focus as originally booked.

It wasn’t a battle, all the staff involved were friendly and accommodating and only too happy to assist and we had a much better car for the remainder of our trip. Result.

Phil Partridge
Posted: August 27, 2019 by Phil Partridge
About the Author -

Travel writer, car rental guru, Phil has rented cars all over the world and shares his knowledge and experience on the Rhinocarhire.com Blog. Favourite country to visit: France.

Last updated: Friday, October 2, 2020
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