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Fab cars, for hire

Ever seen those Hollywood movies where you land into a strange city, pick up a car at the airport and drive off for the rest of the journey? Well, you don't need to experience the same in a film any longer, especially since the option can now be found in a city near you. Ruchira Hoon writes.

india Updated: Dec 24, 2010 22:43 IST
Ruchira Hoon

Ever seen those Hollywood movies where you land into a strange city, pick up a car at the airport and drive off for the rest of the journey? Well, you don't need to experience the same in a film any longer, especially since the option can now be found in a city near you.

With more than 3,000 cars being made available by various rental companies in just the capital for self-drive, it's a popular Western concept that is slowly gaining momentum in India as well, especially with the young business executives.

Take 24-year-old Himanshu Shekhar, for example. A pilot by profession, he wanted to go on a road trip with his friends but didn't have a car that could fit all of them. A call to a leading car-rental company later, Shekhar had an SUV sent to his house fitted with a GPS and all.

"I didn't have to get out of my house. They came and collected all the documents, sent the car home and even picked it up once the trip was over. It was the simplest vacation that I'd ever had."

While the rent-a-car scheme isn't new in India - the government had approved the scheme in the late 80s for operators to rent cars for self-drive as well as chauffeur driven options - it wasn't till until recently that the trend really became popular.

From holidays, leisure destinations or just family trips, its things like these that are creating a demand for self-driven cars. So much so, that rental companies who would only operate with a fleet of 60-70 cars are now licenced to renting out more than a thousand cars for self-driven rentals.

"We have a fleet of over 1,600 cars and right now we have over a hundred cars that are licensed for the self-drive option," says Karunesh Arya, COO, Carzonrent.

"From low-end cards such as the Swift to high-end ones like an SUV to luxury cards like a Corolla, people can select any of these cars that fit their budget for whatever destination they need."

So what do the companies want in return of renting out their cars? To begin with, a valid licence, a credit card and an additional driver - all of which are mandatory.

Apart from these, the renter has to pay for the gas and a nominal amount as insurance. It's cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore and Chennai where self-drive rental is becoming the most popular.

"The roads are better and it's the people in these cities who are looking to head out on vacation," Sunil Gupta, CEO, Avis who have over 1,400 cars licensed for self-drive.

"Most people want to try out a car that they don't own like an SUV or a luxury car so that they can really enjoy their vacation. Plus a non-driver driven car is also about privacy."

That said, most car rental companies are now operational at the airports at most major cities, "We want to make sure they can rent out a car of their choice without having to stand in line or for those who can't decide what they'd like to do," adds Arya.

"Just like in the movies."