I got tricked last time when I rented a car by being assigned a similar car and not the POLO I wanted. I even chose the Polo in the list and not the Opel Corsa I got in the end. What should I do not to be conned next time? To clarify, I want the POLO not the upgrade to a Megane or some other car similar to GOLF.

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    Normally rental car companies state <model> or similar. And if they don't have a car of the model on the lot you get the next class at the same price. – Karlson Oct 6 '15 at 18:04
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    It's not always possible. Once I went to a conference in a small town where everyone (about 100 of us) had rented the cheapest possible car from the airport car rental. I ended up with a large 4x4. A friend of mine had a six seater pick up truck she had fun driving in heels. The luckiest of us was given a small bus. I am not convinced the rental place even had any of the compact cars we'd all chosen. – Calchas Oct 7 '15 at 7:35
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    “Conned” is a bit strong, maybe you weren't aware of it but most of the time you are really booking a type of vehicle, not a particular model. It seems like a reasonable service to me, not a con job. – Relaxed Oct 7 '15 at 8:35
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    Besides, what's with the Polo? It's nothing to write home about… – Relaxed Oct 7 '15 at 8:38
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    I once specifically requested an SUV because I had equipment to haul, and all they had available was a minivan. It worked out fine, but there's not a lot you can do if they don't have the vehicle in the lot. – David K Oct 7 '15 at 16:19

You can't guarantee it. However, you can increase your chances by showing up earlier, before they start to run out of cars (at midnight most of the cars are gone and won't be back until tomorrow afternoon and evening), and by being a frequent renter with them. Also, try asking. I have had rental agencies give me the "good news" that I was getting a bigger car and saying "please, I don't want a bigger car, they are hard to park, I am by myself and don't need extra room" has restored my smaller car to me.

It would also help not to call what they are doing a con. Many people are happy to get a big car for the price of a small one. They always give you something that normally costs more. If you don't happen to like it, I get it, I feel the same, but it's not a trick or a con. You and the clerk want the same thing - for you to leave happy and recommending them to others. Work with the clerk not against them. They don't know you don't want the upgrade. Most people do.

And if all else fails and you haven't prepaid, pull out your cell phone while standing at the counter and start calling other places to see if they have the car you want. Be clear you don't mean "or similar" you want that exact model. If they do, off you go and try to get it. If they don't, well at least you'll be making an informed decision about whether to accept the upgrade.

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    "You and the clerk want the same thing - for you to leave happy and recommending them to others" - that does not chime with my experience of car hire across Europe. In approx half of places, the staff just want you to leave. Happy or angry, they couldn't care less. – CMaster Oct 6 '15 at 19:17
  • I don't rent cars in Europe often, but I have never once experienced that. I have rented cars in Canada, the USA, Vanuatu, Samoa and so on as well as Europe and sullen staff who want you to go away and don't care if you rent a car from them are just not something I've ever met. (It's not all sunshine, I've met plenty of rude café staff, for example.) – Kate Gregory Oct 6 '15 at 19:34
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    OP accepted the answer, but I'm not sure he was talking about getting a bigger car, rather a car of the same size but of way lower quality. It happens all the time, you book a "Polo or similar" via the website and end up in a crappy Fiat Panda or something like that. I'm not even sure they actually have a Polo to offer you, it's just to make you believe you'll have a good car when they actually only offer poor cars. That's the experience I've had anywhere in Europe (coupled with the staff that absolutely doesn't care). – undu Oct 7 '15 at 9:15
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    @undu a corsa is not way lower quality than a polo though, they are almost directly equivalent. This seems to be snobbery with brands that doesn't match reality. – JamesRyan Oct 7 '15 at 11:18
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    @JamesRyan: From similar experience in the USA, it's probably not "brand snobbery" at all. I drive a Ford Focus. When I travel, I like to rent a Ford Focus, not out of snobbery or some sense of brand loyalty, but simply because that's the car that I'm used to driving. I already have a feel for the performance and handling of the machine in a way I don't have for a "or similar", and because of that, it really bugs me when rental places try to give me a "or similar" after advertising a Focus. Travel and driving unfamiliar roads is stressful enough; I don't need an unfamiliar car on top of that! – Mason Wheeler Oct 7 '15 at 18:27

If you read more carefully when you booked, you would almost certainly have seen the like "VW Polo or similar" with the "or similar" often in much smaller text.

As for what you can do, you can book with Hertz and pay extra to use their "book this exact model" option. There may be other hire companies offering this.

In general car hire companies will advertise more desirable cars, then give you a Vauxhall/Opel. My experience is that at least in the large hatchback or smaller categories, you are very unlikley to get a VW - the cheaper ranges in the VAG group (Seat and Skoda) sometimes, but rarely a VW, never something premium like BMW or Audi without paying extra. However some companies do allow a "special requests" or similar text box when booking. I've found that expressly requesting not a Vauxhall works to avoid being lumped with corsas.

Overall, it's good planning when booking a hire car to ensure that the "worst" car in that category would suit your needs. I've had trouble in the past with needing storage space, seeing "Polo or similar" and thinking that would be fine, to be given a smaller Opel or Citroen. I've learned to book for larger when needing the space etc.

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    +1 but most of the discussion seems a bit beside the point as the OP was apparently unhappy to be offered a Megane or a Golf (both are larger, more expensive and all around good cars), not an Opel Adam or a Seat… – Relaxed Oct 7 '15 at 8:40
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    Yes, may edit it actually to mention inssiting to see the cars in the yard. I've been offered rubbish cars before, and told if I'm not happy, I can pay to upgrade. On going out, I see the very car model I was expecting - and on asking, they have no reason not to give it me. There is (sometimes) an element of treating the customer as a mark at these places. At least some of the discussion is necessary however, to point out the misunderstanding the OP seems to have. – CMaster Oct 7 '15 at 8:51

Make sure that the contract you sign either has a tick box for this exact car, and also put that in the comments box. If booking by telephone, make sure that the operator understands that you want that make and model, and will accept no substitutes.

I don't know about the OP, but we quite often rent cars for a weekend trip to see if we want to go out and buy that particular car, rather than just having a short test drive from the dealership. So if I want to test drive a Subaru Outback, don't bother trying to give me some sort of Chevrolet, or even a Subaru Forester; I need an Outback, and no other vehicle, regardless of size, will suffice. It does restrict our choices to renting from the dealer (some do), or the larger rental companies, but we get what we need.

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