I am looking for advice from those that have experience about the best options for car hire. I have done considerable searching on TA and through Google and am still not sure what to do. Even made a booking but then cancelled within the hour when I saw some horror reviews about atrocious customer service and fraudulant practices to fleece customers.
Our travel party will be 2 adults and 3 older children so I am looking for a family size estate car. My preference being a Ford Mondeo mainly due to the width of its rear seat and luggage storage capacity. Manual or auto is fine, but auto would allow my wife to share some of the driving. I would prefer to have a Full to Full petrol policy as this seems fairer than the full to empty practice that forces you to pay for a full tank of petrol at exhorbitant prices. Our travel insurance covers us for car hire excess costs, so I will not be taking the car hire companies rip off excess insurance.
We are arriving at LHR at 6am on a Tuesday morning in September 2013. Our itinerary is to head to Andover for breakfast and a break and then down to Bovington for the day. In the afternoon heading up to Monckton Combe near Bath. As a full time bus driver I understand the need to get rest on the plane and take plenty of breaks during the drive. From there we will spend a couple of days in the Cotswolds before going up to Derbyshire for a week and then down to Cambridge for 2 days and then finally to Wimbeldon for 4 days arriving on a Sunday late afternoon. So would likely return the car on the Monday morning.
I notice that the biggest selection of vehicles is at LHR but that there is also Location/Airport surchages built into the hire cost even though most depots are technically outside the airport. So my questions are;
1. Who are the best ranked car hire companies when the priority is good customer service and honesty, that don't use shonky practices to fleece customers?
2. Is there a feasible way to avoid the LHR surcharge? (eg Pick up Earls Court, drop off Waterloo or Wimbeldon)?
3. Why doesn't Tripadvisor rank Car Hire like they do Hotels, Restaurants and Attractions so we can see from a user perspective who provides the best service? It is after all an integral part of travelling. (I have booked most of my accommodation based upon who ranked well in the TA reviews.
Regarding budget I always want to get value for $$ spent but expect to pay somewhere between 300-700 pound for the 13 day hire.
Thank you for any advice that can be provided.