Ive known how to drive a car for over 18 years now and have been driving (legally) for 15 years. I love driving cars and hence, prefer road trips over any other form of travel. Even though the road conditions in India have improved significantly over the last 10 years, the ratio of travel time vs distance travelled is still very poor. Even on National Highways, you are limited to average speeds of 60-70 kmph owing to slow moving vehicles, traffic jams, intersections and jaywalkers.
Travelling long distances from your home city has been a time consuming affair until the influx of self-drive car rental companies. One can save a lot of time by travelling to a hub location / major city by air and then use the self-drive car to reach your destination of choice. My wife and I have been wanting to visit the Coorg region by road for a few years but nothing materialized until recently. Zoomcar was our choice of self-drive option and boy, am I impressed or what!
Plan was to fly to Bengaluru from Pune and then drive to Madikeri (Coorg district) using a Zoomcar. Booking the vehicle was very easy via their mobile app. Register >> choose the start & end date/time >> choose your pick up / drop off point >> choose a vehicle >> make the payment >> upload your drivers license and boom!
It is as easy as it seems. Obviously, for first time users, it is recommended that you go through the basic policies and how it works section to understand what youre getting into. Everything is pretty straight forward so keep calm.
Zoomcar has 3 options depending on the kms youre planning to drive. This is an extremely useful offering as it helps you get the right mix of time (no of hours) and distance (no of free kms) for your trip.
While Zoom Classic is the most popular choice, Zoom Lite helps you save 20-30% on your bill if youre looking to drive to a nearby destination and Zoom XL helps you get more free kms if youre planning to drive long distances in a short time.
Pick up / Drop off
In all the cities they operate, Zoomcar has a whole lot of pick up / drop off locations so youre never too far off. For my journey, I needed the vehicle at the Bengaluru airport as I was planning to Madikeri right after I landed.
I liked the way its been setup for the airport location a Zoomcar guy will pick you up from the airport in the car youve rented and drive you to the Zoomcar parking approx 8 kms from the airport. Here is where you complete the formalities and drive off with the car. On return, you bring the car to this parking, and the Zoomcar guy will close the formalities and drop you off at the airport. Easy!
As of now, you dont have the option of one-way travel or selecting different pick up and drop off point. I think, as Zoomcar evolves, they need to introduce these options as its not always convenient to drop off the vehicle at the same place you picked it up from!
Choice of vehicles
Zoomcar has a wide variety of vehicles to choose from under various segments including an electric vehicle (Mahindra E2O). While some people may complain that they dont have as many choices as some other self-drive companies, I think what they have is enough.
What they dont have is enough details on the cars model, fuel type, features like GPS, USB music, AUX cables, mobile charger etc. I had to make a few phone calls before I could find out what was included in the Ford EcoSport I had booked.
I had booked an EcoSport for 92 hrs which gave me 920 kms as part of the Zoom Classic plan. A round trip from Bengaluru airport to Madikeri was a little less than 600 kms and the balance was good enough for any local sightseeing / travelling. I paid ?13270 (after a discount of ?450 and not counting the security deposit), which was pretty cheap. I wouldve probably paid around ?18000 if I had booked a tourist vehicle for 4 days, not counting any additional night charges.
Self-drive also gives you privacy and flexibility like youre driving your own car and that, I think, is unbeatable!
Pre/post booking experience
As it was my first time, I had a lot of questions around their policies, pricing and some generic questions which were promptly answered by their social media customer care. All key policies and procedures were explained to me over the phone, in the booking email and by the Zoomcar guy at the pick up point.
What I was most impressed with is that even though my flight was delayed over an hour, Zoomcar team alerted their airport team and made adjustments to hand over the car whenever I arrived. 2330 hrs is their last pick up time but due to flight delays, I could only pick up my car at 0130 hrs and the whole process was super smooth.
They also have the option to delay the security deposit payment until 24 hrs prior to the booking so you dont need to block your money for a long time. In fact, the reimbursement of security deposit and fuel expenses was done in less than 12 hrs after I dropped off the vehicle!
I am extremely happy with the way this trip turned out. It only took 15 mins during the pick up and drop off and all payments were done online (no cash option available). Car was clean when handed over to me and included mobile charges, AUX cable and all tools/emergency equipment that you would normally carry in your own car.
Places in India that were hard to reach before are now easily accessible thanks to the self-drive option. I just hope Zoomcar starts operations in more cities in 2016! Looking forward to more zooming in the new year