Last time when I was in Pune, sometime in 2010, I didn’t really consider self-drive rental, since my stay was short (less than 24 hours) and a 8 hour/80km package from Wings at Rs 800 was fairly adequate to roam around the city.
This time around, things were different. I had more time, more distance to cover and more confident than earlier when it comes to driving around on my own. So started looking out for possible self-drive options.
Major player in Pune self drive car rental business is selfdrive.in. They have wide variety of cars- small cars, premium SUVs, sedans, automatics all types. They have a fortuner at Rs 7500 a day, Ford Ecosport at Rs 3250 a day and Volkswagen Beetle at Rs 4000 a day. I was tempted to try the beetle, but unfortunately they have an odd timing policy. Mid night to midnight is counted as a day. If I need the car from 10AM today till 10 AM tomorrow, I need to pay rent for 2 days. This didn't make sense. I wouldn't be able to use the car optimally between 0000 hours and 2330 hours. So dropped them from my shortlist. May be I will consider them next time. Carzonrent and Zoom have a 24 hour billing- your 24 hour starts from the time you collect the car. (Except in Goa where 8AM to 8AM is considered 1 day)
Other players- Avis has no self drive in Pune. Ecocar, Autoriders etc didn't have an interactive website or support system to check availability/rate etc. (Autorider website isn't updated in ages- still shows dollar value at 45 Rs). Girikand seemed economical, but not having specific details of the car and availability turned me off.
Next option was the good and old carzonrent. (Myles). Their option in Pune were limited. A Swift and an Etios. Nothing else. Having driven enough swifts and dzires already I was keen to try something else. But Etios didn’t excite me as it costed Rs 400 more per day. Finally booked Swift for a day. Rental was marginally cheaper than selfdrive.in (Equivalent Ritz/i20 costs Rs 1950 per day at selfdrive.in, Swift VDi is Rs 1850 per day at carzonrent)
Unlike Zoom, carzonrent never calls me before my reservation day to remind me about my booking or provide instructions as to where to come. Every time I only need to chase them to ask where is the garage etc. Also the automatic contact number given in booking wasn’t working, had to take another number speaking to carzonrent helpline.
Carzonrent garage in Pune is some 8 kms away from Pune airport (in Pingale Wasti area near Westin hotel). They charge Rs 500 to provide pickup/drop service at the airport. I felt it is little high, so decided to take my chance with airport taxi rental. We could reach their garage for Rs 270 using airport taxi.
After regular paperwork, I was handed keys of a brand new swift VDi which had just about 350kms on the odo. It had tinted windows and rear glass, which was good in heat but made rear view mirror visibility poorer. Car didn’t have a fire extinguisher as in Chennai, but had an ice box. Also unlike Chennai experience where I got a sparkling red swift, Swifts in Pune were all silver colour- not an exciting colour for me. The car had Mumbai registration and yellow reflector stripes, a common practice in north India. No other complaints on the vehicle and I drove off.
This particular swift which I drove also had a minor glitch- dashboard backlight loses strength if headlight is turned on. While passing through the tunnel or driving in night, if I turn on headlight, I can’t read the digital display. Nevertheless drive was fun on the curvy roads leading to Lavasa and I could touch 160kmph, swift’s top speed, on Mumbai Pune Expressway. Returned the car next day same time
This time I didn't try taking too many photos of the car. Just focused on driving. Will be good if Carzonrent gives some more options in Pune.
I have some more visits to Pune coming up. Let us see how it goes next time.
Update: Bangalore based Zoomcars has hinted that they might soon start a branch in Pune.