Zoomcar policy changes-without fuel rental & more

This post is a quick review of Self Drive car rental company Zoomcar's recent policy changes and other related updates.

1. Without Fuel self drive rental option
Zoomcar's pricing so far was inclusive of fuel while many other rental agencies maintained a 'fuel not included in rent' policy. Now Zoomcar has introduced a without fuel pricing, in addition to conventional with fuel option. This without fuel option is about Rs 3-4 cheaper per km, but unfortunately still comes with same usage limit and excess km charges. While I am big fan of without fuel rental as it is supposed to give us better liberty on usage, but the usage limit and excess km charges are a turn off- despite paying for fuel I have to limit my usage or have to pay a massive excess km charges- this erodes both my flexibility as well as cost advantage.
Let us quickly check under what scenario this without fuel scheme is beneficial
#
Scenario
With Fuel Total Cost
Without Fuel Total Cost
Remarks
1
Weekday short usage- 6 hours/50 kms, sedan (Ford Aspire)
630 for 30 kms + 15*20=300, total 930

NOT Available
Without fuel option only for 24 hours+
2
One day rental, small car, 60 kms, weekday
1920 for 120kms
1440 + 290 fuel
= 1730
Without fuel better!
3
One day rental, small car, 150 kms, weekday
1920 for 120kms + 12 * 30 kms=360
=2280
1440 for 120kms + Rs 9 * 30kms excess km= 270 + 700 fuel
= 2410
With Fuel better
4
One day rental, small car, 150 kms, weekend
3000 for 120kms + 12 * 30 kms=360
=3360
2640 for 120kms + Rs 9 * 30kms excess km= 270+ 700 fuel
= 3610
With Fuel better
5
SUV, 3 days super long trip- weekend, 1000 kms
18720 for 1080 kms
15120 for 1080 kms + 6000 for fuel = 21120
With Fuel better
6
SUV, 1 week, only 500 kms usage
21600, 840 kms
18480 + 3000 for fuel
21480
With Fuel better
Above calculations assume diesel price at Rs 72 per litre and fuel efficiency of 15 kmpl for small car/sedan, 12 for SUV. Do your own maths based on fuel price in your city and the type of vehicle you’ve in mind and its practical mileage.

From the above table, we can see that there’s no significant advantage of the without fuel policy. This is because without fuel rental isn’t any cheaper by noteworthy margin. Excess km charges are kept very high and no relaxation on usage limit.

Advantages of earlier with fuel policy over without fuel pricing
  • Fuel price varies almost every day- varies means practically keeps going up by few paise. With fuel price factored you have a better predictability on how much you’ll pay for the trip
  • You can run AC in full strength all night- there’s no incentive for fuel efficient driving-only odometer readings count
  • Assuming car has enough fuel (not true always) no need to stop at fuel station
  • Because the without fuel pricing is not attractive enough, with fuel pricing makes more sense in most cases (as seen above)
  • In without fuel model, unless car is given with full tank, it is hard to predict exact quantity of fuel needed- most cases you’ll end up returning with extra fuel, which is a loss.
  • Older vehicles may consume more fuel- in without fuel policy you may end up spending more than what you thought you’ll have to spend.
Advantages of renting zoomcar without fuel
  • If your usage is much less than the prescribed limit, then paying separately for fuel might save you a few rupees
  • If fuel is cheaper in your city or if you’re an extremely fuel efficient driver, without fuel option might save a few rupees in some cases- do the math and decide
Zoomcar without fuel rental comparison with rival Myles cars- for couple of scenarios I checked, Myles seem to have an edge- their rental now includes GST and customers can either pay 5000 deposit or an additional fee (below calculation includes the fee)
#
Scenario
Zoomcar without fuel
Myles Without fuel
1
One day rental, small car, 150 kms, weekend
2640 for 120kms + Rs 9 * 30kms excess km= 270+ 700 fuel = 3610 (for Swift)
2000 per day + Rs 11 * 30 kms
+700 fuel =3030 (For Ritz, Chennai)
2
SUV, 3 days super long trip- weekend, 1000 kms
14640 for 1080 kms + 6000 for fuel = 20640
(Ecosport)
12960 (unlimited kms)+1050 loss damage waiver + 6000 fuel=20000 (Brezza)




2. No more 240 kms per day option
Looks like now it is only 120 kms per day or 360 or 600kms. Now you’ve better control over super long trips but if your usage was around 240kms like earlier, you’ll be forced to chose between 120 kms or 360 kms package. If you book for 360/600 kms and your plans change and you end up using only 120 kms, you end up losing big time. Zoomcar should allow users to just book the car and let them select (or change) a package towards the end of the trip, based on whichever one suits them best. (This is NOT a complaint- I guess Zoomcar made this change based on customer feedback or after analyzing usage pattern)

3. Exact Location will not be revealed till last minute
The other major policy change is NOT to reveal exact pickup location during booking. Earlier exact pickup address could be seen during booking. I could check if it is closer to metro/bus station etc. Now only an area will be indicated and exact location will be communicated only 2 hours prior to booking start date. This is most probably to optimize revenue, at the cost of customer inconvenience.
Update: Zoomcar says they use this method to give priority to partner vehicles over Zoomcar's ow cars and that this process has been around for long time and not a recent change. They would wait for all possible bookings till last minute and then assign cars-like longer/more profitable bookings to partner vehicles. This isn't possible if done on first book first assign basis.

But this delayed car assignment and non-disclosure of exact location causes multiple issues for me, as a customer.

1. Can’t predict my travel to pickup site while booking.
The time and money that I have to spend on reaching the pickup point and back does add to my trip expense hence it is important for me to know pickup location details. If I know exact location, I can check if there is a metro station or bus stop nearby, is it walkable or should I take a cab. Without knowing exact location, I stand to lose more money and time. In my last booking, while location shown during booking was Kodambakkam, actual location was somewhere in Saligramamam (near Vadapalani area), around 5 kms away from Kodambakkam. In peak hours, 5km can take 30-45 mins. If I got late, I have to pay more, for no fault of mine. If it happened to be 10 kms away, I might have to spend another 300 rupees in excess km charges for no fault of mine. Most of these addresses are somewhere deep in residential areas, few kms away from nearest bus stop/main road- have to spend lots of money to reach the venue or walk a lot. I hate this unpredictability and as much as possible will try to select a location where I know Zoomcar has a physical garage/delivery centre.

2. Roadside pickup & drop- no garage/secure place- can’t park my bike safely.
With Zoomcar becoming a marketplace, they are trying to reduce operational cost by not having a designated pickup/drop location, a gated space for parking manned by some fleet executives. Most cars are now owned by other individuals (ZAP associates) or leased to other individuals (ZAP Subscribers) and they turn on their home as pickup/drop location. Cars will be parked right next to a residence somewhere in deep interiors and are locked and unlocked remotely without a human staff. What this means is there may not be any parking space for your own bike/car if you go there in one. (If you go to pickup from Zoomcar designated parking areas, you can keep your bike safely there and ride out). In my last booking, I had to park my bike by the roadside and drive away in Zoomcar. This was a huge risk and luckily nothing happened to my bike when I returned to drop the car in the night.

Of course, Zoomcar doesn’t promise a parking space. But when this facility is not available, there should be an indication during booking time. Otherwise, I can’t plan my trip economically/safely. Again linking this to #1, till last moment you won’t know where is pickup point itself. Knowing if parking space is available or not is even more difficult- either you should know by experience or try your luck checking with customer care or go by cab etc which adds to cost.
The fully automated process of road-side pickup/drop has other disadvantages

3. Non availability of space- when I went to return the car, the space from where I had picked it up was taken. I had to park it some 50 meters further. After I locked the car, someone came and asked me to move the car, so that he could park his car (Guessing he stays in nearby house and has assumed ownership of the roadside space near his home). I said it is a rental car, it has been locked and nothing can be done now. When there’s no human being to collect the car or inspect it, there is a risk that if some damage happens after a customer returns the car, car owner/zoomcar may assume the customer did the damage and try to penalize him/her. Since Zoomcar is trying to save cost by not having a secure place to park the car or a staff to hand over/collect, such risks should be owned by them. I also got an SMS to park in exact space or will be slapped with penalty!

Read this experience of Arpit Khunteta on Quora. He had to run all around Jaipur to get his car, which was not present in multiple locations shared to him. He lost 2-3 hours, several hundred rupees in cab bill and his trip was spoiled. If only Zoomcar can maintain some proper delivery centres and share address well in advance this running around will be avoided. With more n more partner cars than their own, it is more inconvenient for the customers.

[Update: Zoomcar has resolved the matter with above user by offering credits worth his cab expense.]

4. Fleet executive's number will NOT be shared
Zoomcar will NO longer share contact number of its fleet staff. You can only deal with central customer care, who again have no provision to call you back. [Update: My statement is based on my experience in Coimbatore in January 2018-however Zoomcar says their customer care can call you back.]  Sometimes the location given in mail is erratic or navigation to the pickup point as shown by google maps won't be viable for various reasons. I experienced it in Coimbatore. Had to struggle a lot with central customer care to find right path. Once I reached, I couldn't find anyone- had to call again- central customer care calls the fleet executive-who was found to be sleeping inside one of the car. If I had his number directly it would have been lot convenient- could have saved time and effort, but I think Zoomcar has other priorities- they want to cut cost and move towards 100% automation. Which is very good idea in theory- most European countries have 100% automated process- there hiring someone is expensive, roads, addresses and other systems are fairly sophisticated and people follow defined rules- thus automation works brilliantly. In India road that existed in morning might be blocked by evening. A bit of human touch saves lots of trouble

5. Speed limited to 80 kmph
Most cars now come with speed governors that limit top speed to 80kmph. Government regulation is cited as a reason. This further compromises self drive experience.

6. Electric cars
Zoomcar has been inducting a fleet of electric cars- E2O from Mahindra in Jaipur, Mumbai, Mysuru etc.. This is a good move, but unfortunately I am still not able to book them on the website. Looks like they have been discontinued in Mysuru, yet to appear on website for Jaipur and Mumbai.

Of late it costs Rs 3000+ per day to rent a small car on a weekend, compared to Rs 2000-2200 an year or two earlier. This has forced me to shift to bike rental wherever possible. If you have time and interest, do read my whitepaper on evolution of self drive industry.

2 comments:

  1. Looks like there is a mad scramble in the reverse direction as to who manages the worst offer for the customer !

    Although i agree with the speed limit of 80kmph ,that is by law.Also rash driving leads to higher maintenance and repair in the longer run.Also they might have experienced crashes or accidents by customers with zoom cars ending up in courts to defend their case .

    Not all people make sensible use of the speed limit and also i can tell you a majority of have paid for the license ,so either way they wouldnt have a clue. Its not about driving in excess of 80 kmph that perhaps everyone will do it with glee but it is how to control the vehicle at that speed ,that perhaps is an afterthought for most.

    ReplyDelete

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