Tips to avoid bad experience with Zoomcar

This post is about Zoomcar again. I have been Zoomcar’s long term customer, I have seen them begin their operations in Bengaluru with a few cars and then over time grow exponentially all over the country. I have rented probably a hundred times from them and have rented in different cities all over India. Over time a lot has changed at Zoomcar as they’ve grown leaps and bounds, introducing more car types, expanding to more cities, play with different pricing models, changing rules, new schemes such as ZAP Associate n ZAP Subscribe and so on. Of late lot of complaints are also surfacing on internet about Zoomcar’s poor service, cars breaking down, high damage charges and so on. Lots of people putting up videos, posts stating zoomcar is worst, they will never rent again and so on.

In this post, based on my experience, I will tell you various precautions you can take while availing services of zoomcar, things you should worry about and how to minimize the probability of something going bad with your booking. Note that there’s always a bit of luck element involved so there’s no way to ensure everything will go well 100%- you will still have to take a bit of risk, but it is possible to avoid various potential disappointments if you follow these tips.

If you prefer to watch a video instead of reading this post, watch below one
Understand that you booking a car with Zoomcar is a multi-party affair- there’re different stakeholders- Stakeholder 1: You, the customer: As a customer want cars for cheap price, want them to be new, well serviced and readily available ontime- customer’s objective is to enjoy his/her trip to the maximum and return the car with zero or minimum extra fees.

Stakeholder 2: Customer who is using the car before you: For you to get your car on time, the customer who has booked this car before you must return it on time- Zoomcar may keep a few hours gap between bookings, but they can’t help if the previous customer delays too much. Things get worse if previous customer damages the car or returns it too dirty or too late. Zoomcar usually tries to provide a replacement car or clean it a bit before delivery etc, but during busy time, these things may not happen. So this is one potential reason for bad start.

3rd stakeholder is ZAP Subscribers- These days Zoomcar instead of fully owning the cars and listing it for customers to book, rents it to ZAP subscribers for a monthly fee. These ZAP subscribers use the car when they need it and when they don’t need it they list it on Zoomcar for people like you n me to book. Cars belonging to these ZAP Subscribers are parked in-front or near their homes- usually somewhere deep in residential areas away from main road- if such cars get assigned to you, then you will have to spend extra time and effort to locate/reach the car spot and there won’t be any human being to hand over the car- the process is automated and should work fine in ideal condition, but when there’re issues-say car is too dirty, there’re some damages or say Stepney is flat etc there won’t be anyone to reach out and you’ll have to put up with Zoomcar’s customer care and lose lots of time.

Fourth stake holder is of course Zoomcar and its employees. Now they have grown in size-personal attention is no longer possible- probably not everyone is well trained or having good intentions- sometimes they try to pass off existing damage as new one, sometimes they are either overworked or lazy and your car won’t be ready on time or their customer care is under staffed that they take forever to resolve an issue or there’re few people who have identified unethical ways to trick a customer to pay more. Of course without evidence I shouldn’t be making allegations, but you can decide for yourself. I believe a fair majority of customers are having decent experience but some are definitely facing multitude of issues, which we can see on social media as both zoomcar and customers are unable to resolve these issues.

Now with this background in place, what precautions should we take while booking? I will talk from a perspective of someone booking a car for a long trip, say 5-6 days, 1500-2000 kms. Most of these apply to short bookings as well, use your discretion.

Understand that there’s no difference in process between a 2-day booking vs a 2 week booking. Zoomcar can’t afford to service a car between two bookings. Irrespective of duration, don’t expect to get a well serviced car- unless a car doesn’t move or it is time to service as per manufacturer’s  recommendation, car won’t be serviced. Lots of people say “We’ve booked for 5 days, zoomcar should have understood that we’re going for long drive and should have given us a new/well serviced car”- don’t expect. A service costs 2-3k to 15-20k they can’t service cars before every booking. Just keep your expectations right.

Tip 1: Selecting car type: When you’ve planned a long trip, you need a more reliable car- something that doesn’t give problems during the journey. However there’s no way to ensure this 100%- things can do wrong if you’re unlucky or if you don’t take good care of the car etc. So how to minimize the risk?

If you select a newer car model, you’ve better chance of getting a good car. For example Zoomcar has scorpios and Figos that could be 4-5 years old. So if you book them, there is a good chance that you will get an old car. Instead if you select a car type such as say Ford Freestyle or Tata Nexon or Swift AT etc, there’s a higher chance of getting good car as these models are new. Still there’s a small chance that booked car won’t be available and they will assign something else, but most of the time you should get what you have booked.
Note: Age of the car is not a measure/guarantee on its running condition. But in general a newer car is less prone to troubles.

Tip 2: Where possible avoid long trip: If you have an option avoid long trip- for example if you’ve to go to Goa from Bengaluru- instead of renting in BLR and driving 1200 kms to Goa, you can reach Goa by bus/train or flight and rent locally- of course you will miss the long drive, but it will save money, stress of driving super long distance, reduced risk of breakdowns and will give you more options if things go wrong – it is better than getting stranded in the middle of a highway. Rent locally and drive around if such an option is available

Tip 3: Book from a Zoomcar location instead of ZAP Subscriber location. In each city, there’re a few Zoomcar locations where there’ll be lots of zoomcars and a few staff to manage. If you book from here and you find something is wrong when you reach there, you can catch hold of the staff and ask them to resolve. If you book a zap subscriber car, it will be somewhere deep in city, no one will be available, and you’ll have to deal with lousy customer care who may never call back despite promising to.
#
Factor
Zoomcar Garage
ZAP subscriber home
1
Location
Usually main road/central locations, easy to reach, locate

Most locations are fixed n known in advance, can plan better
Usually somewhere deep interior in residential areas

Location communicated just few hours before trip start, often needing taxi spend due to no public transport/parking for own bike.
2
Staff
Present, can resolve minor issues like cleaning etc

Easy to get the car inspected n get all clear on return
None, have to depend on automated system/ customer care for everything.

No one to give all clear upon return, risk of damage claims later.
3
No of vehicles
Many
Only one
4
Parking (for your bike etc)
Available
Not available
5



Another advantage is Zoomcar’s own locations usually will have multiple cars, so replacement is easy, compare to a Zap subscriber home where there will be only 1 car. Zap Subscriber location is convenient if it is very close to your home and the fully automated process works fine in most cases- only in small % of cases where things go wrong, you will wish you had a human being to get hold of, instead of trying to resolve the issue remotely with customer care. Thus even if it is not very convenient, particularly for long trips, I take extra effort to ensure I book from Zoomcar’s own locations- there’s no way to know this upfront while booking, but if you know Zoomcar’s garage locations in the city and select that location during booking, there’s very high chance that car from 
Zoomcar’s garage will be assigned to you.

Nothing personal against ZAP subscribers. I have a separate review of ZAP subscribe here- It is a clever model wherein a major portion of capital cost (cost of car) is charged to subscribers in terms of monthly fee while running cost is recovered from customers who book these cars. ZAP subscribers are required to ensure that car has 30% fuel, is clean, damages documented, park it an accessible spot etc- which is an extra overload for them plus the limitations listed above, I prefer a proper zoomcar location with human staff around.

Tip 4: Selecting trip start time: Next is to plan such that you begin your trip on say Friday noon or evening instead of Saturday morning- this is because maximum demand is during the weekend. If you reach pickup location on Saturday morning 10 AM, chances are that all other cars will be gone. If the car meant for you has some problems, you will face longer delay. Instead say if you’re booking begins Friday noon, chances are there will be more cars and in case of a problem a replacement is easy to work out.

Tip 5: Documenting existing damages: Once you collect the car, do take detailed photo of all existing damages, scratches both outside and inside- take close up photos, video etc. Often the staff will be different when you return the car and they may try to pass off an existing damage as new one- it will be your onus to prove them wrong with photo and video evidence.

Check if spare wheel has air, check under-body for any sign of leakage, take it for a short drive and see if you sense any trouble- like burning smell from clutch plate or poor pickup, too high engine temperature etc. If you are not satisfied, try to sort it out before the trip.

Update: A recent mail from Zoomcar co-founder Greg says Zoomcar will no longer charge customers for minor damages like scratches and dents of values less than Rs 2000.

Tip 5: During the trip do take good care of the car- many customers abuse the car as they don’t own it and are not responsible for its durability- but when the car is in your custody it is your responsibility, so take good care, drive carefully- don’t drive where it is not safe. To get an idea- watch this video and see how sometimes cars get abused

Tip 6: It also helps to have a Plan B ready- what would be your plan B if the car breaks down during the trip- do you have a list of service centres in nearby cities handy? If you get stranded is there an alternate option to send family members home (like bus or train), do you have some buffer time for possible delays n trouble (like if you have a flight to catch, don’t plan to reach airport just in time- keep some buffer)

Despite all these precautions there is always a risk something will go wrong- previous customer may delay, vehicle may develop some problems, there could be accidents and so on-these are part of self drive life.

So should you stop booking with Zoomcar?
Lots of affected people say “I will never book Zoomcar again”- If you have a better option by all means go ahead and try. In service industry no one is perfect- there’ve been issues with Myles, Revv and other companies as well- it is a bit of bad luck which is not in your control. Any service company has its share of negative reviews- Oyo rooms, Makemytrip, Airtel take any popular company there will be a percentage of unhappy customers. India is a mass market- it is lot easier for companies to acquire more new customers, than put lots of time, effort and money to satisfy disgruntled customers. We need to assess each concern on a case by case basis- is it one off incident or can happen again n again with anyone? Was it customer’s fault or Zoomcar’s? Can it be avoided with some precaution or may still happen again? What does your instincts say- is the company staff deliberately lying and tricking/forcing customers to pay more?

Zoomcar now operates out of 30+ cities and probably has 5000+ cars. I guess a large portion of customers/bookings end without any incident- a small portion do end up in disputes, due to various reasons listed above.

Lots of new self-drive rental companies have come up now- after seeing success of zoomcar many have come up offering similar service and hoping to make money- I feel sometimes a known devil is better than an unknown friend-because I know how zoomcar works, what all can go wrong, I can deal with them better. New companies will have their own process, rules, tricks- you can try if you wish to- let us know if you find a good self-drive company.
Let me know your thoughts.

2 comments:

  1. I think you should see some of the videos on zoom cars experiences ,just horrifying to say the least ,not one but hundreds - it overall defeats the very purpose of renting a car .90 -95 % of those cases are as bad as the car stalling literally -it is a no brainier

    Even basic things such as cleaning the car is not taken care off ,forget about maintaining the cars and so on- the field evidence is there for everyone to see,again by not one person but hundreds of people -this speaks for zoom cars

    The end customer is not bothered about the business model of zoom cars -that is for zoom car to get it right ,what he is bothered is to get a car which is drive hassle free in return for the money he has paid.Its not just about renting cars helter skelter but also tending to them when they need to be tended to.

    Never experienced any of such things when i have rented outside India.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, I have seen many such videos. But given that they operate in 30+ cities with 1000s of bookings each day, I don't think all bookings end up bad- Anyways, it is every individual's decision- if you have a better option pls go for it..

      Yes, rentals outside India are a lot more pleasant- I tried last year in NZ and Australia and it was very good experience. India is a mass market and dynamics are very different

      Delete

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