A hire-car problem
Having read and enjoyed your magazine for several years, I now feel a compulsive urge to contribute to it. This prompted by ponderings in my mind over the question of accuracy of odometers.
I moved from London to Queensferry, near Edinburgh, in March, 1970, and, being short of money and material possessions, I hired a self-drive Transit to shift what little I had. The Transit was hired from a nationwide firm and I was able to make the single journey in one day, leaving the Transit at the firm’s kiosk in Edinburgh Station. I duly received an invoice from the hire company charging me for a distance of 527 miles, this being the difference in odometer readings over the hire period.
Now I must confess that I had not noted the final odometer reading on the Transit as I had had a very tiring day, but upon checking the route with the AA mileage chart and my own car I concluded that 427 miles was a more realistic estimate. I queried the invoice, but was told that the hire firm’s records were correct. By this time I had been awarded a re-location allowance, and so I let the matter drop, putting it down to exeprience.
More recently my father also hired a car, an Escort Estate, and drove the same route. He is more fastidious in checking his mileages, and has measured the door-to-door mileage from his home in London to Queensferry as between 400 and 405 miles. On this occasion two things surprised him; the route had apparently “stretched” to 462 miles and the Escort was able to cruise “effortlessly” at 80 m.p.h.. despite being loaded with five golden retrievers, a week’s luggage, and me mum.
It would seem from these figures that the Transit’s odometer read 23.4% fast, and the Escort was in error by 14.1%. I telephoned Edinburgh Police, who issue licences to the local cabbies, and they provided me with some interesting ammunition.
1. The law concerning speedometer accuracy (plus-or-minus 10% at 30 m.p.h.) does not apply to odometers, which are not even mandatory instruments.
2. When a fare meter is fitted to a taxicab the Police check its accuracy over their measured mile. Maximum permitted error is 25-30 yards in favour of the customer (1.7%) and nil in favour of the operator. The Police then seal the meter.
3. There is no control over the accuracy of odometers fitted to private or self-drive hire cars, which are sealed by the operators themselves.
So once again the motorist is apparently being fleeced, and I for one should like to see regulations introduced to safeguard the “tenant” of a self-drive vehicle. I am sure the self-drive companies would support such a move as they must by now be sick of the incredulous expressions on their clients’ faces as they check their mileages with those recorded.
I think you will agree, sir, that it is most ingenious to increase one’s profits not by increasing tariffs but merely by placing the cities further apart.
Ian W. Price.