Alright, let me tell you the story of the road trip we took in Australia and about our Hippie Camper rental. I really don’t like leaving bad reviews to anyone because it take a lot of work to have a company but this was just too much and I don’t want anyone to be fooled like we were.
I have been looking online for a cheap way to travel around this huge country because we already spent a lot of money on New Zealand roads. I made some research for an article about New Zealand rental solutions for a camper van and I thought it would be good to rent one in Australia.
Easy to travel, easy to sleep anywhere. Cheap solution (or is it?).
In the US, we rented an Escape Campervans and it was perfect. The van was great, the service was great. When we had a trouble, they acted immediately. They were nice to us. Anyway. That’s another story I have to tell.
As Escape didn’t exist in Australia (Damn Escape, we would totally have rented with you otherwise!), we decided to try the big rental company called Apollo, which also do campervans for cheap under a branch name called Hippie Campers.
From what we saw, they were the cheapest on the quote (On the quote is important here).
The quote. As you can see we should have paid around $800
So we decided to go with them.
If you don’t have time to read or you want the quick résumé, here it is:
- How they screw you in the terms and conditions
- They put pressure on you at the signature
- They charge you useless stuff but you HAVE to pay for them
- Their vans shouldn’t be driven anymore
PS: Read their google reviews (accessible only on google maps, I think they might have removed the quick access on google because of the bad reviews). They disabled their Facebook reviews too…
It all started when we arrived in Cairns, the very north east of Australia.
We were received by two different people. First a guy, who gave us the terms and conditions to read – which are six or seven page long. A bit tired, we still read them through.
How they screw you in the terms and conditions.
First weird thing is that when you don’t take their insurance because you already paid for an insurance with your credit card that covers your car / van rentals, they take the bond of $3000 from your bank account. Usually, like everywhere else in the world, they would just take a print of your card to block the money in the bank and take the money if something happens. But no, for Apollo, they required that you pay the full amount before getting the van, just in case. And when you ask them why (because I did ask), they say that in Australia it is required by every company and that it is like that here.
Well let me tell you a few things about this first point.
First, you arrive tired (or not) from your plane trip or another trip so when they tell you you have to pay the $3000 because you don’t want the insurance, what are you going to do? Say ‘no, that’s alright, I don’t want the van I already paid a few hundred dollars to booked’? Of course you are not going to say that.
The second thing is that when you do pay, what you don’t think about is the exchange rate. Yes, money changes value every day and every minute. So basically, they will take the $3000 from your account to put on theirs, and while they make money out of it by placing it somewhere to get interests (I assume), the money value changes. Right, I don’t think it is really fair. For example in our case, I lost 300€ in the change because Australian Dollars went down suddenly.
Bad luck they will say. Or they will say I won’t complain if it was the opposite. Well that is not really true because I want to make everyone aware of it. Maybe I would have won some dollars but someone else would have lost them.
They put pressure on you at the signature
So after reading the very very long terms and conditions, you go in front of someone that will try to add everything they can to the bill.
As I was paying with my card, the lady didn’t even tried to convince Alexis, she just tried to intimidate me so I would agree to anything. And I have to say that she scared me a lot.
Insisting on us taking the insurance that will double the price of the van (yes, the insurance was as expensive as the van and they don’t tell you when you do the quote of course). I was kind of scared because she told us about crashing into people and people not being insured in Australia but Alexis kept his calm and as we already pay for the insurance in France with the credit card, we really didn’t needed that insurance.
She then tried to sold us another insurance for the windscreen and the tires. Insisting on the fact that there was plenty of people on the road and it could easily break the window. Again, we insisted on not having the insurance because we didn’t need it.
Funny thing? She somehow managed to put the insurance on the bill, under the name WAT and Bundle. When we signed off, we just told her what we wanted or not, we read the paper but didn’t noticed this line. First of all, it was not written insurance or anything and second of all we just told her that we didn’t want the insurance so we trusted her.
Big mistake. Don’t trust them. Not ever. We learned it the bad way, I hope I warned you enough so you question all the line they put.
What we actually paid. You can see the sneaky WAT Bundle I was talking about.
Because when we left the van at the end of the trip, we asked what the line was and when he told us, we said we asked to not have that at the beginning. Now, we called them to tell them they made a mistake but I got an email back from them saying ‘’Unfortunately we are unable to reimburse the $175 as this was paid and signed for in the contract at the time of pickup”.
I can’t believe it. How could you take advantage of people like that? Yes it is signed, but we INSISTED on not having it and now we are $175 poorer.
They charge you useless stuff but you HAVE to pay for them
Alright. Another thing on the bill that is not right at all.
They make you pay for a gas bottle $25. What?! It was not even a big gas bottle. It was a gas cooker bottle and yes we had two of them but we had to buy 4 more and we paid $5 for the 4!!!!
This was one bottle of gas...
When we noticed (after getting the van of course) that the gas bottle was that, it was already too late (we signed the contract they will say….). We told the guy at the Melbourne shop that it was a rip off and he just told us that it was the price for the gas cooker and the bottles.
It is just written gas bottle on the paper! Not gas cooker! And the gas cooker is a 100 years old gas cooker where the gas side don’t even close any more with some rust on it. At most, new it cost $25. And they share it with all their rent. How much money can they make out of those cookers?!! I would have bought one if we didn’t HAVE to pay for it. It would have been a better investment.
Some other thing that you can’t avoid is the clean up fee. They charge you $75 for the clean up… And no chance to convince them to do the clean up yourself.
Their vans shouldn’t be driven anymore
The vans are SO OLD. You might think they look cool in the pictures but those are the newest ones I guess and the ones you probably will not have because they can give you any van they want (It is in the conditions that you can get another van than the one you booked). Of course it will be the oldest one. Until the van dies.
We got a van with more than 350 000 kilometers. How much more a van like that can take?
At first the van seemed alright. We drove with it up north to Cairns, where it was really hot at the time and it was just after the cyclone Debbie.
A few kilometers in the trip, something was already not right.
— Air conditioning leaking. I had at least one centimeter of water at my feet (the passenger seat). ONE CENTIMETER. Which means: no bags on the floor, no flip flops, no removing the shoes and a lot of dirt because going in and out leaves mud inside (soil + water = mud). We asked twice, at the Cairns shop and at the Brisbane shop about it and they said it was normal. Though, when we insisted on getting the car checked because of the engine problem quoted below (Kangaroo problem – there is no other way to describe it). When the mechanics did, he told us he also fixed the air conditioning because “we might have noticed it was leaking”. Yeah we did. He confirmed it was not normal at all, instead of putting the water out, it was putting everything inside. Thank you for setting the record straight for us dear mechanics.
Inside of the Hippie Camper Drift
— The Kangaroo problem. Alright, so after a while of driving, we were entering the second week of our trip and were heading towards Brisbane. At some point on the highway, we tried to pass a truck as usual, except that the van wouldn’t go any faster. We were not speeding too much, we were at the right gear and everything. The van started to make small “jumps” like if we were breaking and releasing the break, breaking and releasing the break many times after the other… That is when we decided to go to the Brisbane office to ask for the Hippie Camper to be checked. It was hard to reproduce it because we would have had to drive with them and try to pass a car and everything so they were reluctant to help us. We insisted and they sent us to their mechanics (as said just before). He changed something in the engine and made a few other upgrades as the air conditioning but he also acknowledged that the van was good for retirement and that it was the last year it was allowed on the road. Great. Renting a dying van for the same price as a new one – clever. As soon as we went out of the mechanics shop, the van started to jump again, this time it was way worse because it was all the time and even when we were not on the highway at 100km/h. We stopped and when we started the van again, it stopped jumping… As we already had lost half a day because of that, we kept going, telling ourselves that if it were to do it again, we would stop in the Sydney shop. Why not stop at all of them? Cairns, Brisbane, Melbourne… Sydney was just “another one”. Hopefully it didn’t though.
— Windows not closing when you drive. When you are driving at more than 20km/h and you decide to open the window to let the ‘fresh’ air in, be prepared to drive all the way with the window open… and the weather can turn very quickly! Often we had rain coming unpredictably on the way and we had to stop on the side in order to close the window. What the hell? When you ask them about it, once again, it is normal in their vans, it is a ‘Hippie after all’.
— Key lock not working. They have a centralized locking system, but it is not working at all… You have to close each door (and the trunk) one by one. Not too bad but still annoying.
— Doors very hard to close. That point was really really annoying. In order to close any of the doors, you had to smash them otherwise they were not really closed. The driver’s door was one of the worst because the light on the dashboard kept blinking all the time saying the door was not closed properly… The other worse one was the one on the side of the van because when you are inside and you want to close it… Well, it is never really closed. What happened is that on the three first days of the trip, it poured rain outside… and inside. As we didn’t know the door was not closed properly, the side of the bed and all our stuff that was there were wet in the morning. And with the humidity, it was impossible to dry anything for a few days after that.
— Engine overheat. The engine on the vans (most of them) is located right under the driver’s and passenger’s seats. For some reason, it gets very hot for a very long time… We didn’t know at first so we put all our bags, camera bags, computer bags, clothes bags on the floor in the back but when we took them out on the first night, we realized they were boiling hot! And then it was way too hot inside the van to sleep, and it was not only because it was hot outside. We wanted to open the windows because it was colder outside but we couldn’t because of the rain… Great first nights I tell you!
— Lot of rust everywhere, engine light on the dashboard always on but ‘it is normal’, windscreen cleaner not working, the whole ventilation system stopped working during a day (who knows why…), the second battery doesn’t seem to be working well anymore (one day autonomy)… Do I need to describe it more?
Can you spot the rust?
— The quote was around AUS$800
— We paid around AUS$1300 without the main insurance
— We lost around AUS$450 because of the exchange rate. As the insurance would have cost AUS$600, it was still better to not take it though
— The rental was bad for the price
— Very bad customer service
All in all, if I didn’t convinced you already, I can only recommend you to check the Facebook and Google reviews before booking. I should have, now I know.
I am very interested by hearing other people’s story about their Apollo/Hippie Camper rental. If you rented one, please leave a comment with your experience!