When Our Rental Car Broke Down (Twice!) In Australia

So today’s writer is: Csaba. He’s not the writer from the two of us, but now he is doing something he can quite passionately do: complaining. Because here comes the long (very long, I mean it!) story of us breaking down twice with our rental car in Australia. The happy bit: no crocodiles involved.

Prelude: strange issues with our Amaysim SIM card that turn out to be quite significant later on…

So, once upon a time in a country far Down Under… On a nice Saturday morning we picked up our Jucy El Chapo Sleeper van at Jucy’s Melbourne office. Next thing to do was shopping: food and local SIM card. We chose a carrier called Amaysim for 40 AUD. The plan offered unlimited text, calls and 15 GB cellular data for 28 days. The cashier told us that it will be automatically activated right after purchase.

Well, after leaving the store and reading the description on the back of the package, it turned out that we have to register it online. Luckily, there was free public wifi in the parking lot. I filled out the online form, hit register and I got my “welcome, your sim has been activated, your phone number is XYZ” mail. I noticed the “amaysim 3G” sign at the top of my screen. Perfect, that was done. Except… I had no internet. It was strange, but I thought it maybe requires some time to config it on their end, so we moved on.

Later in the day we still had no internet. Using the wifi at the campground, I submitted a support ticket to their website, since we were not able to call them after business hours. I got an auto-reply that they will get back to me after 2 working days. It was Saturday, so that meant 3-4 days in our case. Great – especially when you buy something that’s valid for only 28 days anyway.

I also got some general information about the most common issues and solutions in that auto-reply. I tried to configure my phone again. And again. I kept on doing it in the next 3 days, precisely following the description – with no success. Shit. At least we are able to make calls in the meantime – or so as we thought.

The day we (first) broke down with our Jucy van

When Our Rental Car Broke Down (Twice!) In Australia

And that’s where Jucy’s El Chapo Sleeper comes into the picture. On our fourth day, we were heading towards Sydney, aiming to reach an overnight rest stop halfway between Melbourne and Jervis Bay. We got stuck in a traffic jam on M80 close to Melbourne. Then suddenly, all the dashboard indicators in the car lit up, and the engine stopped right after that.

Emergency light on. Bea was behind the wheel, so I jumped out and started pushing the car towards the emergency lane. Hah, it was a campervan. It was too heavy to move it just by myself. A random guy behind us jumped out of his car, and helped me out. When we were out of the way, he left.

So… our rental car broke down. Let’s call Jucy, they should take care of this situation. I started dialing and got an automated voice message: my SIM is not registered. But it informs me that I can go online to their website, or call XYZ number from another phone to activate it. What the hell? We tried to make a call with our Hungarian SIM cards, but they were not working. Not at all surprising, we didn’t arrange any international phone plans, because we bought a local SIM card.

The time of despair?

A broken down car, no phone and no internet – after 7 pm in the dark in the middle of the highway. What should we do?

Dancing… I mean I started waving my hands like I’m on a concert to all the passing cars. After a while, a guy called Mark stopped with his friend. He was kind to lend us his phone. I called Amaysim to re-register the SIM card. An automated voice message told me they are out of office, I can call them between Monday-Friday 8 am – 7 pm. It was Monday, 7:40 pm. Shit. Again.

I called Jucy’s 24/7 call center. I told them what happened, provided my booking number, car licence plate and my Hungarian phone number. They promised to call me back soon. However, it turned out that the Hungarian phone was not able to receive calls either.

Mark was so kind that he offered to take us to his parents’ place for the night. We didn’t want to simply leave the car there though. We tried to start the engine. It has started… Driving in front of us, Mark slowly lead us to the nearest gas station. First thing first, we bought another local SIM – this time from Vodafone. The cashier shared his cellular network, so I was able to register it online, and it actually worked. Wow. Vodafone:Amaysim – 1:0.

The time of endless, frustrating phone calls

Australia

So let’s call Jucy again… I was transferred to a different operator, so I had to start our story all over again (name, booking number, licence plate, what happened, my new location, my new phone number). Then they sent a technician from a third-party company to check the car. The diagnosis: the alternator busted, so we couldn’t drive more than an average of 10 minutes after a long pause. Looked very much like we were not going anywhere with our car that night.

Another call to Jucy support. Another round of questions: name, booking number, license plate, where are we, what happened… The end of the conversation was:

  • So what will happen now? We are at a gas station with a car that we can’t drive anywhere. Will you tow us somewhere and organize some accomodation for the night? Since we couldn’t reach the place where we intended to stay. Also, will you pay for that accommodation?
  • I am sorry, Sir, but I can not do anything for you tonight. Please call us back tomorrow at 7 am when our main office opens.
  • But can you at least assure me that if I find a hotel, Jucy will cover that expense?
  • I am sorry, Sir, I don’t know. Please call us back at 7 am tomorrow when our New Zealand HQ opens.

We were in the outer suburb of Melbourne, not in the middle of nowhere at least. So Booking.com… Where is the closest, cheapest hotel? We found an Ibis 2 kilometres away. We started the engine again, and luckily, we were able to reach the place within 2 minutes. It was already around 9:30 pm.

We went to bed, feeling quite uncertain about what will happen tomorrow. Also quite angry, because we felt we didn’t get much help from Jucy. And quite frustrated, because we already lost the whole evening that we wanted to spend driving towards Sydney.

I called again in the morning. Another round of the same questions with another operator – this time including the color of the car, as well (why this information is helpful in any way, after I provided the booking number and the license plate, is a mystery to me). I was told that they are sorry, and Jucy will cover my hotel stay (89 AUD). More importantly, the operator promised to manage something for us soon. He was supposed to call me back after 8 am – after he had a talk with their Melbourne branch that opens at 8.

I wasn’t called back, so after 9 am I called Jucy myself. Another operator, and believe it or not, we started all the questions all over again. For God’s sake, there are solutions out there for these kind of processes! So that they don’t need to annoy the hell out of someone who is already annoyed enough.

Never mind, this call took around 30 minutes. 90% of which I was listening to music though, because the operator was calling others and double checking and so on. Still better than hanging up, because the support line was very busy in the morning. It could take 5-10 minutes for a call to be answered. Finally, he promised that we would be given a replacement car before we had to check out from the hotel (10 am). It was supposed to be driven to our place. We were itching to be on the road again.

Around 9:40 am. I got a call from a mobile phone number:

  • Hello, my name is XXXX, I am from Jucy, and I am here at the gas station. Where are you?
  • Hi. Actually, I’ve already told the call center in the morning that I left the gas station last night, and stayed in the nearest Ibis Budget hotel. It’s down the road 2 kilometres from the gas station, and I am here in the parking lot.
  • Ooohh. Ok, no worries. I will be there in a few minutes then.

About 15 minutes passed. I started to become suspicious. It takes this dude an awful lot of time to drive this distance. My phone rang again:

  • Hi again, Sir. I am here in front of the Ibis parking lot, but I can’t see our car with the Jucy logo.
  • Well, I am in the parking lot, as well, and I can’t see you either. Where exactly are you? Which Ibis hotel?
  • The one next to the airport.
  • But I’m not there. I’m at Ibis Budget Fawkner. Yesterday I’ve already told Jucy the exact address of the gas station where we got stuck. Today I told them the exact address of this hotel. Could you drive here?
  • Sorry, Sir, let me call the Op center, then I will call you back.

Blood pressure increasing. Really?! After 15 minutes I got another call:

  • Hi again. So, Sir, it seems there was a mistake, and the Ibis hotel where you are is too far away from our Melbourne airport office. I can not drive to you, sorry. You need to be towed somewhere.
  • Sorry, but what?! I broke down YESTERDAY, and I wanted to be close to Sydney around this time. At 8 am today I was promised to get a replacement car by 10. It is already 10, you drove to a wrong hotel, and now you are telling me you can’t come here because I am TOO FAR?? Sorry, but I don’t care who the F%+”R will come here, I want my replacement car HERE as it was promised, or I want my money back.

I hung up as my blood pressure skyrocketed. I became furious at this point, Bea didn’t let me call them again. She tried to call this guy a few times, but he picked up, then immediately hung up. So she dialled the call center again to start everything from the beginning with a new operator.

Being towed and having even more ridiculous conversations

Finally, we were (again) promised to be towed to the Melbourne airport branch around 11 am. Towing was done by a third-party company, and the guy was busy with another ride before ours. We arrived to Jucy’s Melbourne airport branch around 12:40. The too far away meant about 35 minutes drive. What if we would have broken down halfway to Sydney?

But surprises for the day were not over yet. The lady in the office greeted us with a confused “How are you?”, and we thought it’s better to left that question unanswered.

  • Hi, my name is Csaba Patyi, and we are here for our replacement car.
  • Uhm… Sorry, Sir, but we do not have a replacement car here.
  • What??? But there was a replacement car which was sent to the wrong location. Where is it now?
  • Oh, that one… Actually, the oil started leaking from it very badly on the way back. Our mechanic said that it needs a serious repair, it can’t go anywhere.
  • Then what about that 80 Jucy cars in the parking lot right in front of this office?
  • I’m sorry, but those are all booked. I can not give you any car, and I told this to the Operation Center, as well. I don’t know why they sent you here…

We were in a very bad mood at this point. But it turned out, it could get even worse. The towing guy came into the office:

  • Hello, the towing will be 270 AUD.
  • I am sorry, Sir, but I don’t have any cash or bank card at this office. I can’t pay you here. And it was our Operation Center who ordered the towing.
  • Well, then I just put the car back, and take it to our HQ until somebody pays for the towing.

I was not angry anymore, I was scared. No replacement car, and now the towing guy wants to take away the car where we have all our luggage… The lady dialled their call center. Fun fact: even Jucy employees don’t have direct number to reach their operation center, they wait in line just like any other customer.

We were not sure how the issue with the payment was solved. We saw the towing guy leaving in anger. Our broken down car remained.

  • So what will happen now?
  • Our mechanic will check whether your car can be fixed.
  • And if not, then what about a replacement car?
  • That car needs a huge maintenance. It takes a week or two.
  • And what about other Jucy branches? There’s another in Melbourne. Don’t they have one?
  • We will see whether your car can be fixed. Operations should not have sent you here, I told them we don’t have a replacement car.

About 30 minutes passed. Then we were told that the alternator didn’t have any issue, however both of the batteries died, so they were replaced. The car was taken to a test ride by the mechanic.

Back on the road…

The replacement car we got after the second breakdown

Around 2 pm we finally left the Jucy office with our repaired car. End result was:

  • We lost a full day of our vacation. We had to skip Murramarang National Park where we planned a longer stop, and we spent half the night driving to reach the campground that we booked in Jervis Bay.
  • Jucy paid for the hotel, and they refunded 1 day of the rental cost. (We also got an Aux cable for free.)

Later I used the Vodafone SIM card to call Amaysim, and managed to got that SIM card activated, as well. Sign. All should be fine.

Then when you think it’s over, it happens again!

All the beautiful places we discovered helped us recovering from the shock and frustration of that day. And then… when you think, it’s over, it just totally happens AGAIN. Yes, we broke down again. About 2 weeks later, 1.5 hours drive from Cairns. There were 5 days left from our trip. This time the transmission died completely. There was no way to fix it in a reasonable time.

Don’t worry, I won’t go into details again. We’ve actually seen some improvements in the process. But there’s still large room for improvement… Just some quick fun facts to illustrate it.

We broke down on Friday around 4 pm, 1.5 hours drive from Jucy’s Cairns branch. I asked the support to tow us to this branch and give us a replacement car on that same day. The operator refused that, since the branch closes at 4 pm. (So guys, bear in mind, if you wanna break down, do it between 9 am – 3 pm, because those are the office hours, will you?) I asked whether somebody could stay and wait for us in the office to hand over the replacement car, so we don’t need to wait until tomorrow morning. I was informed it’s absolutely not possible.

Instead, we were towed to a campground that’s 10 minutes drive from their Cairns office. So that we can get our car as early as possible the next morning. Their office opens at 9 am, but it took them 2 hours to actually hand the replacement car over to us – along with a new contract that was wrong. It contained all the personal and rental details of some Canadian guy, it was obviously not our contract.

As it turned out, at least the car was okay, it was supposed to be our replacement car, but they switched the contracts. Since they drove the new car to the campground, we had to drive back to their office for the new contract. It’s just 10 minutes drive after all.

The replacement car we got after the second breakdown

End result this time:

  • We lost another day.
  • We got a replacement car (freely upgraded to the next category).
  • We also got a phone/gps holder (that turned out to be too small for our phone).
  • Our Uber ride to the airport was paid by Jucy after we dropped of the car.

We were promised to get a follow-up email about further compensation. We didn’t get it in a week, so I wrote an email to the support. In the reply they told me that they forwarded my complaints to the right people and will take necessary improvements. We also got refund for 3 more days of rental cost.

The verdict

So how do we feel about it now, after 3 months? We’ve been dreaming about visiting Australia for years. We’ve been actually planning it for more than half a year. Every hour of that 3 weeks were precious to us. And we lost 2 entire days. Even after months we are angry when we think of it. Nothing can compensate us for the time we lost.

In one hand, we know that accidents can happen any time. On the other hand, we think that none of our issues were resolved as smoothly as they could have been. And twice with the same car? We wanted to check how old the car was, but that information was nowhere on the contract. It looked significantly older than our replacement car, that’s for sure.

However wonderful our trip in Australia was (and it was!), sadly these breakdowns are also unforgettable.

Have you ever broken down with a rental car? Spill!

Disclosure: the conversations are, of course, reconstructions from our traumatized memories, and there’s no way we could remember every word precisely. But we thought it’s easier to share our story this way – almost a novel, isn’t it?

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