Enjoy Your Trip

Car Rental Tips – Beware of the deadly Firefly!


This is a cautionary tale. You may think you’re smart doing everything online. But sometimes that mouse you click with can turn right around and bite you on the bum. Here’s what happened to me…
How many times have you heard the expression ‘the internet changes everything?’ It’s the reason given for the slow death of our High Streets. Just the other week, as Whole Foods finally opened its doors in Richmond, two doors along women’s fashion shop Hobbs closed down.
But sometimes cyberspace is seen to change things in a good way. Like comparison sites that give you instant visibility of fifty choices of anything from flights to phones to insurance policies. But there’s a fundamental flaw in this business model. It commoditizes everything. The only column we focus on is the price. In October’s Wealth Watch newsletter I highlighted the dangers of online insurance policies that don’t cover you for the most basic circumstances or are riddled with get-outs in the small print.
On my latest trip to the Cote D’Azur I discovered another flaw in the online business model. I’ve often used CarHire3000.com to find reasonably priced cars. But there’s one aspect of their service that’s always troubled me. And this time it bit me firmly on the bum. Here’s how it works. You enter the date, time and location of the rental and it returns a whole page of cars at different price points. You select the car you want based on a photo and a brief description. Then you pay. Then they send you an email with a voucher telling you which company your car is being provided by.
And there’s the rub. I have to say I’ve almost never ended up turning the ignition key on the make and model of car I’d selected. But they’ve always been almost new cars provide by the likes of Europcar or Sixt. Not this time.
I was already grumpy because my BA flight from Gatwick landed at Terminal 1 in Nice airport. All car hire takes place at Terminal 2. Cue a ten minute wait for a shuttle bus, a bun fight to get on without tripping over everyone’s luggage then a ten stop tour of the airport perimeter. The genius who designed the airport decided to locate the care rental centre so far from the terminal that you do occasionally get overtaken by the Foreign Legion on a route march.
It was now forty minutes since our plane landed and we were no nearer having a car to deposit our luggage in. I checked the small print of my voucher and discovered we were to be looked after by a company called Firefly. No, I hadn’t heard of them either. My mood worsened when I couldn’t find a Firefly desk anywhere in the rental centre. I jumped the queue at National and was told that Firefly was the only company still located in the terminal building itself. Another route march, a twenty minute wait while one person in front of me was seen to and now it was my turn.
When the clerk said the damage excess was €1000 I decided I had to take the excess insurance, a bargain at €60 which added 50% to my hire costs. He handed me the keys and gave me a map of the airport with a little open air car park marked on it. Ten minutes later we stumbled upon it almost by chance. I was annoyed, but at least I felt that the shiny new Chevrolet shown on CarHire3000’s web site would soon be pointed down the de3lightful coast road to Antibes.
I found the parking space. Surely some mistake, as they say in Private Eye. My gleaming new Chevvie had morphed into a beat-up diesel Fiesta with 49,000 on the clock. My day was complete. Daphne tried hard to distract me with the sunny weather and the great hotel we were heading to. I was inconsolable. I was mentally composing my complaint about misrepresentation.
L had some misgivings about what the rental return experience would be like. They were justified. It took three trips round the airport to relocate the secret car park. Just as I congratulated myself on finding it my jaw dropped. It was full to overflowing and the only choice was to deposit my Dagenham Dustbin on the slip road. There was no representative of Firefly to be seen in the car park, just an irate English lady whose car was blocked in. She’d also landed over an hour earlier and was counting the cost of cheap online car hire. I rang Pierre in the office and he said he’d be over in five. It was a taxi driver’s five minutes and my entente cordiale ran out. He asked me to move the car. I shoved the keys in his hand and said ‘It’s your car, you move it’. Most unlike me…
From now on, regardless of what the website tells me, I will be ringing the office to check who the deal is with before booking. If anyone offers you a Firefly car rental, run a mile.
When it comes to buying stuff sight unseen from a website, be careful out there!
Video Rating: / 5

About the Author
Technician in electronic's full time Webmaster in spare time Trying to make a living :)
  1. Elizabeth Rod

    I was so sorry to hear your experience. I guess no one can avoid this really. But I was lucky so far with cars-scanner.

  2. Tom Smith

    Firefly is the biggest maggot car rental ever!!! DO NOT RENT FROM THIS COMPANY!! YOU WILL BE SORRY!! google the reviews, 98% of them are bad!! Its a complete bate and switch company. what ever price you've been quoted, it will tripled once you get to the counter. and you will be greeted by the rudest barely speaking english maggots. You will swear you on a hidden camera show being pranked. because you won't believe what the fuck is happening to you.

  3. Gwyn Kutschke

    Never book with firefly! It is an absolute scam! I flew to Malaga and they charged me for being underaged although I was 25 and gave us a ton of random charges such as an 80euro insurances I didn't want as I already had purchased one. Therefore I planned on spending 90euros for my two and a half days and ended up paying 190euros. At the return, no one was there to pick it up. Which worried us as we wanted to discuss the charges and wanted them to see that the car was clean. So far we haven't gotten our petrol money back and the 80euros that apparently were on hold on my credit card. Absolutely frustrating. In addition the people serving us in Malaga weren't proficient at all in English.

  4. Alex Beard

    Think it's a bit unfair of this video to pass the blame for the booking experience (carhire3000/rentalcars.com) and the airport layout at Nice airport onto Firefly. Car rental is a complex offering, way more so than other travel. Hopefully these thoughts might help people have a better understanding. As Bob pointed out below Firefly is a low cost rental company and a good option for those on a tight budget – as with any product or service, the more you pay, the more you should expect. As some consumer sites have pointed out, comparison sites can make product/service searching easy for those with little spare time (and most now show the brand up front), but we all know that they have to simplify things (like the amount of different terms and conditions presented) in order to work and wont necessarily offer all or the best products. That's why it's probably best to check with the supplier direct before purchase once you've done your original comparison. Re excesses, I believe insurance excesses are usually based on that company's exposure to damage / risk – eg if your house insurance company has experienced a lot of losses on houses similar to yours, then your excess will be higher than a company that hasn't been exposed to such risk/losses – if damage/losses go up, then usually excesses/costs do too – I suspect the same would apply to car rental companies. People also need to be aware that insurances purchased independently of the rental company are usually just back up insurances between the consumer and an insurance company, not between the consumer and the rental company. These policies vary in their coverage and may not offer the level of cover required by the renting company (check before buying) – if you dont purchase the companies own excess waiver then in the unfortunate case where you suffer a loss, you would still have to pay out the monies due to the rental company first and then claim back your losses against your insurance policy later. Hope this helps.

  5. leemo liam

    Firefly are a disaster…..I won't go into the sordid details but, suffice to say, they were taking funds from my Mastercard account 6 months after returning home. Thankfully, Hertz refunded me the money – in the absence of any reply from Firefly to them on the issue….AVOID FIREFLY

  6. tumblefleas

    Firefly at Girona airport took £80 from my account in Oct 2014, which I did not discover till returned home and was checking my bank online statement.  My bank reimbursed me for this as I asked for it to be investigated.  (I had previously tried to get some answer from Firefly, but an Irish call-centre  had answered to the effect that they had "nothing  to do with it as they were Hertz" and "Firefly was a different company, however owned by Hertz".  I never got through to anyone from Firefly, their customer support numbers came back as "unobtainable".) I have heard nothing more since then from my bank so the £80 debit must have been confirmed by their investigations as fraudulent, so at least I got it back, thanks to NatWest.  Firefly/Hertz are totally unprofessional and should be investigated for their sharp/fraudulent practices.  AVOID FIREFLY AT ALL COSTS!

  7. John Clifford

    Firefly Car Rental is a dreadful company.  At Bordeaux Airport they provided a sub-standard car, charged e over three times the original agreed price and gave diabolical service (nearly three hours waiting to collect the vehicle).

    Avoid using at all costs.  Every other provider is better.

  8. leemo liam

    I was in Italy last October and hired a car from this company. At the end of the hire, I paid all outstanding charges.

    In March this year, a charge of €95.86, already paid to FIREFLY in October, was taken again This was followed by 3 more charges of €128.10 in March. Total €490.

    Obviously, someone had accessed my credit card details, given to FIREFLY in October, and used them to hire a car. 

    As I only used the credit card once, for this transaction, when in Italy, I can be 100% sure it was a FIREFLY failure (they kept my details beyond the hire period, by the way) which enabled the fraudster to rob me.

    As FIREFLY are affiliated to HERTZ, I contacted HERTZ in Ireland and a representative took the case on and contacted FIREFLY. They ignored all correspondence from HERTZ, it seems, leaving the holding company with no option but to refund me directly – well done HERTZ.


  9. Bob Brown

    FireFly is owned by Thrifty Car Rental who is owned by Hertz Car Rental
    top of the line is Hertz then Thrifty and then low budget is Firefly you get what you pay for a good choice if you are on a low budget. Big improvemenst since Hertz purchased Thrifty Dollar and Firefly. Firefly is the cheapest Car Rental out there !