Well-used route to cheap car hire

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The Independent Online
THE COST of getting staff on the road can knock a big hole in the budgets of small businesses.

The option of hiring cars is seen as prohibitively expensive. But a company founded 10 years ago, hiring out used vehicles at discount prices, set out to destroy that conception.

Practical Car and Van Rental, a national franchised network with more than 200 outlets, has captured 2 per cent of the market and aims to make that 5 per cent by the end of the decade.

Bolton Agnew, co-founder and managing director, says he had in mind 'the man paying out of his own pocket - the self-employed and small businesses' when the company was founded.

'It was initially based on the 'rent-a-wreck' philosophy in America. We even had a chance to use the name, but did not think it would go down too well with car-conscious Brits.'

And the cars can scarcely be described as wrecks either - the oldest vehicle is three and a half years old, and most have been on the road for less than two years.

Customers like to know they have a full back-up service from a national organisation should the vehicle break down, be stolen or involved in an accident, Mr Agnew says. The company's boast is that it offers the cheapest national car service available. The average daily cost is pounds 19.95.

Mr Agnew points to the fact that 60 per cent of business is repeat as evidence of customer satisfaction with the discount package.

A mini-boom in one segment of the market was fuelled by the white-collar recession and is still going strong, he says. 'We often rent cars to people who are looking for jobs, so they do not look as if they are down on their luck when they turn up for an interview.'

The company has franchises from Thurso to Liskard, but is particularly strong in small towns. A franchise can provide an additional profit centre for garages, bodyshops and filling stations, and those who become franchisees get training and marketing support to help reach their profit targets.