Thinking about renting a car in Morocco? Firstly, excellent - that's a great idea! Secondly, we have a few pieces of advice you should probably know before you hire that car!
local or international:the two types of car rental in Morocco
International car rental companies are well aware of Morocco's tourist draw, and so you'll be able to find branches of almost all of them in most major cities and airports. However, that doesn't mean they're the only choice.
The truth is, despite significantly higher rates than some of the local car rental companies, the quality doesn't necessarily translate - and we saw plenty of bad reviews for Hertz, Avis, Europcar and all the others.
Of course, we know that some people we always trust a company that they have heard of, but do bear in mind that it may not count for much out here!
check out recent reviews
Despite us viewing a Moroccan road trip as not only the most economical and practical way to navigate the country, we came very close to not doing it at all 48 hours before our scheduled start date. The reason? An hour reading the reviews of every single car rental company in Marrakech made us think that renting a car was only going to result in us losing a lot of money or getting in some very sticky situations.
Now, obviously people are more inclined to leave a review if they've had a horrendous experience and not everyone renting cars in Morocco is out to fleece you, but it was clear that this was not just a skewed sample - everyone had a story to tell of a scam or a really terrible customer experience with their rental company. We could write an entire post on these, but a small selection of included:
- Giving you an empty tank of petrol so that you have to top up straight away - with the assistance of their mate, who then asks for a tip for 'directing you' to the nearest petrol station. And inevitably, because you're a nice renter scared of running out of petrol, you'll return it with more in the tank than necessary.
- The old cleaning fee charge when you drop the car off. If it's not included in the contract, or mentioned when you pick it up, it's not official.
- An attempt to charge you for damage already made - see the point below for more information and how to avoid this.
So, despite it making for poor reading, we'd actually recommend taking the time to peruse a few of the reviews of your selected company on-line. Those, plus the insights we'll give you here, will better prepare you and make sure you run less risk of getting caught out or hoodwinked.
you won't always get the car you want
We ordered a manual which was less than a year-old, we got an automatic which had been through the wars and had over 100,000 kms on the clock.
Andrew hates driving automatic.
The couple before us were also given a car which didn't really match their expectations, or what they had paid for. Our advice? Unless it's something which is completely unfit for purpose or is a vehicle which should have cost you a lot less than you paid on line, you just have to accept what's given.
english is not spoken widely
If we didn't have French, then we really don't know how we would have got any level of sense out of the valet. We don't expect everyone to be fluent, but we would expect a certain level of English to be spoken if the vast majority of your customers are going to be international.
The answer to every query or question was 'pas de probleme monsieur, pas de probleme'.
Oh, and the paperwork is in French too.
Due to linguistic barriers, renting in Morocco means the entire situation is ripe for micro-communication, misinterpretation and misinformation, which is why the next step is so important...
inspect the car thoroughly
It's not unusual for a rental car anywhere to come with the odd bump or scrape. However, in Morocco, it appears to be quite common for vehicles to continue to be rented way past their sell-by date. The fact that they're often so well-used, and are carrying a fair bit of wear and tear, is what allows a number of customers to fall victim to charges for damage which they didn't cause.
When renting, the attendant will bring a sheet with a small diagram of the car and, ostensibly, will walk around the car with you, noting pre-existing damage on the vehicle, so that when it's returned everyone knows that you didn't cause it. However, when a car has a metric shit-ton of bumps and scrapes, it's difficult to spot all these and make sure they're conveyed accurately on his diagram.
For example, we had read online that a number of customers had been charged when returning their car due to a cigarette burn in the passenger seat. Despite these people not smoking once, let alone in the car, the 'damage' was deducted from their deposit. As we knew this, we paid extra attention to our Kia Picanto and, lo and behold, there was a cigarette burn in the passenger seat! We asked him to point it out in his diagram, only to be told 'pas de probleme monsieur' for the fifteenth time. Eventually, Andrew took the clipboard from him and put it in there himself.
Now, we're not usually this pedantic, rude or forceful. But, given the nightmare experiences we had read from others and the potential for any 'new' dents or dings to result in a deduction of potentially hundreds of pounds, we weren't just going to nod, smile and agree.
So, in addition to taking pictures, we recommend that you also take a video, specifically pointing out scrapes, scratches, dents and dings. After all, when you don't all speak the same language, this will go a lot longer to proving you were right.
understand how the insurance and deposit works
A common complaint from renters came down to their own misunderstanding about how the insurance and deposit situation worked in general. So, we'll let you know our experience:
We rented with a local company based in Marrakech via Auto Europe.
Included within the upfront rental cost was basic insurance provided by the supplier, limited to covering theft, third-party damage and liabilty but with a big excess or deductible at 10,000 dirhams (£800/$1000 USD). That excess / deductible is what's taken (or held) off your credit card when you arrive to pick up the car (keep the receipt!)
Now, if you are a risk-taker or money isn't a concern, you can proceed on that basis and just accept that you will be liable to cover the first £800 of any damage. However, we like to opt for the 'refundable excess' insurance which we can purchase in addition, offered by the booking agent like Auto Europe.
That insurance, essentially, covered us against that big deductible if anything went wrong and provided us for damages which weren't included as standard in the local policy. What it didn't do however was remove the deductible payment as it's a 'post-loss' policy which means that, for you to claim back an excess against the policy, a claim has to occur. It is also a policy completely separate to what you have in place with the local company. Due to this, the rental company in Morocco, will still block that 10,000 dirham on your credit card before you take the car anywhere - and they're perfectly entitled to do this!
Thankfully, we didn't have any incidents with the car, so did not have to go through the (likely) horrible and drawn-out process of claiming on either policy. However, we do recommend purchasing the extra coverage to give you peace of mind whilst you're out on those winding, dusty roads.
bring the right documentation
Aside from the valid credit card which you require to 'lock in' your deposit, there are a few other essential to take with you to ensure you're able to rent a car in Morocco:
- A full driving licence, valid in your country of residence. Certain suppliers may require an international driver's licence, but we were never asked for this. Most foreign driving licences are accepted providing they have your photograph and are in a language the local rental company can understand.
- Suppliers may require that you are at least 23 years old.
- Proof of insurance.
We did meet a Dutch man who had forgotten to bring his licence who was still able to rent but, obviously, you don't want to be in this situation.
When driving in Morocco, police checkpoints are common. We never had issues, but it would foolish to not ensure that you keep all the necessary documentation stored securely with you and easily accessibly in the glove compartment, including your passport. Our rental firm supplied us with a small folder which included all the relevant insurance and car registration from their perspective - don't leave this in the car overnight as you'll need it if it's stolen.
Be prepared for the driving conditions in Morocco
Our road trip was unforgettable, but there are definitely a number of idiosyncrasies when it comes to navigating Morocco's roads - check out our post on the '21 Things to Know Before your Moroccan Road Trip'.
Handing back the car
As we were within touching distance of Marrakech Menara Airport, we were sad that our adventure was coming to an end, but also relieved that we were handing back a rental car which hadn't been damaged.
Of course, handing back the car in Morocco would never be as simple as we hoped.
Firstly, our attendant (the same guy who had greeted us at the beginning) inspected the car and, after agreeing that there was no additional damage, asked for us to sign the paperwork. We pointed out to him that he hadn't yet ticked the big glaring box saying 'aucun dommage'.
His inevitable response of 'pas de probleme monsieur' would have been hilarious if it wasn't also so glaringly obvious as to its purposes; why would anyone sign the document if he hadn't definitely ticked the big box saying that they weren't entitled to charge you anything!? Eventually, he relented but there was no copy of the contract forthcoming which stated that the car had been handed back with no damage. So, we insisted that we take a photo of it.
Friendly handshakes and backslaps now done, he 'unblocked' our credit card for the full 10,000 dhs. 'One last thing' he said, we need 50 dhs for the cleaning fee.
'Where does it say that in the contract?'
'That contract right in front of you'
'Ah, well it's a standard charge.'
'If it's not in the contract, I'm not paying it'.
Thank goodness we had read about dozens of people having to pay a bogus 50 dh cleaning charge before we had picked up the car...