Being a destination wedding photographer is super exciting. I always look forward to travelling, organise everything etc. One of the bullet points is a car hire. I’m a valued customer of Hertz with over 80 rentals in past 3 years. I earned a president circle status in Hertz, so I can rent much cheaper and better cars. At this point, I won’t write about planning a trip for destination wedding photographers but about my bad experience with SIXT car hire in Paris Charles de Gaulle airport (CDG).

Car Hire

That was my first rental with SIXT. I really wanted to give them a try just because many times when I walked through car rental parking I’ve seen some really cool and funky cars they have. So it happened. I booked a car via SIXT website. Pretty straightforward. Because it was my first time I purchased extra insurance, fuel tank and €0 excess. Then I called SIXT to confirm the reservation and ask about the deposit they pre-authorise on the card. The deposit can be tricky part same like the UK debit cards. For a destination wedding in Paris, I booked Smart Fortwo. Cool small car, just because parking in Paris can be very tricky (last week I’ve been there for an engagement shoot and I hired BMW 5… we were struggling to park on the street). So this time SMART was the best choice. Now read why you should avoid SIXT.

CDG airport is not for amateurs

CDG airport map charles de gaulle

My troubles started as soon as I arrived at Charles de Gaulle airport. Guys, CDG Terminal 3 is a total crap. No rental companies there. All companies are located on terminal 1 and 2. I don’t blame them for that, there is really nothing to do on terminal 3… probably that’s why a nearly broken AirBerlin is flying there. First of all… 10 minutes walk to the train station from terminal 3, then pick a train to terminal 2 and another 10 minutes walk (all the way with all bags). That was a warmup before SIXT surprise experience and my test rental. Anyway, I made my way to car rental “village”. All companies there, all pretty busy. But in SIXT only one client. Woohoo, a smile on my face and first thought – good choice, well done Tom, you nailed it…

SIXT salesman

After 20 minutes I got bored. I’ve seen people on Avis, Hertz, Europcar and other companies being served smoothly but I was still waiting to get to the counter. Another 20 minutes and boom, I’ve been asked to the counter by the clerk. All was pre-booked and paid, so I thought it will be similar to Hertz, sign the contract and grab a key. Nope, not in Sixt. After the warm welcome, I discovered that SIXT trained this clerk to be a salesman rather than service person to help me and print the contract. The guy started with some awesome upgrade deal for me only saying it’s nearly end of the day and some sweet cars left in the car park, so it’s a go only for me. At this point, I explained that I am interested only in small (tiny) cars to make my life easier with parking in Paris. The clerk smiled and said, “my friend…” (OMG, immediately I’ve imagined all these people on the beach in the Dominican Republic trying to sell you a cheap totem, massage or another funky quad trip). Then he actually started… computer said BMW X4. Well, that’s not even close to the small car for Paris – I laughed. Second try from SIXT salesman Mercedes C-Class 350 with deposit only €2000 + €320 on top what I’ve paid already… Well, then another offer, some BMW limousine. Clearly, he didn’t understand my needs, so I stopped that game and asked for the car I booked and paid for because all his offers were crazy expensive and totally no luck with my requirements for a small car. This cold sale took nearly 20 minutes. SIXT clerk was awesome and he tried so hard… but I’ve seen those tricks in past.

Read your contract

That step took another 15 minutes for SIXT. I pre-booked car, paid upfront… so should be easy or even ready waiting for me to sign… No happy days. Sixt salesman after not selling me ridiculous upgrade made a contract with some extra add-ons… of course, I didn’t ask for them. So in total, he prepared 3 contract versions… Finally, I signed the correct one. Of course, I asked him to mark the most important parts of that contract – well done me.

don't hire a car from sixt in paris

That should be the end of my experience, right? Actually no, there are more surprises from Sixt. Soon you will discover how SIXT devastated my dreams about their cars…

Where is my car?

After I signed a contract, I’ve been told: “Sir, please step back over there and I will let you know when your car will be ready”. Surprise surprise! What actually just happened? For my “excuse me?!?!?!?!?!” Mr super-sixt-salesman informed me that the car is not ready yet. It’s on the way, so it should take 5-10 minutes. I couldn’t believe that. OK, a perfect occasion for a cigarette to calm down. Quick one, 8-10 minutes. I came back and boom, no car, no updates. Another 30 minutes of waiting… I was so close to telling my all thoughts to SIXT clerk but I couldn’t find any nice and polite words… so I’ve decided to go to SIXT car park and talk to someone else. They have some shed on their car parks. Not surprised, when the guy from the shed saw me he started from “I am so sorry…”. So what? Good beginning? Yeah, good try, but the car is still on the way. I’ve started a tiny complain words and boom, the car arrived. Finally. No damage report, no other paperwork, just “here is your key and you can drive now. See you on Sunday.” And you know what, I was super excited that I don’t need to talk to SIXT guys anymore.

Avoid SIXT car hire

Jumped into the red Smart Fortwo Cabriolet. First thing, nice big touch screen… ugh! not working touch screen. Can’t change the radio station, can’t set satnav… Why would I use satnav in Paris… yeah. Second thing, it’s a cabrio! Wahoo, but why I can’t open rooftop? Why the car stinks inside and why the windscreen and door pockets are so filthy? A quick chat with SIXT guy and all explained. The problem was solved in the best way I ever saw… quote of the year in car hire industry: “Yes, I see it’s not working. I will make a note on the system about damaged elements so you won’t be charged for that”. Speechless, especially that there were no other Smart Fortwo available. The rest is good. I had a nice trip, radio and satnav touchscreen started working after few minutes.

What now?

Here is my thought. This one-off experience ruined my dreams about all those super cool cars on the SIXT car hire parking. Maybe they are cool, maybe they look stunning, nice colours, some alloys etc. However, the way of hiring a car in SIXT and chance of getting a fully working car is a bit too complicated and too risky to me. I like straightforward solutions, like in Hertz or Avis. OK, it happens to me once, last weekend.. maybe it’s not the rule in SIXT. I will probably try SIXT one more time on the unimportant trip. But for now, I can’t imagine adding extra stress to my destination wedding photography trips. It’s always a challenge to travel, so I prefer to avoid any bad experiences like this one in SIXT. Renting a car from SIXT took me nearly 3 hours. In the worst scenario, it’s 2 hours too much.

Well, that’s my weekend experience from Paris and SIXT car rental… I hope you haven’t seen anything like that in your car hire experience. If you got something better, go ahead, share your story in a comment below. Today’s SIXT rate is 1/5.