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Car rental operators say they have been rattled by new rules and stiff competition from “unauthorised” players in the market. Customers say it is hard to rent vehicles at affordable prices, especially for shorter periods. Most big players, they say, prefer to deal with companies which usually hire vehicles for longer periods. Many operators like to serve regular customers from the oil and gas sector and other leading businesses.
The smaller car rental firms mainly catering to individuals complain of unfair competition. They have been hit hard by dubious operators who bait customers with surprisingly low rates. Such operators, at times with a fleet of even less than five cars, are poaching much of their business.
“Before buying a car, I went to hire a vehicle for three months, but found the rentals to be very high. The monthly rent for a sedan like Nissan Sunny was QR1,900. And for Toyota and Honda cars, it was more than QR2,400 per month. A colleague advised me to go for a ‘private’ vehicle which he got from an acquaintance at QR1,250 per month,” Fahad, an Indian sales executive, told The Peninsula.
Some officials of car rental companies The Peninsula spoke to said they were aware of such operators. “Such operators are not required to spend on overhead costs, insurance charges, office rents, salaries of employees and other expenses, so they can rent out vehicles at such low prices,” said Ziad Usman, assistant general manager at Al Muftah, one of the oldest car rental companies in Qatar.
For want of parking space, most companies use common parking areas. This makes it hard for motorists to find parking space. Social networking sites often echo the concerns of such drivers. However, bigger names in the business have got around this problem with large designated parking zones.
“The market has become very competitive. More companies from India and the GCC countries are planning to enter the Qatari market,” he said.
As there are unregistered operators, no one knows the precise number of car rental companies in the country. Ballpark estimates put the number above 2,000.
“I have no clue about the exact number of car rental companies in Doha. As my memory goes, six to seven years ago there were over 600 companies operating in Qatar,” said a senior employee of a car rental company.