Posh rental cars: do you really get more for your money?

Avis Prestige cars parked
Avis Prestige cars parked

Evans booked a this Defender 110 D300 HSE for a long weekend, which would have cost £843

Think rental car and ranks of mainstream hatchbacks spring to mind – vanilla vehicles for that quick business trip or short break and, when finished with, discarded like a spent coffee cup.

Not all rental cars are the same, however. In addition to the Kia Picantos, Nissan Qashqais and the rest, some of the major rental companies can supply more upmarket vehicles, although, as I found, availability can be touch and go and you may simply be offered ‘something similar’.

Fortunately, this is not the case with Avis Prestige, a specialist in supplying high-value rental cars at most of the major airports as well as from its central London base.


At any time, its cars include Volvos, Mercedes, Audis, Land Rovers, Range Rovers and Jaguars, plus a tempting selection of Porsches. Some of the cars, typically Volvos and Audis, you’re more likely to see among the bread-and-butter rentals at, for example, Avis’s Heathrow depot where, away from the economy-class travellers being served at the regular booking terminals, Prestige customers enjoy their own reception area.

Whether they choose to hire a Mercedes CLA Shooting Brake or a Porsche 911, they receive the same high level of service, including a personal ‘meet and greet’ on arrival.

The company’s more upmarket vehicles tend to be delivered to where customers want them. For this reason, with only 350 cars available for the UK (to put that into context, on a typical day Avis Heathrow has around 500 regular rentals on site), spotting something such as an Avis Prestige 911 parked among the Corsas and Golfs at Heathrow, Manchester or Edinburgh airports is a job for a plane spotter.

For a long weekend, the cost to rent a Range Rover P440e PHEV, for example, is £1016, although for a Porsche Cayenne Hybrid it’s far less, at £513. “Some of our customers are successful business people and tourists,” Prestige’s Chris Domoney tells me.

“They might own expensive cars so expect to enjoy the same comfort and performance when they’re away. Others are ex-pats returning to visit family and friends, London residents who don’t own a car and want something different to head out of town for the weekend and golfers heading to play at Gleneagles or St Andrews. A few are customers considering buying a similar car and who want more than a 30-minute test drive.”

While Avis Prestige is the name above the door, the company actually providing and operating the cars is called Miles & Miles. Founded in London in 1953, it claims to be the capital’s oldest independent car rental company.

The head office and main garages, which are stuffed with a spectacular array of performance cars and luxury SUVs, are located in a mews in west London. The company’s association with Avis goes back to 1997, when the major rental firm asked the owners to provide upmarket rentals under a new Avis Prestige banner.

Forward to today and I’ve come to sample the Avis Prestige experience for myself, having booked a Land Rover Defender 110 D300 HSE for a long weekend. I have a couple of jobs for it, including carting the extended family to a do in Swindon via the picturesque Marlborough Downs and a trip to Windsor’s Christmas lights.

Fortunately, the company has waived the rental charge, which for the weekend (Friday to Monday) would have been £843. Given the sheer pleasure of enjoying this £80,000 car for a few days with no mileage limit, I don’t think that’s bad – certainly better value than an ‘experience’ gift involving a few laps of a race track, and if split between people enjoying a break together, better value still. A second person is insured to drive at no extra charge.

The handover is straightforward and the car is immaculate. What’s more, nothing suggests it’s a rental. First stop is Avis’s Heathrow depot for a photo among the mainstream rentals and then into the countryside to explore the Surrey Hills. The following day, I take the long road to Swindon via the Downs.

The Defender is supremely comfortable and, despite its size, nimble too. Its seats and the Meridian sound system are among the best I’ve experienced. Sunday ends with a dash to Windsor for what turns out to be some disappointing Christmas lights but, fortunately, I remember there’s a cracking display in a local housing estate.

By 10am on Monday, the Defender is back in the mews garage. It has been an experience and one I’ll remember the next time I rent a knackered Jimny on a Greek island for £600 for three days…