There’s a good reason why Italian supercar maker Ferrari is regularly listed among the world’s most valuable brands – many, many more people desire to drive one than those who could ever afford to buy their own.
Another subset is the group who can afford to splash on the finest motors that Italy and Germany can build, but are reluctant to commit their hard-earned. Call them the try-before-you-buy crowd.
For either group, the opportunity to rent a supercar – just as you’d pick up a hired Toyota Corolla or Holden Commodore at the airport – is a viable option. Dreams can be answered and curiosity sated, anniversaries and birthdays celebrated - with certain conditions, of course.
A number of specialist businesses are keen to hand over the keys to one of Ferrari’s finest, or the likes of a Lamborghini, Porsche, Aston Martin, Maserati, BMW, Mercedes-Benz or Audi. Rolls-Royce and Bentley models are tougher to rent, although being part of a bridal party will increase your possibilities.
You’ll be up for a little more than $55 a day with unlimited kilometres, though. A myriad of offers start with $30 for a 10-minute experience in the passenger seat - for the timid or fiscally challenged. Self-drive rental cranks up the level of responsibility, conditions and costs, although getting into the driver's seat can cost from just $99. That's for 15-20 minutes, but they'll be minutes you'll likely never forget.
Drive, dine and stay
Even more lavish are packages embracing swish hotel accommodation and/or fine dining, all linked by the exotic machine of choice. Some companies even offer a smorgasbord of cars to be sampled in rotation on a rural ramble, interrupted by a five-star lunch.
Others, such as Prancing Horse, offer high-end drive-and-dine experiences for couples tailored for special occasions or whims.
Based out of the Yarra Valley, Sydney and Adelaide, Prancing Horse caters for couples and larger groups who might be after a memorable night out inclusive of five-star accommodation, a drive in a current Ferrari or another exotic of choice, followed by a fine dining experience.
It could be to mark a milestone, or maybe a cossetted weekend escape to the Yarra Valley, Barossa, or Hunter. It only takes money.
'Keeping the ladies happy'
The company’s Matt Thio says Prancing Horse’s services are “90 per cent aimed at keeping the ladies happy”. Smart.
And if the guests want to indulge over lunch, a Prancing Horse staffer can take over the driving.
A current 'Drive & Dine' Experience offered by the company in Sydney - at $880 per couple (Tuesday to Friday) or $990 (Saturday) blends romance with the satisfaction of driving a Ferrari 458 Italia, plus swish dining at Stefano Manfredi's Osteria Balla restaurant at The Star.
To guide guests along the route is a support vehicle which is in touch via two-way radio. Surprisingly, Prancing Horse doesn’t demand a security bond from its participants; instead, drivers must be over 30 and have possessed a full, valid licence for a minimum of three years. Obligatory, however, is insurance cover, with a $5000 or $10,000 at-fault excess.
Prancing Horse is proud that its guests (around 5000 to date) have never had an incident. Reading the fine print is imperative, unless you are comfortable getting nasty surprises.
With local bases in Sydney, Surfers and Adelaide (and internationally), Exotic Sports Car Hire rents supercars or lesser sporty models that “can be driven hard or easy”. Single-day hire is OK during the week, but not on weekends when a two-day minimum applies. The distance ceiling varies but is usually around 100km per day. Beyond that there’s additional charges, typically 98 cents per extra kilometre.
No refunds, rescheduling or excuses
Beware though, there’s no refunds or rescheduling if the skies decide not to play nice, and the old death-in-the-family excuse won’t wash. Supercar hirers, it seems, have very unhealthy families. Reportedly, 80 per cent of attempts to cancel are for an alleged bereavement.
Companies expect hirers to keep to defined (usually metro) boundaries, or to nominated areas of use shown on the hire agreement. Exotic brands can be temperamental and retrieval costs, if required, can be very high from country areas. And yes, the renter will be paying.
Exotic Sports Car Hire does charge appropriate security bonds, ranging from $3000 to $15,000, depending on the value of the vehicle and the age of the customer. The money is refunded after company inspectors go over the returned car with the keenest of eyes. The hirer is billed for any damage, including scratches and wheel scrapes.
Fuel is not included in most standard day hires, and returning the car brimmed with premium fuel will help avoid a top-up charge.
Because supercars tend not to have spare wheels/tyres, some companies strongly recommend adding a high-spec roadside assistance package, to cover out-of-pocket expenses when travelling outside metro areas.
And in case you thought what happens on the road trip stays on the road trip, think again. New GPS technology is now appearing in supercar rentals to monitor driving behaviour.
“If they speed, or corner aggressively, or rev the engine too hard, I get a text message in real time,” revealed Sydney Ferrari Hire’s Mark Borg, who currently offers a $150,000 Ferrari 360 for an accessible $99 for a 15-20-minute driving experience (normally $250).
Borg’s wariness is rooted to a bad experience with his first-ever hirer. “An Asian fellow trashed my Ferrari 360 Modena,” he says. “The front was mangled on a speed hump and two wheels were gouged on a gutter. His-24 hour booking cost him $10,000.”
But there are heart-warming stories, too. Borg was recently hired to drive a terminally ill ‘older gentleman’ on a day trip to the Blue Mountains in his Ferrari.
One optimistic urger rang a supercar rental business wanting to enter a Ferrari in a burnout competition, offering the hirer a half-share in the prizemoney. “He was either joking, or a complete halfwit,” suggests the owner wryly.
Wanna go for a drive?
Yarra Valley, Vic; Sydney and Kiama, NSW
1300 30 70 50 and 0422 399 983
Auto: Ferraris, Lamborghini Gallardo, Maserati GranTurismo, Audi R8, Porsche 911 Turbo, Nissan GT-R
North Sydney, NSW; Glenelg, SA; Surfers Paradise, Qld
0478 983 880 (Sydney); 0430 590 564 (Adelaide); 0478 983 880 (Surfers)
Auto: Ferrari, Lamborghini, Porsche, Mercedes, Audi, BMW
1300 747 785
Auto: Aston Martin, Audi, Bentley, BMW, Lamborghini, Porsche, Ferrari, Nissan
02 9679 7774 or 0402 028 125
Auto: Ferrari, Lamborghini, Audi, Rolls-Royce, most exotics
0468 368 602 or 07 34200001
Auto: Ferrari, Lamborghini, Lotus, TVR
02 8030 5650
Auto: Ferrari, Lamborghini, Aston Martin, Porsche, BMW, Jaguar, Mercedes and more