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I hear a lot of people go on about how great chariots are, but mine keep getting destroyed before I can get a charge off. The two games I've tried using them in were vs. Dwarves and vs. Skaven. Are they just no good against these particular armies or no good altogether?
You've already got the right idea. Chariots are good when they can charge.
This is hard against Dwarves. You could charge on turn 2 but you'd probably be unsupported. Screen the chariot with something cheaper until then. It's not like the dwarves will actually be coming to you so the formation of the screening unit doesnt much matter.
Skaven you've about a 50/50 chance of coming up against an army that can shoot your chariot apart before it gets to them, or one that is the perfect target for chariots (massive horde light on the shootiness). If they're shooting you up, screen as best you can (impossible vs warp cannon thingies i know).
Personally, I find chariots quite difficult to use against Dwarves, due to the amount of high powered shooting they can put in your direction. I find using great eagles to distract shooting, and a commander on eagle with the reaver bow can limit the warmachine crews, useful ploys.
If you are running a magical list, consider the lore of life, which allows you to get spells that make shooting difficult, especially black powder weapons.
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Chariot are great. I actually use 4. But you have to play them the right way. I mean if you have a defensive style they will be almost useless as they will be shot up. However if you play aggressive they work wonders. Move everything up on turn 1. The chariots/eagles/cav will no be ready to charge the shooty units and warmachines on turn 2. You just need enough targets out there to make your opponent nervous. Now if he shoots the chariots you still have plenty of other stuff to take out his shooting. If not you can use the chariots. Or even better. If you manage to have 3 chariots alive in turn 2. Charge all of them into one of the opponents key infantry units. Like a unit with a general,bsb and/or mage. That is almost a guaranteed break. Finally they are great for taking care of the light armored unbreakables out there. Flagelants and slayers. Charge 3 or so chariots in there and blow the whole unit up rather then having one of your important units stuck in combat for round after round. The key to playing high elves is to make sure you break on the charge. High elves suck when it comes to dragged out combats. Chariots can make opponents break preventing the long drawn combats.
Finally if your opponent does shoot them up you need to keep in mind that they are only 85 points. And if they are shooting at them they are not shooting at your swordmasters or cav.