Watch out for sharks when hiring a car abroad...
Things we like: companies who give you the full upfront cost of what you are buying at the time of purchase. Things we do not like: companies who pretend to tell you the full cost, but then charge extortionate compulsory add-on costs without telling you first.
Our good friends over at Which! have gone all Rogue Traders and launched an Investigation into scurrilous car hire practices in Spain*, even filming a reporters-eye-view video of their exploits. In case you can’t read.
The main thrust of Which!’s investigation is that booking the cheapest holiday car hire may not actually be the cheapest option.
Which! booked three rental cars in both Alicante and Malaga, sampling three cars at each location, one from the Big Two (Avis and Hertz), one from a UK company operating in Spain, and one from a Spanish car hire firm.
In both locations, although the Big Two firm was the most expensive when booking, the fuel costs added at the airport meant that in the end, they may work out cheaper overall.
In Alicante, Which! hired a car for 4 days from Holiday Autos, Hertz, and Spanish firm Centauro (which is also used by UK brokers). The initial booking price made Holiday Autos by far the cheapest at €28, Centauro coming in at €52.70 and Hertz at €65.58. However, once insurance extras and a €68.27 full tank of fuel charge were added, the final cost of the Holiday Autos car was a whopping €144.77, a massive five times the original ‘price’. Hertz offered a full to full petrol policy, and the total cost of using a quarter tank would have been €132, although had the tank not been returned full, the excess petrol charge for refilling would have been higher.
Similarly in Malaga, the cheapest price for four days hire was Spanish Goldcar at €31.25, followed by UK broker Carhire 3000 at €31.69 and finally Avis charging €77.65. This time Which! took no insurance but the massive fuel charges brought Goldcar’s price up to €94.25 and Carhire 3000 up to €91.05. Although Avis took a €100 deposit to ensure a full to full, they went from being the most expensive to potentially the cheapest.
But the problem isn’t just that they slap on these massive fuel charges for a full tank that you would be hard pushed to use more than a fraction of in four days, nor that this is reportedly a deliberate way to make extra money for the business. The problem is that it is the devil’s own job to find out this information before you go. Which! found that you had to read through several pages of terms and conditions to discover there was a compulsory non-refundable fuel charge, or whether full to full was the ‘standard’ practice.
So there you have it. Beware the best deal on car insurance because it may end up being the worst deal on the day. Let’s just hope you haven’t already booked your holiday car hire.
* The full Which! article can be obtained by subscribing to Which! travel. Good job we are here to do all the reading for you.