Watch out for sharks when hiring a car abroad...

holiday carThings 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.


  • Jimmy N.
    Sam, I'm gunna smack ya heed in like and that, if you keep sayin' it's Which! when it's fookin Which? You fookin masseeve cretin like and that.
  • Mike H.
    Foreigners trying to screw the Brits abroad? We're pretty used to it, we just get pissed up, sing football songs, shout xenophobic abuse and smash their cars up. No news there Sammy, move along please.
  • Mary H.
    Hi Sam, I can't find this Which! website, keeps coming up with Which? which seems to be a completely different website. Are you just a massive cretin and can't tell the difference between your punctuation marks? I suggest you go through the whole fucking site changing them from Which! to Which? You fucking cretin?
  • Paul
    Don't touch Centauro with a bargepole. I hired a car from them 3 weeks ago - I paid for an estate, I got a C-Max. Not what I'd call an estate! I complained but they said it was "all they had". They apologised and said to compensate they would "offer a discount on a future booking, amount and availability of discount dependant on car hired and office hired from". Utterly pathetic. Since they have a UK office I have chased this up with Trading Standards.
  • Cheesey
    If you are returning a car in time and they claim spurious damage, you have to pay the excess anyway, so you might as well go out in it and whack it into a wall.
  • Sicknote
    I always pay the maximum insurance possible under a rental policy and I always make it clear that I'll be writing the car off at some point before the planned return date. I just hate to disappoint the little rental people when all they get back ins the keys when I fly home.
  • Darren
    The article(if you can call it that) mentions sharks, without a single picture of one. Bad form BW.
  • whatsit t.
    'In both locations, although the Big Two firm WAS the most expensive' I think you meant 'were'.
  • Richard M.
    Despite the differences in prices and terms etc, I reckon most of the prices quoted, 4 a 4 day hire, are unbelievably cheap! Holiday Autos, among the most expensive, equated to 144 euros works out at less than £35 per day. I don't think that's expensive. I think a Which? report on the cost of sandwiches and a bottle of water at international airports would be far more useful!
  • Sicknote
    Look at this was; you're buying a car for 100 euros and you can smash the shit out of it.
  • Mike H.
    I hired an Audi for a day, the indicators didn't work, and it kept swerving infront of people dangerously in a rush to get no where very quickly and for some reason, people kept calling me a cunt.
  • The B.
    @Mike, that was nothing to do with the Audi.
  • confused
    Mike I think you'll find a cunt is usefull - so not as insulting as some may say !
  • Ryanair b.
    [...] do just that, and many of those will have been very organised and already booked their flights, car hire and accommodation, so they have nothing to worry about. Well, nothing except an extra fee they will [...]
  • ▷▷▷ H.
    [...] Watch out for sharks when hiring a car abroad… – Bitterwallet [...]
  • ▷▷▷ H.
    [...] Watch out for sharks when hiring a car abroad… – Bitterwallet [...]
  • Postcard M.
    [...] They refused to assist us in securing an alternative car, despite being buddies with the other car hire punters and watched with amusement as we walked from company to company looking for a car – any car! We eventually found a car for hire and paid FOUR TIMES the amount we had agreed with Avis. Why? Because that’s how car hire companies work – unless you give them three millennia of notice, you pay the equivalent of a quarter of your annual salary, AND a host of additional, unadvertised extras. [...]

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