/ Motoring

Do car hire companies drive you round the bend?

Car hire

A holiday should be a relaxing time away from the stresses of everyday life. But for some their holiday starts with unexpected stress and expense at the hire car collection desk. Sound familiar?

We’ve written before about the tricks of the car hire trade: damage charges, excess waiver fees and fuel options; and you didn’t hold back with your stories of being ripped off. Eric told us:

‘I rented a car on the net at a quoted cost of £88 for 7 days. When I got to the airport they loaded me with another charge of £100 for a full tank of petrol in case I returned the car empty (which would of course be impossible?)’

Chris said:

‘A couple of years ago I booked a car with “Zero Excess”. On picking up the car I was told that “Zero Excess” did not cover tires or the windscreen and if I wanted to cover those there was a 60 Euro additional insurance that I needed to pay.

‘Like many people with tired/excited children who just want to get out of the airport and on the way to the pool my ability to push-back was limited so I ended up paying for the peace of mind.’

Your car hire stories

Spain is the most popular foreign destination for British holidaymakers, with 13 million people flocking to the Spanish sun each year. So we’ve been working with our colleagues in Madrid at the Spanish consumer body Organización de Consumidores y Usuarios (OCU) to plan what we can do to stop British holidaymakers getting ripped off when they should be relaxing.

OCU are particularly concerned by full-empty fuel policies where you have to return the car empty or face wasting fuel you had to pay for upfront. M agrees:

‘Why do the hire contracts allow them to impose charges for fuel that might be due, rather than for fuel actually used?’

Have you been caught out by this car hire trick or any others? Tell us what happened and your story might help us with a new campaign…


I thought I had covered all of the bases having heard stories of the scams operating with car hire firms at Malaga airport. I booked through Rentalcars.com in the UK and ended up with a car from Thrifty. Took out the extra accident and breakdown insurance through Rentalcars so needed nothing else.
Arrived at Malaga and went to the the Thrifty desk (by the way manned by Hertz staff). They did the hard sell on additional insurance and scared-mongered that I would have to pay them directly if there were any accidents and claim back through my own insurance. essentially rubbishing the additional insurance cover that I had already paid for,
I stood firm and said I had everything covered but they still took a 700 € deposit which I had expected so left the airport with my family reasonably confident all was good. I took photographs both inside and outside before I left the car park.
Returned the car a week later having cleaned-out front and back to avoid valeting charges. Filled the fuel tank to the brim and insisted that the man at the Thrifty desk walk around the car with me to check for any additional damage. Nothing found and he signed it off as good. I took further photographs just in case they had second thoughts.

Back win the UK a week later I saw that my card had been charged an additional £82. When I queried this with Rentalcars.com they said that they would have to send off for the invoices from Thrifty to check the details and that could take top up to 14 days. The deadline came and passed and to Rentalcars.com credit they chased and eventually got a reply form Thrifty. The additional charge was for personally injury insurance.
When I explained that I had told the person at the Thrifty desk that I didn’t want this they said that I had signed for it. I went back to my rental agreement (which of course I had kept for such eventualities) and there in the middle of the document was the word ‘ACCEPTO’ against this line.

Yes my fault that I should have checked over every line (naturally all in Spanish) but I didn’t think for a second that a multinational car rental firm would be so devious. By the way there were other lines in the agreement with various credit and debits amounts so without a translation its would be impossible to tall what these were for.

Lesson learned I guess but I am so disappointed with Thrifty. I don’t expect they are unique and this could have happened with other car rental firms but it’s disgusting how these companies operate in Malaga airport. I have travelled on business for the last 25 years and rented cars in various US and European cities and have never had to be this wary of being rippled-off for fuel, damage and insurance charges.

I recently had a hire car for eight days when mine was being repaired after an accident, and was not impressed by the behaviour of the company rep who wanted to sell me collision damage waiver. First it was on the phone and then when I picked up the car I had a repeat of the hard sell about CDW. I don’t know how many times I explained that my insurance cover would cover the hire car.

The day after the car was returned I had a call from the same rep to say that they had found no damage and my £1 deposit would be refunded. I presume that the purpose of the deposit was to obtain my card details so that I could be charged for fuel or any damage.