/ Motoring

Car hire: who’s still taking you for a ride?

Cars cartoon

You told us you were sick of facing extra car hire charges at the pick-up desk and not getting refunds for fuel you’d paid for upfront but didn’t use. Here are the car hire firms that have changed after our calls for action.

Over the last eight weeks we’ve been working with the Spanish consumer organisation OCU to take on unfair car hire fuel policies in Spain. We both think that car hire companies should offer a full-full fuel policy by default.

Since we launched the campaign alongside OCU, we’ve been talking to car hire companies asking them to justify their policies and change unfair practices. Here’s where each of them are at…

The top performers

Alamo, AutoReisen, Enterprise, Europcar and Hertz offered full-full as default in Spain before we launched our campaign. However, Alamo has said it will now drop it’s full-empty policy in Portugal, which it says was the only place left to change.

Avis has launched a whole new website that’s much clearer than before – you can now clearly see you’re on a full-full policy when you book.

Cruising along

Budget has updated its website to offer a full-full policy in mainland Spain, but we’ve still got some work to do to convince the car hire company to offer the same in the Canary Islands.

In the slow lane

Unfortunately we think Firefly, InterRent and Goldcar need to do better. They still offer full-empty fuel policies, meaning customers could face additional fees on collection that were not made clear during the booking process. We’ll be writing to them to remind them of their legal obligations.

It’s a mixed picture, but car hire companies are starting to get on board. Have you had a car hire hassle? Share your story to help us uncover and tackle shoddy holiday practices. And if you’ve had car hire problems, our Consumer Rights site can help you solve them.


In April, I rented a people carrier to travel to Northumberland for a week. The hirer was Thrifty. The desired period was Saturday to Saturday.

Because their office closed on Saturday afternoon and the journey time was uncertain I wanted to add a day in case I was delayed. Of course, I was willing to pay in advance for the next day.

However, the hirer insisted I rent until the Monday as their office was closed on Sunday. I could not find a large enough car at other hirers. So I was forced to pay.

I am getting increasingly annoyed by the cost of collision damage waiver insurance offered by car hire companies.
Enterprise , as a recent example , are charging me £12 per day to cover an excess up to £600. Thats roughly £4000 per year! which is at least 10 times the rate I paid when I last owned a car.

There do appear to be companies specialising in car hire insurance who would charge me £3 for much more extensive levels of cover( luggage,windscreens etc).

Jon Hartshorn

I rented a car with Thrifty using http://www.rentalcars.com at a charge of £385.55. Before collecting car I phoned Thrifty and the inform me I also need bank statements and utility bills. Who carries these sort of things with them. I had both parts of driving licence and passport etc. I looked and see that http://www.rentalcars.com had taken payment in full before I even collected car. I phoned to cancell and they eventually after a few calls and clmplaints sent back my mkney minus £61.01 cancell fee. It isn’t much money but I would like to know how to make claim/legal action to get this money bsck. I don’t care if it costs me more than they took from me. It is the principle.

I hired a FIESTA from RECORD,GO at Alicante Airport through Norwegian Airlines for £3 a day, for 5 weeks, but they urged me to take out full insurance for £5 a day for peace of mind, but I knew RECORD would be cheaper. They said it’s normally €5 a day, but as it was a long hire, it was only €3 a day. 3 euros, I thought that was very good.

I read today that people going abroad after 8 June 2015 will need to take a special code with them if they want to hire a car. From that date the paper counterpart of UK driving licences – which records endorsements and fines – is being computerised. To get the code, drivers will have
to log on to the DVLA website beforehand. The code is only valid for 72 hours, so anyone wanting to hire a car more than three days into their trip will need to generate a new code while they are abroad. Some car hirers don’t ask for the counterpart driving licence but this might not be known until you get there.

John Barber says:
31 August 2015

I booked a car in the UK through http://www.atlaschoice.com to be picked up in France, and the company requested feedback, which I provided, as below, giving them 1 star out of 5. Although not a complete disaster, and we were able to work around the problems, there is a lot of scope for them to improve and their overall service level was very poor. I have yet to receive any response to my comments, which is disappointing but not unexpected.

We booked a MANUAL Nissan Qashqai (or equivalent) and received an AUTOMATIC Renault Scenic. Although this was technically an upgrade, there is a big gap between a manual and an automatic.

This was a much bigger car than we required, and as we drove around 2,600 KM we have paid more on petrol than we would have expected.

Given that you were not providing the car we ordered, as a basic courtesy I would have expected that this was made clear BEFORE we had gone through the form filling rather than simply presenting the wrong car with no apology or explanation.

The car was scratched in various places, although this was not mentioned or documented until we spotted the defects.

Worse of all you provided a car that was not legal – there was no spare bulb kit or breathalysers. There was a warning triangle but only 2 hi-vis vests, which is strange for a 7 seat car. Had we been stopped by the police and fined than I would have been charging the costs back to yourselves. I would have expected your representative to have made a point of highlighting that all legal requirements had been satisfied.

The collection process in Reims was hugely inefficient and took over 1 hour. There was only 1 staff member on duty who also took phone calls. Despite booking on line, we had to provide passports and driving licenses (which were then photocopied) plus address details, which were manually keyed into the system. The new DVLA codes that we had with us were ignored completely!

Then we come to the return of the vehicle on Saturday 15th August. My booking form with you clearly states a drop off of 10:00 but to our amazement the office was closed. Apparently it was only open on Saturday afternoon, which contradicts the timings you state on the voucher. Had there been a secure key drop off on site this would not have been so bad but there was a hand written note on the door providing another address in Reims where we could drop off the key. Luckily we had a sat nav and our own car available so were able to navigate the 1.5 miles over to the new drop off point, which was a Total petrol station. We duly handed in the key but were provided with no receipt or other evidence.

To conclude there seems to be a complete disconnection between the booking process you operate in the UK and what is delivered by your agency in France, who seem to operate completely independently and to their own rules.

Foolishly hired car from Goldcar for eight days in Malta. Paid just £25. Thought it was a bargain but the company took £1035 from my credit card at the airport insisting it would be returned to the card a couple of weeks after we returned the car. Eight weeks on I am still waiting. Have lodged complaint with Goldcar and spoken to them in Spain by phone twice. The Malta office is still investigating apparently. I will never ever use them again so beware of false economies. They are a large company and I guess they think they do a good job, but the ratings say otherwise. Avoid! Avoid! Avoid!

Please do NOT use Firefly Car Rental Malaga, they fraudulently take additional funds from your account with out any explanation. I hired a car from 29th December to 3 Jan. There were no additional scratches on my car and the fuel was topped up. On Jan 5th they still charged me an additional £126.55 for no reason. I had to a wait over 1hr 30mins to collect our car. Rentalcars.com should not be advertising this firm.

David Silva says:
27 February 2019

I rented through http://www.carhirebible.com who book through rentalcars and i found all the information i needed before i booked, there was hardsell on pick up through Hertz but as long as you stick to your guns you should be fine.