/ Motoring, Travel & Leisure

Revealed: car hire complaints that drive you round the bend

Car on road

When it comes to hiring cars abroad, you’ve told us that fuel costs, insurance costs, unclear websites, extra charges and disputed damage are all factors that have given you cause for complaint.

When we asked Which? members about their complaints when hiring cars abroad, we found some common themes. We also found strong evidence that car hire companies are failing to put things right when customers make a complaint.

Of the respondents who complained about car hire, 27% of the complaints concerned extra charges imposed when or after they returned the car. A further 17% surrounded extra charges being imposed upon picking up the car. In addition, 14% of complaints concerned customer service, 11% covered the condition of the car, and 10% referenced fuel charges.

Complaints about complaining

Unfortunately, of those who complained, six in 10 weren’t satisfied with how their complaint was handled. When it comes to individual car rental companies, Avis received the worst rating of the companies we reported on. In fact, six in 10 said its response to complaints was poor or very poor, while only two in 10 gave it a positive rating.

Hertz received the best ratings, but more people rated its complaint handling negatively than positively. Europcar received a negative rating from six in 10 of its customers in our survey, while five in 10 gave Holiday Autos, the most used car hire broker, a negative rating.

Most common car hire complaints infographic
So why are customers so unhappy with how car hire companies and brokers are handling their complaints? Some Which? Convo commenters previously said it was too difficult to get hold of the car company after rental, while others said it was difficult getting redress.

I think a bad experience with car hire can have a big impact on the enjoyment of the trip, as Nick told us on our last car hire Convo:

‘There’s no doubt hiring a car can spoil a trip – during and afterwards – if you have to worry about fictitious damage, overpriced and unfair fuel polices and spurious charges.’

Make car hire more transparent

If you complain to your car hire company only to find you’re being ignored, it’s only going to leave you with a sour taste rather than happy memories.

The car hire industry is taking customers for a ride by hitting them with sneaky charges not included in the headline price. Which? is calling for car hire companies to make their pricing and booking processes clearer and more transparent.

Have you ever complained about car hire? If so, how was your complaint dealt with?


The most worrying trend is car hire firms’ insistence that you buy from them a full tank of fuel and that you won’t receive any credit for any fuel left in the tank when you return it. Often a customer will use much less than a full tank during their entire hire period.

Given that the car hire company is not the user of the fuel, this policy benefits them in no way except to facilitate a misleading indication of price of the car hire itself. The amount charged for the initial full tank of fuel is inflated significantly above cost (particularly where a previous customer leaves fuel in the tank) and this subsidises a misleadingly lower headline price of the car hire.

The travel industry seems particularly keen on using additional charges in order to legitimise misleading headline prices. Airlines have been targeted by the EU recently and it’s high time that the whole of the travel industry was prevented from using these unfair commercial practices.


Last time I hired a car in Spain it was deemed to have acquired a scratch on one of the bumpers to add to the many already in place. I don’t remember doing it, it probably got there while the car was parked somewhere. Anyway €250 came off my credit card which I duly claimed back without issue from my collision damage excess policy. Now if I had €250 for every scratch on their fleet of cars I could probably buy my own car hire firm. I can only imagine that the insurers turn a blind eye to all of this and know very well that they have no intention of using the money to repair the cars.

John says:
21 June 2013

Unfortunately you don’t have to go abroad to find car hire companies trying to ruin your holiday. I live in Northern Ireland and when I’m visiting family in England I fly over and then hire a car to get around. On one trip I hired a car from Budget as I thought the pricing from Hertz who I normally hired from seemed excessive.

Arriving at the desk at Stansted I was met by the most ignorant person I’ve ever had the misfortune to deal with. I had bought collision damage excess cover online and I was told point blankly that I couldn’t hire the car unless I took Budgets excess cover as “the cover I bought was worthless”. If I didn’t take their cover I had to give him £1000 in cash (he would also accept major credit cards) to cover any damage to the car. I was also offered a ‘special upgrade price’ to get a better car, the better car being the type of car I’d ordered in the first place! I was very close to walking away without the car, but I eventually told him to take the cash on my CC. This turned out to be a complete pack of lies as the money was never even taken or even reserved on my CC. From arriving at the desk to going to collect my car took well over an hour. It made the whole first day of the holiday a real nightmare.

Needless to say I’ve never used Budget for car hire since.

Jean says:
22 June 2013

Looking on the chart for the companies I see that all negatives win over positives. Why hire a car? Stop and let them go out of business unless they clean their act up and make promises not to rip us off and clarity in what to expect when collecting the hired vehicle.

John, I don’t see Budget mentioned above. It would be interesting to see how they rated.

John says:
22 June 2013

It appears they don’t rate too highly Jean. Looking at the link above http://www.which.co.uk/home-and-garden/leisure/reviews-ns/car-hire-comparison/car-hire-company-comparison/ they rated second from bottom with a score of 53%.


Dear Sirs.
Perhaps you may like to read of my experience of a recent car hire made with rentalcars.
I made a contract with them to supply me a car to be picked up at Jerez airport in Spain for a total payable figure of £149.43.( it included insurance ) They told me to pick up the car from the Avis desk,and to hand in their PRE_PAID Voucher, show my Credit Card which i had paid Rentalcars with,along with my driving licence,which i did.
At the Avis desk,having handed in Rentalcars Pre-Paid Voucher,they asked me to sign for the car,which i did,not realising it was, as it turned out to be, a rental agreement. When i returned home,i was surprised to find that Avis had debited my credit card,( that i was required by Rentalcars to show Avis) without my permission a sum of £236.30. In total i have paid £385.73 for this 8 day car hire. Please warn our members.
I have all the correspondence,if you are interested.


Have you contested the transaction with your credit card company? If you didn’t knowingly authorise it or it’s a mistaken double payment they should sort it out.


Thanks Nick for your advice. I have a meeting soon with my credit card company,and will see what transpires.