No-frills flight, accommodation booked direct, and car hire. They’re the three essential elements of my holidays. And of the three, there’s one I have come to approach with a heavy heart…
Picking up a rental car at your destination airport is frequently an ordeal far worse than the trial of getting through security on departure.
By the time you arrive tired and disorientated after the flight all you want to do is jump into the car and go.
But you know that you’ll invariably face long queues while each customer gets to grips with the unexpected when they pick up their car.
On my last trip to France we waited nearly an hour while customers argued over being given a different sized vehicle to what they were expecting, negotiated over extra insurance payments and debated the finer points of sat nav.
We try to minimise this problem by paying for as much as we can in advance, but there’s always uncertainty around a number of issues. What car will you be given, regardless of what you’ve ordered? What will the insurance excess be if you return a damaged car? And will the child seat you requested be available.
Confusing car hire fuel charges
And then there are the fuel policies. Generally you’re given a car with a full tank and then you’re expected to return it full, or pay extra for the car hire firm to fill it up.
So naturally enough you leave it as late as possible to fill up the tank before returning the car, which is fine as long as there’s a petrol station near the airport.
Sadly that’s not always the case, and we once came perilously close to missing a flight due to searching in vain for a garage. In the end we cut our losses, returned it less than full, and had to accept whatever charge the car hire firm chose to make.
A map showing where local garages were would have helped immensely – and in our survey of car hirers, 60% said they’d like to see rental companies provide such a thing.
Your car rental woes
In the past few months, Which? members have told us about car hire companies, mainly in Spain, charging lots for a full tank of petrol and then demanding it’s returned empty – clearly impossible unless you decide to siphon off whatever petrol’s left once you get to the car park. And in some small islands it will be difficult to use a full tank – meaning the rental company can charge two customers for the same petrol.
Fuel charges and insurance excesses were at the top of a list of complaints from the people we surveyed. But what are your biggest car hire gripes?