Why is it that when it comes to car hire I automatically expect to pay more than the price I’ve been quoted? Shouldn’t car hire companies be upfront about all the extra costs that they’ll inevitably add on?
Is it just me, or does hiring a car always cost more than you think it will? My default setting is to cynically assume that whatever I pay for the car itself, I’m sure to end up paying a lot more once I get to the collection desk.
This could be due to the fact that I’ve never once hired a car where the amount I ended up paying was the amount I was initially quoted on the website – and this is despite not always purchasing the extra insurance.
We all expect to pay more
My cynicism is echoed by research carried out by the Which? Travel team in July of this year. We found that three quarters of Which? members expected to pay extra when they turned up at the car hire collection desk.
Half said that they were charged additional fees when collecting their car, citing extra insurance (25%), fuel charges (19%) and additional drivers (14%). Interestingly, around eight in ten of those asked said they’d prefer to pay a single price up front rather than having to face paying extra costs at the desk.
Since extra insurance usually costs the most in additional charges, Which? Travel decided to investigate how easy it was to pay for this upfront. It was almost impossible. In fact, it wasn’t even that easy to find out how much it would cost, let alone actually pay for it at the time of booking online.
You might ask why this is important. Well, personally, I don’t like being told that something will cost a certain amount, only then to find out it’s actually a lot, or even a little, more. And if I want to get the best deal by comparing different companies’ prices, I need to know the true price I could end up paying, not just the attractive headline price.
Too many added extras
Take the extra insurance for car hire as an example. Typically called Super Collision Damage Waiver (SCDW), our investigation found that adding SCDW could raise the cost of car hire by as much as 99%. But more importantly, only three – Budget, Hertz and Sixt – showed this cost upfront.
Although not everyone buys this, SCDW can reduce or eliminate your liability if you damage the hire car. If I was considering buying this, I’d certainly like to be told at the time of booking just how much it would cost me.
Budget had the cheapest headline quote of £119 for a week’s car hire at Edinburgh airport. But this increased to £207 when SCDW was added. If we just looked at the headline prices, the cost of hiring a car with Alamo (£137) seemed uncompetitive. But, when SCDW was added, Alamo was actually the cheapest option overall at £193.
Is it too much to ask for car hire companies to give prices of all the products they sell on their websites? Again, this could just be me, but I long for the day when I don’t feel like I need a masters degree in Applied Mathematics to work out how much my car hire will truly cost me.