/ Travel & Leisure

Have you faced long queues hiring a holiday car?

If you have, you’re not alone – but frustrating waits at car rental desks vary greatly between companies. Our new research reveals all…

We’ve all had one of those nightmare trips: departure delays, a bumpy and uncomfortable flight, luggage taking an age to appear on the carousel, and to top it off, when you just didn’t need it: an agonising wait at a car rental desk.

But the good news is: by choosing the right car hire company, you may not have to suffer this final-leg frustration again.

Our new research found huge variations in customer waiting times between rental firms – pick the right one and you’re off to a flying start on your holiday; but the wrong one could leave you waiting for over an hour!

Car hire horror stories

According to our research, the worst offender was Goldcar (owned by Europcar), with over 63% of people in our survey having to wait at least 15 minutes, while 24% had to wait over half an hour.

At the top end was the Canary Island provider, Auto Reisen, with only 13% of those surveyed having to wait 15 minutes or more.

For waiting times with all the other major car rental companies, see the full results of our research here.

My experience

After a long exhausting flight, you’ve queued at passport control, waited at the baggage carousel, and now you have to queue to pick up the car you’ve already paid for? What on earth is the delay?

In my experience of low-cost car hire companies, the wait has been caused by understaffing, and those that are serving the long, snaking queue of customers, being motivated solely by commission.

It’s worth holding up the queue if they can take a percentage of the overpriced insurance they are trying to flog.

And insurance is complicated – it takes a long time to explain the intricacies of SCDW, TP, PAI and whatever other mind-boggling acronym they’ve come up with in order to confuse you into buying.

And the queues probably work in their favour – after an excruciating wait, you’ll probably agree to anything to just be able to get behind the wheel and start your holiday.

Have you had a frustrating wait to pick up a hire car? What was the reason for your delay?


Where is National Car Rental? They would be my top rental company as we have used them many times and never had a problem.

Just back from Madeira and a 2 week hire from ‘Madeira Rent’ arranged via a Travel Agency. Given a brand new Seat Ibiza. Waited < 5 minutes at the desk for the paperwork and keys. No hassle whatsoever regarding additional insurance although a hefty deposit was taken against damage but this was not used. The car's return was equally efficient.

Recently booked a VW Polo car via Ryanair (Interent part of Gold Car) to collect at Faro Airport. Flight arrived 2020 hours, endured a three hour wait in a queue to collect vehicle. Customers were very annoyed as only three members of staff dealing them. Got to Lagos 0100 hours very tired. Complaint pending.

I have Avis Preferred, and it seems this allows me to use the airside Avis counters in tourist airports, whereas the queue for the landside Avis counters can be huge. It’s definitely a useful way of avoiding a queue and sorting out the paperwork while waiting for one’s baggage.

Thanks for posting – that is useful information. I see they only have 90 towns in Spain and the islands where they have offices : ).

I actually have a problem seeing 15-30 minute wait as a problem given that staffing is a significant cost and a cheaper rental is the result of less staff. Perhaps the author of the article could also highlight which airports/firms seem to be problematic as I find it hard to believe all are equally bad at all airports.

However with only 2000 respondents and so many airports the representative figures would be statistically unreliable – but possibly not as I suspect some airports will be highly reported on. Faro I suspect would be one.

Morning Patrick. I just had a chat with Guy on this. Unfortunately we don’t have that level of data for specific airports. I’ve mentioned that it could be something we can look to investigate further in the future.