/ Motoring, Travel & Leisure

Update: Together we can end rip-off car hire charges

Car rental sign in airport

Today we launch our new car hire campaign, alongside the Spanish consumer group OCU. Together we’re calling on car hire companies to end all unexpected extra charges and play fair with their fuel policies.

I have a confession. Although I do have a driving licence, I’m too scared of driving abroad to hire a car on holiday. I’m even more put off since reading all the car hire nightmare stories you’ve shared with us here on Which? Convo!

Not only would I have to drive on the wrong side of the road, but I might also have to deal with car hire sales people trying to sell me extras like sat navs. Or I might get hit with an additional, non-refundable charge for fuel that wasn’t made clear when I booked.

Holidays are meant to be a chance to relax and I don’t want my break ruined by getting ripped off on day one.

The tricks of the car trade

Lots of you have complained to us about some car hire companies using full-empty fuel policies. This is where people have to pay for a full tank of petrol on arrival, but aren’t offered refunds for returning the car with unused fuel. We found nearly three-quarters of those who did this thought they’d been ripped off by being forced to pay a fuel price that was higher than local garages.

Full-empty might sound convenient at first, but someone hiring a Fiat 500 would need to drive 550 miles to empty the tank. In Mallorca this would be enough to make the 80 mile round trip from Palma airport to Port de Pollenca on the other side of the island nearly seven times.

Alan was caught out in Alicante:

‘Hire charges seemed reasonable, but we got caught by the full-to-empty trap. This ploy results in three additional costs. First there’s the unreasonably high charge per litre for the full tank. Second there’s the cost of the unused fuel left in the tank, and the third is the bank charge on my UK credit card for currency conversion. (They wouldn’t accept my preloaded euro currency card). Needless to say, I’ll be more careful next time!’

Our investigation found that a number of companies do offer a fair fuel policy, such as Alamo, Enterprise and Autoreisen. All three offer a full-full fuel policy in Spain, where people return the car with a full tank as standard, so don’t pay for fuel they don’t use.

Joining forces with OCU

We think being caught out once, like Alan was, is one time too many; so we’re calling on car hire companies to:

• Be upfront about all extra charges, such as for fuel or insurance, so people aren’t forced to pay more before they can drive away, and can more easily compare deals.
• Only charge consumers for the fuel they use and offer a full-full policy as default.
• Ensure they offer fair fuel prices, which are in line with the local price.

Together with Organización de Consumidores y Usuario, we will be asking the Spanish consumer authorities to take action to protect all consumers from unfair fuel policies and we’ve already shared our concerns with the Competition & Markets Authority in UK.

We’ll also be making noise at a European level about your concerns, including getting in touch with the recently elected MEPs to seek their support for action on rip off car hire.

Have you been caught out by car hire companies, like Alan?

Update: 8 July 2016

We’ve had some welcome news from the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) on car hire in the UK. The regulator has written to 25 car hire comparison websites to call on them to ensure that motorists are shown the true cost of hiring a car before they choose to rent one.

Our  Director of Policy and Campaigns, Alex Neill said:

‘We expect all car rental companies and broker websites to be clear about charges” Which? response to CMA announcement on car hire websites

‘The CMA is right to be tackling hidden costs and sneaky practices in the car hire industry. Our research has shown some car hire brokers aren’t being upfront about the true cost of car hire.

‘We expect all car rental companies and broker websites to be clear about charges, so that people know exactly what they will pay when they book.’

Update: 20 October 2017

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has announced an investigation into two car hire price comparison websites suspected of charging customers hidden fees.

The CMA is concerned the unidentified sites are breaking consumer law by imposing unforeseen costs including fuel, late night vehicle collections and drop-offs. In addition, the regulator has also written to 40 car hire companies requesting they maintain standards and improve the accuracy and clarity of their own online information.

It also wants to see the inclusion of all extra charges in the price customers first receive, including fuel pricing policies and warnings about high excess, deposit amounts.

We don’t think it’s right for people to be hit with hidden charges and unexpected fees when hiring a car, or purchasing any other product for that matter. Car hire sites must improve their practices and be upfront about any charges so consumers can make an informed choice at the time of booking.

What are your experiences when hiring a car? Have you had to pay any surprise costs?

Rachael says:
12 April 2015

Booked a car through Do You Spain to collect from Alicante airport. Paid 30 euros for Gold Insurance so I didn’t have to pay the car hire firm. Was told the car hire firm, Dickmanns, would take a deposit of 400 euros which would be returned to me on return of the car. When we arrived to collect the car I was told I had to pay for their insurance 80 euros or leave a 950 euro deposit which I would get back 20 days after returning car. I showed them the email from Do You Spain but they said their terms had changed.(I only booked the car 3 weeks before) I asked why I hadn’t been notified but they said they had notified DoYou Spain. I have received no further communication from Do You Spain.

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A. Conde says:
24 June 2015

I think Dickmanns are ones of the worst rent a car companies in the rent car .

Every time I rent a car and I rent 4/5 times a year never take they insurance policy as I have my own
it cost me £45 a year so when ever they try to push they one I tel them I have my own one.

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Angelo says:
28 August 2015

I have posted before about this company Dickmanns. I personally would never rent a car with this lot

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Richard says:
22 June 2015

I hired a car through do-you-spain and took out the additional comprehensive insurance they offered only to be hassled on arrival into taking out the Goldcar’s own cover (or else) which added an additional 220 euro’s to the cost.
The deal I took out would not have been the best had I been aware of the additional charge been forced on me. I don’t mind a realistic charge but the one thing I don’t want (and I’m sure no one else does) is to start my holiday by being greeted with the hassle and the additional costs I’m not expecting.

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Patrick Nagle says:
24 June 2015

I think Heathrow Europcar is the worst. The trainee who waited on us argued with me for at least 40 minutes about taking a bigger car and insurance even though I told her that we had our own insurance through our credit card company. She said that if we left a deposit of 299 pounds, then we could take the car without the extra insurance. We agreed, but as we were driving away, we saw that she had charged us full insurance and an extra driver fee which we did not need. This was our second time it’s happened by them and we should have known better. There seems to be no recourse.

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Michael says:
16 July 2015

Reserved a car through “Economy Car Rental,” a Greek-based company (i just learned!) in November of 2014 for our June, 2015 trip to Iceland. The price was reasonable at about $300 USD. Three weeks before the trip we received an email notifying us that the reservation was null and void. No offer was made for a new reservation. We needed the car as we were going to travel Route 1, the “Ring” around Iceland and needed a reliable car to do so. I made a new reservation with “Economy” Care Rental and the price tripled to about $600 USD for the same car! (I have full documentation with both “contracts!” and would be glad to share with anyone!)

In addition, we were hit by a drive near Hofn, IS and were told by the police that all we needed was a report, which we filed with the car rental company. Of course, we paid “Economy” Car Rental and extra fee to provide us with insurance and they do not accept the Icelandic way of reporting accidents. I was out $900+ USD for an accident that was not my fault.

I want my “insurance fee” back. Fortunately, I had additional travel insurance which covered the entire incident 100%. The fact that these slime balls refused to consider the loss because I didn’t have a police report (there is no such thing in ICELAND!), shows how they rip people off. The bogus pricing is another indication of their “best (ripoff) practices!” Stay away from this company.

And.of course, do not, never do business with this company.

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Wilf says:
7 August 2015

I booked a car through do you Spain and got Dickmans . 26.85 Euros for 12 days bargain I thought.
98 euros for fuel and 950 euros on my card as I didn’t take out their insurance as I have my own. I returned the car intact and they said my 950 euros would be returned in 20 days now that’s a rip off.
Now it gets better after that time still no money so I started phoning , they said if I gave them BIC number of my account they would transfer quicker. 6 weeks later I got my money back but not all the sky high conversion or transfer charge meant that I was some £30 short of what I should have had. My bank in the UK do not charge to receive money from abroad and Dickmans say there is no charge as they deal in euros that’s nonsence , there holding bank or intermediate bank are making the money.

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Alice George says:
10 August 2015

On arrival in Belfast I was given a car with only 23 miles on it but was assured at their outside office on collection that stone chips and normal driving would not be classed as damage. On return today a 1.1cm hairline scratch was claimed to be damages; this in a country where the hedgerows fall into the path of most roads. On the previous occasion of hiring from this company they deducted charges for petrol even though I had filled the car .25 mile from the airport. I shall be contacting the UK Competition and MARKETS authority and Leaseeurope to complain

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steve bradshaw says:
13 August 2015

Booked a car at Alicante Airport through Do You Spain and collected form Record Go. I declined all extras, gave my CC number for deposit and left. I returned the car with an absolutely full tank of fuel, had it verified and left.

When I checked my CC statement, £65.53 had been taken and £36.99 returned. When I looked more closely at the paperwork from Record Go, it wasn’t that I was short changed on the fuel, but was charged 39.99 Euros for a ‘Go Pack’ which I definitely did not request. I have complained to Do You Spain and had an automated reply but nothing more. I know it’s not a huge amount of money, but if this is done to all hirers, then it’s a massive rip off.

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Shirley Riley says:
27 August 2015

Booked with doyoudospain told them I had no credit card booked paid €70 insurance so I wouldn’t need to pay anything to car hire booked from 12 mid day but flight had slight delay so by the time we got to where we was hiring car it was just before 1a.m tried to cancel they said couldn’t as it was past the start time. What a jojw they had flight number they should have known what time I arrived. Replied continually to them but just realised the email from there first email not cancelling was a noreply email. Why does some kind of authority not step in. Lots of people have had the same problem. If anyone has there actual email address or office address I would be more than grateful. I had to pay the hire company another €288 before being allowed to take car and I had paidcthem £145

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tapelgan says:
28 August 2015

HOW WE GOT ACTION. Europcar Heathrow tried to bill us for unchosen insurance and extra driver-as well as trying to rent us a bigger model. My brilliant wife looked up the company president and sent him a well-written and firm Email, including a threat to publicicize their shoddy practices in the U.S.A. They took care of it. We were there for 30 days, so had time to do this. Also took many photos of the car and the fuel gauge when we returned it. For the first time ever, they mailed us a receipt when we got home.

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Marjorie Loraine says:
13 September 2015

I have just been ripped off in spain by Record car hire company. The price through autos abroad was the most competitive. However once there they would not recognise my yearly car hire insurance and said I could not rent the car despite my having paid for it unless I paid their insurance on top which cost £160 pounds!!! Do I have any possibility of challenging this?

steve bradshaw says:
14 September 2015

This is my second post about Go Record in Alicante, Spain, first one was a month ago.

I have just had a forty Euros charge taken against my Credit Card without authorisation and without notification by Go record. I have sent a complaint email to Do You Spain who haven’t even responded to my first complaint.

I will try and contact Do You Spain by telephone as I have been told by my CC company that if at least try, they will refund the payment taken.

I booked a Fiat 500L with Interrent through a broker. At my arrival at the desk at Bologna airport on 22/10 I was offered a Fiat Qubo. Since this is the passenger version of a van, I asked for an alternative option. There was none. The staff tried to convince me that the cars are in the same category. I accepted the Qubo because the process had already taken a long time – there was a video link with a remote worker, every time I asked a question the person would ring the desk – it was really absurd. I walked to the parking lot to discover that: the car had various damages that had not been indicated in the contract and it was dirty inside and outside. I walked back to the desk only to be told that the only other car – another Fiat Qubo – had not been prepared and I had to wait another 30 minutes. I asked to talk to the desk manager and the member of staff called on her mobile phone to check whether the manager wanted to talk to me. Finally I managed to communicate with person who was unapologetic and unhelpful, saying that it wasn’t his fault – I still wonder whose fault was it. I cancelled the booking and I rented with another company. Needless to say that i will never rent a car with InterRent again.

We just got back from a trip to Fuerteventura. Booked a car via Expedia, which I tend to trust – but it was with Goldcar (which I really should have Googled first.

We showed up at their counter after 9pm, only to be told we needed to pay double the going rate for a full tank of petrol, PLUS an extra €127 for insurance! Politely declined the insurance, as we’re already covered, only to be told that it was required if we wanted to take the car. (Others have said they were offered the option to have a “damage deposit” held on their card instead – we weren’t offered this, but it was probably a good thing, as another traveller told us at drop-off that he had just been told the £200 “deposit” he’d put down wasn’t going to be refunded!)

By this time, it was 10pm, we were on an industrial estate in an area we weren’t familiar with (no way to get a cab), and our son was tired and cranky, so we very reluctantly agreed to the insurance. Imagine my face when we got to the hotel and I read the T&Cs on our booking – the insurance we’d been forced to purchase (“Cobertura Super”) was clearly listed as an optional extra!

We were also told quite brusquely that the cost of any remaining petrol in the tank when we returned the car would be “refunded, automatic – in 2 hours” – needless to say, it’s a full day later and no refund has appeared.

I’ve contacted both Goldcar and Expedia about this, but don’t hold out a lot of hope for a resolution from either one – so I’m resolved to spread the word as widely as I can instead. Don’t rent from Goldcar – ever! They put a real damper on the start to our long-anticipated holiday, and I’m still very angry about it.

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Bev says:
20 March 2016

Omg we are in the midst of trying to rent a car for two weeks in Alicante to Javea for June 2016 the stories and forums whilst arm me with knowledge and preparation it still seems that you have to accept that no matter what if you need to hire you will be ripped off scammed or duped! Thinking we should have booked an all inclusive Thomson holiday with coach transfers! Just emailed Lara cars, fingers crossed!

Clive says:
20 April 2016

We hired through “doyouspain” and collected at Alicante airport from gold car last time and on a previous three occasions. The first three times we got the usual hard sell for excess insurance but refused as we had our own annual excess cover ( recommended by which ). We felt the fuel charges very high with their full – empty policy but we’re aware of this as well as the ridicules deposit for not taking their insurance but as said we were expecting this so hey ho! However the last hire car was a complete wreck it had more dents and scrapes that a banger racing car honestly every panel was dented!! We were told that no other car was available and that was either take it or leave it – more or less. On return from holiday I complained to doyouspain and eventually gave up deciding never to use them again. I have had good reviews about enterprise so will try them this time even though they are twice as expensive. You get what you pay for I guess in the end

Magda says:
24 May 2016

We were a month ago at Fuerteventura. We paid rent fee online in pre-booking website. After arriving we couldn’t final the rent and take car because we can’t use my credit card, when booking has been made on my partner. They advised to add another driver with extra cost of course, extra insurance and full tank charge which was totally around 200£. I asked about that deposit which company usually take. They said that it’s gonna be around 1000£ and when something will happen with care we will pay extra. They show me whole long list of payments. So finally we agreed on these insurance. Another thing was that their terminal can’t process payment by credit card and they took our signs and full details from card. When we give the car back they didn’t want to see it. When I got back home on my credit card statement appeared another transaction from goldacar which was 25£ probably for extra cleaning. They took it without my knowledge. Now when I read what happened for other people I can say that we were silly and lucky in one time. Never ever again goldcar, but I must say that it was second time when I hired car from this company and at the first time everything was allright. Sad

I travel abroad regular but have to say have thought about hiring a car but after reading the rip off horror stories from people have decided to stay well away from hiring of cars. I will stick with local buses and airport transfers.

Norman Rimmell says:
10 July 2016

I hired a car from Europcar at Nantes airport in France on 11 May and agreed to return the car with a full petrol tank. A few days later a strike of petrol tanker drivers began and I was unable to refill the tank on return on 25 May. Europcar charged my credit card with twice the normal going rate for petrol to refill the tank. I complained to them and they replied that the price charged complied with their conditions of hire. I have disputed the payment with VISA disputes department (via my bank) and I await a decision. I would never use Europcar again.

wayne says:
10 August 2016

How do these car hire companies get away with it????
I am due to holiday in benidorm in november and was going to hire a car but I honestly cant find any broker or company that actually provides the cars that has decent reviews, in fact they are all so terrible I dont know how they stay in business. It really is one con after another and has sadly put me off renting a car.

I have searched and searched car hire companies and only found autoclick with a reasonable review………
and the reason I say reasonable is that the all the others are soooooo bad!!!!!
Thinking about risking it with them as they seem to be the best of a bad bunch, not really a glowing recommendation.
I just know im going to get stung with an out of office hours fee even though it states on the booking form I wont. my flight lands at 9.20pm………… office hours end at 10pm……….
I will be in the office before 10pm but already budgeted for the 30 euros out of office hours fee.
I have my own insurance cover but am also ready to start my holiday with stress arguing that I dont need the hire companys insurance.
I will be taking photos of car before i take it and when i return it and am ready to have a hefty amount frozen on my credit card……….
why does it have to be a battle of wills with these people, it should be illegal what they do.
im also ready for the fuel rip off, booking full to full…………..
anybody with any tips (other than dont bother in the first place) would be very welcome.