Car hire in Spain is not as straight forward as many think or as it used to be and can turn out to be an expensive and unpleasant experience for the Inexperienced and unaware traveler.
Prior to around 2008 it was an easy,cheap and hassle free method of getting holiday transport for those who wanted to explore the areas outside the resorts even with fluctuating exchange rates.
Since then we have had the rise of all inclusive packages resulting in visitors staying on resort,the rise of even cheaper destinations such as Turkey,Egypt,Tunisia and Morocco,the financial crash resulting in the demand for vehicles dropping and the resulting price wars wiping out any profits.
Added into these factors is the increasing number of British tourists who treat the vehicles in an appalling manner,trash them and take them places they arnt designed to go.
As a result several large companies either went bust,merged and all cut thier fleets in order to cut costs.
One of the problems these companies encountered was the fuel policy which Im afraid to say was totally disregarded and abused by so many hires.
You picked a car up 3/4s full and returned it as such,many hirers ignored this.
Over the years many companies tried various methods including the full empty method which some still use now,having ordered and either opting to pay up front for the vehicle or ordered,paid a small deposit and pay the balance at the airport. At this point you are hit with a further bill to go on your credit card(no cash transactions) of up to €70 for a full tank of fuel with instructions to return it empty.
Now I know for a fact that I can fill the majority of hire cars up from near empty to full for under €45.
It is only recently that I've become aware of the current cons,rip offs,extra charges,new fuel policies and over charging as I hold a Hertz gold card and usually hire from them,Unfortunatly thier prices on the mainland are extortionate this year so I'm forced to look elsewhere.
These are my findings.
Currently there's a large increase in visitors to the Med.resorts following events in Turkey,Tunisia and Egypt and the car hire sector has realised that there's money to be made.
So people hire in numerous ways:
1. Direct with the hire company via their website or phone,,usually this is goldcard/clubcard or business accounts.
2. Turning up at the desk on the day.
3. Provided as part of a holiday package deal.
4. Via a third party such as Carjet,Jet2 carhire,Doyuospain,Money Supermarket style sites,rental cars.com and a host of other sites.
Personally I try to use option 1 as I know what I'm getting though the cost is usually 25% higher but you get good customer service,decent well looked after vehicles,a dedicated desk with no queues,no paperwork,no hassle,,I can present my card and be on my way within 2 minutes.
Most people go for options 3 or 4. These 3td parties do the work for you,present you with a range of vehicles,the price for the hire and an option to pay up front(can save up to 10%) or to pay on collection. The deal will also include very basic insurance as required by Spanish law.
They may also offer for around £60 a full insurance/excess cover.
So you turn up at the airport hire desk hopefully with your correct documents,licence,hire docket,passport,credit card,details of where you are staying and if hiring in the islands a dvla drivers history printout.
At this point you will be advised that you should buy the hire companies full insurance as you currently arnt covered for damage to the vehicle body,tyres,windows/windscreen,wipers,interior the price being anything up to £220 extra.
Then there's the fuel policy,mist companies have adopted full-full,pick up full return to within a litre full,,again there's a charge.
You will be hit for up to €70 on your card either as a block on the card or the amount taken off to be reimbursed on return of the vehicle with the correct amount of fuel.
If you don't take out the hard sell top up insurance again an amount with either be taken off but usually blocked/held against your card to cover any damage or excess charges,depending on the vehicle up to €12,000 though usually it's €2000.
Having been given your keys and documentation You will be directed to a gay usually in a gloomy indoor car park which should have staff to answer any operating queries,go through the current damage diagram and after you have checked the vehicle for any other damage/defects update the paperwork and sign it.
Up until this this year I purchased in the UK world wide excess insurance forvaround £40 which lasted a year and was multi trip to cover any eventuality,I've yet to hear any bad reports on these policies.
So should you have decieded not to take out the extra insurance be aware that these companies are out to make money,the office staff earn personal commission for each policy sold,the company pockets the rest and contrary to popular belief they don't repair scratches,scrapes,dents nor windscreens.
Current cons being played daily against thise those who choose to not pay the extra because they either bought a policy from the broker(carjet/het2/moneysupermarket etc) which the car hire company dosnt recognise,have a yearly policy or thought we will take the risk are:::::
Having had the vehicle checked on return by staff and getting the returns documents signed as all being in order suddenly find on getting home that the money held on thier card hasn't been returned or unblocked as the company has suddenly found a scratch,a dent,a chip in the windscreen,ciggy burn in seats,a damaged tyre or some other problem.
People are being charged again and again for old damage that the previous hirer or even hirers have already been charged for.
A friend of ours hired a Seat Leon for 5 days at Easter from the airport,didn't want the extra insurance as she has annual cover.Checked the vehicle,found more scratches,photographed them and had the attendant update the hire agreement.
Returned the vehicle,returns docs signed and everyone happy or so it seemed. She had a block of £1500 placed on her card at the time and after a week noticed it was still there.
contacted the company who stated that they had found damage and she would be billed.
The bill arrived and it was for a mini hired three weeks before by someone else,whose full personal and bank details were on the documents.When challenged the company were adamant that this was the car our friend had used,it was her hire details and refused to refund her money stating that they were the injured party. Luckily she has a decent credit card company who have refunded her money and are perusing the company for the money themselves as well as contacting the guardia civil.
Dont forget these companies are hiring cars out way below the market price,I've been offered a Nissan Quashi today by Record for 17 days from Alicante airport without the extra insurance for £170,,additional insurance £240. Hertz can't match that,they quoted me £550 all in on a special deal as I'm a returning valued customer so they will make what money they can by whatever means.