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British holidaymakers were slapped with a total of £475m in unexpected car hire costs in 2015, according to comparison site TravelSupermarket,
Certain car hire tricks and hidden fees are more prevalent in particular countries. According to research by independent car hire specialist Zest Car Rental, Spanish car hire companies employ the widest range of sneaky tactics.
These include insisting on a ‘collect full, return empty’ fuel policy, drivers being made liable for pre-existing damage and sales staff forcing motorists take out additional insurance.
Fees for picking up or dropping off out-of-hours are prevalent in Italy and extra cleaning charges are common in France. In the US, car hire firms often charge for a ‘free’ upgrade.
Rory Sexton, managing director of Zest Car Rental, said: “Dirty tricks are more prevalent in certain countries than others, with customers reporting fewer issues in countries such as Australia, New Zealand, Bulgaria, Croatia and Switzerland.
“If you are going somewhere where sneaky tactics are often used, make sure you scrutinise the terms of their booking in advance, and read the rental contract carefully when collecting the car.”
Here are some of the top tricks that could catch you out:
Full to empty fuel policies
On arrival at the airport, you’re told you have to pay for a full tank of petrol before you can pick up the car. You are then charged much more than it would have cost to fill up at a local petrol station. There’s no refund for returning the car with unused fuel.
Extra unnecessary car insurance
You’re forced to take out costly additional car insurance at the hire desk. If you refuse, the car hire company says it will withhold the car.
Low rates, high add-ons
You find a car hire bargain deal that will only set you back a few euros for the whole week, but when you get the car hire desk you’re sold lots of extras which significantly bumps up the price.
You’re made liable for damage which was already on the car when you collected it.
You’re told you’ll get a free upgrade but discover you’ve been charged for it after you’ve signed the rental agreement
Standard cover is usually included in your rental rates, but when you get to the rental desk, you’re persuaded to take out more comprehensive cover, even though normal cover is usually sufficient and extended cover is already included through companies like Zest Car Rental.
Capped daily mileage
If you exceed a certain amount of miles each day, you’ll be hit with extra mileage charges, unless you’ve booked with a car hire broker that includes unlimited mileage.
Extra cleaning fees
Some suppliers in France include a cleaning fee as part of the deposit. This enables them to charge you €50 if the car is not brought back in what they regard as an acceptable condition.
When you collect the car using a meet and greet service, the parking ticket you’re given doesn’t have enough credit on it to get out of the car park, leaving you to pay extra just to leave.
Out of hours’ fees
You often have to queue for 30 minutes to an hour just to collect the car and this can sometimes mean when you get to the front of the queue you’re ‘out of hours’. This triggers ‘out of hours’ fees, despite having arrived at the desk well before the closing time.