According to an investigation by Which? Travel, hidden fuel charges can make what looks like an affordable car hire into an expensive rental. The magazine sent researchers to Spain following many of its members complaining about unavoidable fuel fees. Car Rental companies had been charging customers for a full tank of petrol when they collected their rental. This meant that customers who didn’t use up all the petrol during their trip were left out of pocket. Basically, they were paying for something they didn’t even get to use, without being able to get a refund.
Which? Travel’s Kathryn Liston went to Malaga, where most of the complaints were about, to find out exactly how much the car rental agents were charging. She picked up an Adantage hire and was charged €59 for a full tank of petrol, which is twice what she paid to actually rent the vehicle. Since she’s only going to be in Malaga for four days, there’s no way she would use it all. Additionally, she found it really confusing to figure out how much she was being charged, because they never gave her a slip to sign with the amount on it. She had to ask to find out.
On Liston’s second day, she and her team went to Malaga Airport to pick up a Goldcar rental. She paid €54 for a full tank of petrol, which she had to use in four days. With a small car and not having to travel very far, she didn’t know how they would use the full tank in that amount of time – unless they spent most of their time driving, which is something most holidaymakers wouldn’t do. She also found it interesting that the company never clearly explained to her what she’s paying when she handed them her credit card. She had to ask them first – again. After their driving, she and her team returned to Malaga and took the rentals back. When asking for a refund for the petrol they didn’t use, the car agent was very adamant that there would be no refund.
Which? Travel’s researchers also rented another car in Malaga and three others in Alicante. In each location, the researchers hired from a locally based UK broker and one of the two big companies – Hertz and Avis. The initial cheapest online booking for Malaga online – including basic insurance – was from Goldcar at €30.25. However, the price more than tripled after picking the rental up and fuel was added – to €94.25. The cheapest Alicante rental was from Holiday Autos at €28 and was still the cheapest after adding insurance. But the cost rose to €144.77 after picking up the car and adding the fuel fee. Before, the Holiday Autos rental was the least expensive of the three in Alicante, but the rise in price ended up making it the most expensive.
Although Spain had the most complaints from Which? members, it isn’t the only destination in the world that’s ripping consumers off with such policies. This research shows that these unavoidable fuel surcharges can more than triple the cost of a car hire and turn a good deal into an expensive one. Which? says travellers shouldn’t have to pay an unavoidable charge without being able to get a refund. All fees should be made clear up front when the booking is made so travellers can easily compare prices and make the right choice.
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