Tuesday, 6 March 2018

How to avoid being ripped off by rental car companies

As someone who has hired cars around the world, I can assure you that it pays to take every precaution against being taken for a ride by the very people from whom you are hiring your transport. 

From fuel scams to insurance scams, car hire companies are notorious for their many ways of parting fools and their money. 

In Britain, this week, Europcar apologised to a customer who was overcharged by nearly £1,000 for repairing a minor windscreen chip.

The incident was highlighted in a new report by consumer rights magazine Which? accusing the whole industry of ripping off customers.

It claims some car hire firms are charging customers more than double the going rate for repairs.

Investigators from the magazine took photographic evidence of damage from car hire customers across Europe who believed they had been overcharged.

Photos were shown to three Which? Trusted Trader garages who were asked how much they would have charged for the repair.

In eight out of 12 cases all three garages quoted less than the car hire companies charged for the repair.

In the case of the Europcar customer, Which? said he was charged £1,154 for a small windscreen chip that could have been fixed for as little as £35 (around $55).

Which? conducted a separate survey of more than 150 readers who'd been charged for car hire damage.

It found 44% said they had been hit with an excessive charge, almost 18% said they had been charged for damage they knew nothing about, and 59% said they had never received any evidence of how the charge was calculated from their car hire company.

As a clever car hirer, you need to outsmart the charlatans - which means keeping evidence. 

First make sure you are fully insured (preferably by your own insurer, not the one charging hire rates the car hire company wants you to sign up for).

As soon as you get int your rental make sure it is fully fuelled (you'll be amazed how many times it is $10 or so below full - a nice little earner for MrAvisHertz). 

Check all windscreens, paint surfaces etc for scratches or nicks etc, make sure these all all noted by the hirer, and take photos of all of them before you leave the parking lot. 

When you return, insist on having your vehicle checked and signed off on by a human. Dropping the keys and leaving the car leaves you wide open for any number of dodgy deals.

I was once contacted by a major car hire company two days after dropping off my vehicle in central Paris. They wanted to know where the car was. Don't trust 'em and like boxing referees say: "Protect yourself at all times." 


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