Wednesday, 2 March, 2016

Common Car Hire Scams and how to avoid them

Car Hire Scams

If you have ever hired a car, you’re sure to have encountered one of the common car hire scams or rip offs – whether you knew it or not.

How often have you only paid the headline price that appears after you search for and select your vehicle? We’re going to hazard a guess and say that you haven’t. How do we know this? Because it’s hardly ever the full cost of the rental after you have added essentials and optional extras. Below, we discuss the Top 8 rip offs to look out for, to help save you cash and make you a more savvy customer!

#8. Licence and registration please, sir

In the UK, it is no longer a requirement to have the paper counterpart to your drivers licence. This was used to note any driving endorsements or entitlements and car hire companies would ask to see this alongside your licence. Since the DVLA no longer produce or update them, it renders them useless, effectively. Instead, your licence information is now stored electronically and you are able to produce a code to give to the car hire company for them to check online for themselves. We have seen complaints that companies have tried to charge additional fees for the lack of the paper counterparts, or told the customers that not having one may invalidate their insurance – this isn’t true. Please visit to obtain your code – it’s valid for 21 days and can only be used once for your security.

#7. Are your parents with you?

Is ageism a thing? Maybe within the car hire sector! We have mentioned this before, but remember you will be subject to additional charges if you are below or above a certain age (usually 25 and 65) and if you wish for someone else other than the person that booked the rental to drive the car too. The Young Drivers Surcharge will differ per company, and you will usually have to be at least 21 years old to hire a car – beware though, some companies set their minimum age at 23 – so always read the small print! It will be a one off fee and will cover the duration of the hire, and occasionally, it will be payable at the rental desk in local currency, not always at the time of booking online! The same applies to the additional driver fee where it will be payable on collection, and is usually calculated per day so if you plan on sharing the driving whilst you’re away, make sure you’re all covered!

#6. You need these (essential?) extras

If you’re heading away with your family, you’ll naturally want to book child car seats if the children are young enough, but did you know that this could add upwards of £100 to your hire cost, just for one seat?! Instead, why not take your own with you? Most airlines allow you to carry on 2 pieces of child equipment (car seats, pushchairs and travel cots) per child, free of charge so why not take your own next time? The children can even sit on their seats whilst on the plane and if you have an ISOFIX car seat, it will fit easily into most rental vehicles manufactured since 2006. You can then start your onwards journey knowing you haven’t been charged over the odds for a seat that quite frankly, might not even be clean or safely fitted!

Common car hire scams

What about Sat Navs? These can cost upwards of £10 per day to include in your car rental, but the one you have at home should do the trick. If it’s a UK only device, you can download additional software so it includes European maps, use an app on your phone (watch out for data charges though!) or go old school and grab a map!

#5. Congratulations! We’ve upgraded your vehicle!

Picture the scene: you arrive at the rental desk to be told that the vehicle you booked isn’t available (but that’s ok, as you should have been told at the time of booking you might not get the same MODEL of car, but something similar!) so you will be getting an upgraded vehicle. Great, right?!


They will try and charge you the difference for the ‘upgrade’ which isn’t one at all – they are making you pay more for a vehicle you probably don’t need (as much as you’d probably prefer to drive it!). If this happens to you, there are two options; firstly, you are within your right to accept the upgraded option, but state it comes WITHOUT the extra charge, or ask they give you a smaller vehicle and refund you the difference for the inconvenience.  Don’t get suckered in by this one!

#4. You look like you need a hire car!

We know it can be seen as a hassle to spend a bit of time online searching for the best Car Hire deal, but you’ll be thankful that you did when you see the price difference compared to the rental desk prices! Where possible, try and avoid purchasing your rental when you get to your location – you will almost always end up paying up to double what you’d pay online for the same thing! This goes for insurance for the car too. Where possible, always purchase this online and in advance…we’ll come back to insurance in a moment…

#3. Full to Full? Partial Refund? Full to Empty?!

Back in October, we gave you lots of information on the differing fuel policies you can come across – so you know to check the small print before you book! In short, a lot of companies operate a Full to Empty policy and you’ll be charged an inflated price for a full tank of fuel at pick up – most common in Spain and Portugal. This sometimes just isn’t attainable; If you have rented a small car,  are on a small island or not planning any road trips, it can be near impossible to use an entire tank in one week. The biggest problem? You won’t be refunded for the unused fuel!

We suggest hunting out a refund or partial refund policy; pay for the fuel upfront (this is unavoidable) and when you return, you will be refunded the cost of unused fuel, per 1/8th of a tank. Please note, a partial refund will mean you don’t get the mandatory service charge refunded, just the fuel. 

#2. Look at the damage you caused!

This is a huge concern for a lot of car hire customers – being charged for damage you didn’t cause. It could be a dent above a wheel arch or a scratch on the passenger door but if you sign paperwork saying you are happy with the condition of the car, you could end up being charged for the pre existing damage upon return. We can’t stress enough how important it is to check the car over before you drive away and if you do happen to spot anything, make sure this is reflected somewhere. We suggest noting it down on both the rental paperwork as well as on your phone and then taking a photo of the damage and the paperwork – but not before you make sure someone at the rental desk signs it to say they are aware of the existing damage!

common car hire scams

Don’t forget about the interior too – look out for ash burns, ripped seat covers and scratches to any panelling, as well as stone cracks to the windscreen! If you are collecting your car at night and therefore can’t inspect it in full light, the BVRLA recommend that you make sure this is also reflected in the notes too. But it’s always worth going over the car with a torch – either use your phone if you have the function to do so, or ask the rental company for one.

Does number one come as any surprise?!

#1. My excess is HOW MUCH?!

When you make your booking, it will probably say that the cost includes a Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) but don’t be fooled by the word ‘waiver’. All this means is that you’ll be liable for the the excess should any damage come to the car. Sounds just like when you have an accident at home, right? But how many people in the UK have a compulsory excess of between £500 to £2,500?!

Not many is the answer.

Common Car Hire Scams

The CDW doesn’t cover damage caused to the tyres, windscreens, roof or undercarriage either, so any damage to them would leave you out of pocket! We suggest taking out an insurance with a company such as at the time you make your booking online – this will cost you from £2.50-£5.00 per day compared to the £20+ per day fees the rental desk will undoubtedly try to sell you.

Hopefully some of these will help you steer clear of unnecessarily spending any of your hard earned cash on things that aren’t needed – save that for the fridge magnets and the hair braids you’ve wanted since you were little…

About Franki Napolitano

I love to Blog, Read and Sight-See, although you'll usually find me in the Gym!
13 Responses to "Common Car Hire Scams and how to avoid them":
  • Simon Ashby
    2017-01-04 4:47

    I hired a car through DriveNow in Australia who used Keddys (part of Europcar).Upon picking up the car at Heathrow I was advised by the Europcar agent, Aman,that additional collision damage waiver, CDW, insurance was required as it was mandatory in the UK. I questioned this and showed them the DriveNow contract indicating the excess was limited to GBP1,000 and that my credit card covered this. (DriveNow subsequently confirmed this is correct.) Europcar would not release the car without my taking out CDW insurance
    (medium protection) and I was not in a position to take third party advice I had no option but to take out Medium Protection which virtually doubled the cost of the car hire. Europcar have not responded to my letter but have advised DriveNow that since I signed the contract I had accepted it. I have contacted Citizens Advice who have passed on the information to Trading Standards as it could be a criminal offence. I feel Europcar staff have deliberately misled me and that Europcar has been negligent in not responding to my correspondence. I can supply further details if required.

  • Hi everyone,

    My husband and I had the most amazing trip to Norway over Christmas but it all went down in flames when we arrived home and found a letter from the car hire company stating we have damaged their car and now they are asking for compensation. We were shocked as we never damaged it. Furthermore we asked the Hertz employee to do a joint inspection of the car, and sign documents to say we returned it but he casually told us it was not necessary and we will receive the receipt via email. We were careless (by not taking pictures ourselves of the car)and now they are cashing in on it. Anyway, my husband developed this very basic website where people can share the details of the car the rented and their experiences. This way, customers can check online and see if the car they rented has been involved in accidents and if the car companies are charging innocent customers multiple times for the same damages.

    If you ever had any bad experiences please share them on our website. (The name of the website will be changed and we Are still working on it)

    Thank you and safe travels ☺☺☺

  • Jack Kelsall
    2017-04-27 4:02

    We had a similar experience when we hired a car earlier this year. We returned the car in the same condition that we hired it in. However, before we hired it, we noticed a dent in the side of the door. We thought nothing of this and assumed that it had already been noted by the company. But when we returned the car they claimed that we were responsible for the damage! Going forward I think it is important to bring these things up on the day on collection

  • Tim Deegan
    2017-06-28 3:22

    I made the mistake of hiring a car through OK Rent a Car in Palma, Mallorca.

    DO NOT USE, they are crooks.

    I booked an Audi A1, and paid for both the rental and the damage wavier insurance through I was collected by the OK Rent a Car minibus from Palma airport and taken to their off airport office. After a long wait in a very busy office I was offered a special offer upgrade to a Range Rover Evoque for €25, which seemed like a good deal so I decided to go for it. I also had to pay a €200 deposit for fuel, and was told that if I return the car full then I wouldn’t have to pay any of their extortionate refuelling charges.

    So I returned the car full of fuel, and was told by the man inspecting the cars that I would receive my €200 refund within a few days.

    On checking my bank account they have only refunded £59.64 out of the £199.04 that they took from my card which included the €25 upgrade. So with the conversion rates they still owe me €133.

    I called their customer service number, where the operator first said that the upgrade was €45 (I would not have paid this much, and their figures don’t add up anyway). She then changed her story to say that it was €75 for the upgrade (which still didn’t add up). When I argued this she put me on hold for ages.

    So I called their Palma airport office, where the man I spoke to started saying that I was supposed to return the vehicle empty of fuel, which is in complete contrast to what I was told by his colleague. When I argued this he hung up.

    1. Franki Napolitano
      2017-06-28 4:12

      So sorry to hear of your experience, Tim!

      Do you have any of the paperwork corresponding to the hire? The additional fee information? It may be worth speaking to doyouspain to see if they can offer any advice on the matter.

      With regards to fuel; my biggest suggestion is to check the fuel policy on your initial rental docs – do they state Full to Full, Full to Empty or Partial Refund?

  • Roger Woodbridge
    2017-07-13 1:55

    I hired a car in Hungary through Ryanair to be picked up at the airport. it turned out that ryanair had subcontracted the hire to Usave car hire.
    I picked the car up at 11pm it was dark. I checked the car over and the man from the car hire firm agreed on a number of dents on the drivers side. I am not the tallest person so the roof was not my concern in fact the person agreeing with me seemed anxious to get done.
    on returning the car (a citreon cactus) at 1500 hours now daylight a young lad came out and without hesitation he said the roof has been dented by hail. There was no hail in the week I had the car, it was as if he was told what to look for. the bonnet of the car was not touched in any way. I have a picture of it. complete scammers. DO NOT USE THEM.

  • Valerie Madill
    2017-07-31 8:55

    I’ve recently had a bad experience with Enterprise car hire from stanstead airport in London, charged me £200 for damage to a tyre which we had pointed out to the company employee when we collected the car, I would advise anyone hiring a car to take photos off any damage when picking up car. After many messages to enterprise they have reduced the damage cost to £70. As I had taken out insurance with another company I hope to be reimbursed for the outstanding amount, still not happy with the outcome, I’m being forced to pay for damage I didn’t do. Be very careful when using enterprise as I’ll never use them again.

  • Tony Evans
    2017-08-08 9:16

    Returned from France in July where I hired a car from enterprise, the car was never used the for the 4 days of my time in France, when I returned the car the assistant said there was damage to the car, there was a dink in the roof which could only be seen against the light, most likely already there when I collected the car.
    The insurance excess was 850 Uero, they have now on 3 occasions removed a total of 881 Ueros from my account at the exchange rate is £797 I Have now reported to my bank a fraudulent withdrawal, be warned only hire a car if it’s an absolute emergency, never use Enterprise unless you are prepared to be ripped off.

  • Muhammad Afzal
    2017-10-04 1:48

    Very informative article for. There should be new ventures in car rental whose authenticated through state governments.