‘Dirty tricks’ of car-hire providers exposed

Holidaymakers heading to Spain for some summer sun are being warned to beware the “dirty tricks” used by car-hire operators.

The foreign car-rental market has always had its fair share of cowboy operators, but fresh research suggests that the risks vary depending on which country you visit.

Wherever you decide to hire a car, you need to be wary of the tricks that are used. Common ones include trying to blame you for some minor pre-existing scratch on the paintwork.

But the research has found that unscrupulous reps in Spain stoop particularly low. Typical rip-offs include stinging you with a surcharge for being given a diesel car, even though you didn’t ask for one; getting you to digitally “sign” a contract and then giving you a printed copy on the day in a sealed envelope, leaving you to find any nasty surprises once it’s too late; and pressuring you into buying further insurance, even if you’ve already got cover.

Other scams uncovered by the research include car-hire firms in the US promising a “free” upgrade but then surreptitiously charging you for it; and Turkish providers offering a meet-and-greet service but leaving you a parking ticket that doesn’t have enough credit on it to let you out of the airport car park.

“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,” said Rory Sexton, of Economy Car Hire, which carried out the research.

“If you are going somewhere where sneaky tactics are often used, make sure you scrutinise the terms of the booking in advance, and read the rental contract carefully when collecting the car.

“It’s always a good idea to book through a broker in the UK, which will provide the protection of UK consumer law.”