Hidden fuel charges push up cost of car hire abroad

Hidden charges are pushing the cost of car hire abroad up by as much as three times, a new investigation by a consumer watchdog has found.

Consumer watchdog Which? sent undercover researchers to Spain to investigate a number of car hire companies, after a recent string of consumer complaints. It was found that hidden charges for fuel were being levied against customers, which were not made clear at the time of booking.

With the additional fuel charges, the prices quoted to British customers went up three-fold in some cases once the car is picked up in Spain.

“It’s clear from our investigation that consumers are not being given the full facts about these extra charges,” said Rochelle Turner, a Which? Travel expert. “Our research has shown that these unavoidable fuel charges can triple the price of a rental, turning what seemed like a good deal into potentially a very expensive one,” she added. A Which? researcher travelled to Malaga to investigate the complaints and was told that the cheapest initial car hire price was €30.25. But when fuel was taken into account, the price went up dramatically to €94.25 – more than three times the originally quoted price.In Alicante a similar process was uncovered.

The cheapest available car hire was €28. However, when the car was picked up and fuel was added on, the price rose to €144.77 including insurance and fuel. Companies were found to be using a “full-empty” policy, in which customers are charged for a full tank of petrol when they pick up the car.

But no refunds are given for any fuel not used, and the impact of this charge is not made clear when customers book the car. “All charges should be shown up-front at the time the booking is made so consumers can make the right choice and compare prices easily,” added Ms Turner. You can save money by investing in car hire insurance, which insures the excess on a rental agreement as well as other features.

Date Created: 24 April 2012

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