Beware of these misleading practices when renting a car in Spain

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car rental
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The Dutch Consumers’ Association has issued a warning about deceptive practices in car rentals abroad, particularly in Spain. It is therefore crucial to be aware of the tactics used by rental companies to extract extra money from consumers.

Based on a study of a thousand online reviews and complaints about car rentals, the Consumers’ Association identified a pattern of unfriendly staff, unclear communication, and unexpected extra charges at the counter or after returning the car. These charges often include additional insurance, car upgrades, alleged damages, and incomplete fuel or cleanliness. Notably, of the more than 300 complaints filed over the past five years with the European Consumer Centre regarding car rentals in Spain, about half involved the rental company Goldcar.

Mystery shopper test

The Consumers’ Association also conducted a practical test by booking twelve cars online with various rental companies in Spain, both directly and through intermediaries like DoYouSpain. Many issues arose during the booking process, such as unclear deposit amounts and extra fees. Essential information about booking modifications or cancellations was often missing. Some intermediaries were vague about insurance and deductibles, and in some cases, consumers received follow-up emails warning them to purchase additional insurance or face significant charges for damages.

At the counter

At the rental counter, Consumers’ Association representatives encountered staff who work on commission and aggressively push additional services like insurance, roadside assistance, navigation systems, and larger cars. In one instance, a representative was told the rented car was unsuitable for Spanish highways and needed an upgrade.

Goldcar stood out for imposing extra charges for optional insurance and a nonexistent tax. Additionally, consumers were often forced to accept extra insurance with the argument that they would otherwise not be fully covered.

The Consumers’ Association advises arranging car rentals from your country of origin, including insurance with no deductible or a separate deductible insurance. This allows consumers to confidently refuse extras at the counter.

Other issues

Blind signing

Some rental companies asked consumers to sign contracts on a tablet without seeing the details, often in Spanish only, leading to uncomfortable situations. Not signing means not getting the car, and many people, tired from travel, sign without fully understanding the terms.

Pre-existing damage

Rental staff sometimes refused to note pre-existing damage on the rental form or to acknowledge a car’s condition upon return. Cars were often parked in dimly lit garages, making damage hard to spot, and there were disputes over fuel levels. Tip: Always document all damages and take photos or videos before driving off.

Post-return charges

Consumers must leave credit card details, leading to unexpected charges later. One InSpain.news editor was charged €150 for cleaning without notice, based on unclear photos of crumbs at the back seat of the car. Contacting Goldcar was difficult, with the automated complaint system failing. However, the issue was resolved by disputing the charge with the credit card company.

Fuel policy

Always choose the full/full fuel policy—return the car with a full tank. The mystery shoppers sometimes received cars not fully fuelled, losing money in the process. Always take a photo of the fuel gauge and the receipt upon return and request a clearance certificate.

Unacceptable practices

The Consumers’ Association found that 94% of Spanish car rental companies received complaints about additional or hidden charges, making it the top complaint. If problems arise and the rental company withholds your deposit, you can dispute it with your credit card company.

File an official complaint with the rental company or intermediary website as soon as possible. Additionally, complaints can be submitted to the European Consumer Centre (ECC) or the European Car Rental Conciliation Service (ECRCS) if the rental company is a member. 

Key tips for car rental in Spain

The Consumers’ Association had positive experiences with Alamo, Sixt, and Enterprise. Here are the key tips:

  • Rent a car with a full/full fuel policy and no deductible.
  • Document any damage when picking up the car.
  • Keep a photo of the fuel receipt.
  • Request a clearance certificate when returning the car to confirm it is damage-free and the tank is full.

Also read: Car rental prices in Europa and Spain are falling after a long period of increases

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