Costly scrapes – and your other car hire horror stories
As one company is investigated for alleged overcharging of drivers, Sam Meadows reports on other readers’ experiences
In the wake of damaging revelations surrounding car hire giant Europcar – first revealed by The Daily Telegraph in June – angry drivers have come forward with a litany of examples of sharp practice in the industry. Excessive, poorly explained fees for everything from minor scratches to empty fuel tanks have wrecked customers’ holidays or business trips.
The overcharging by hire companies for “excess waiver insurance” – which reduces drivers’ liability to pay for damage – has been well documented and warned against. But a Telegraph investigation has revealed that one of the world’s biggest hire firms is being investigated for alleged overcharging of customers by tens of millions of pounds.
As many as 500,000 customers of French-owned Europcar could be affected, with cases stretching back more than a decade. The revelations have prompted Telegraph Money readers to contact our office with their own cases of alleged overcharging by other firms, including the industry giants Avis and Hertz. You hire a car and notice a seemingly innocuous mark on the bodywork. You think nothing of it, but when you return it a week later you are clobbered with a huge fee for repairs – whether or not it was you who caused the damage. Overcharging for repairs is one of the most common complaints from car hire customers. Phil Quantick, 57, who lives near Durham, hired a car from the Avis desk at Bristol Airport in 2011. He drove the car without incident, but when he returned it an agent spotted what Mr Quantick describes as “a large scratch down the side”. Mr Quantick said he was sure he had not caused the damage – although admitted it may have happened while he was at work – but it did not appear on the damage form he had initially signed, so he had no choice but to accept the charge. And he was shocked to learn how much the repairs would cost: £420.
He claimed that, after paying, he subsequently spoke to a mechanic who said that sort of repair should cost no more than £30. He added: “I had no choice but to pay – but you have no guarantee that the repairs are even undertaken. Unless you spot every little scratch before you leave, you are stuck with a great big bill and no choice but to pay.”
Like other regular car hirers, he also suspects the overzealous nature of the firms’ vehicle inspectors. “They don’t see the damage when you pick the car up, and then you come back and suddenly they notice every little speck,” he said.
“I find so many times when I pick up hire cars there is damage that isn’t One trick to save money is to buy stand-alone “excess waiver insurance”. The excess is the first part of any claim that you are required to pay yourself, and this has been creeping up and is typically around £1,000.
The excess waiver cover cuts this sum down to zero.
But beware purchasing the policies offered by the firms themselves as they can cost hundreds of pounds – when policies from independent insurers can cost as little as £3 per day.
Analysis by Telegraph Money shows companies including Hertz, Europcar and Avis charge more than £200 for their excess waiver cover for a typical holiday hire week (see table). But independent insurers will provide cover for a week’s car hire within
The Avis spokesman said: “Customers can purchase additional protection cover, of which there are several options, to reduce the cost of damage or repair.
“We use all data available to make sure we offer our customers competitive and fair rates.”
While Mr Parkington was covered by the additional insurance policy, he could have obtained the same cover for a tenth of the price. With stand-alone cover, however, you have to pay the bill first – and claim back the cost.
Steep cost: Phil Quantick, left, was given a £420 repair bill after a ‘large scratch’ was discovered on a car he rented
Avis’s £706 bill for what our reader described as ‘minor scratches’