31 Jul, 2022 @ 09:15
4 mins read

Common scams: Whistle blower reveals dirty tricks used to fleece customers at low-cost rental car firm in Spain

Jamie Street Jtp Dqtz6d8 Unsplash

FEW transactions are as stressful as renting a car while on holiday.

You’re braindead, running on aeroplane peanuts, with either the kids screaming or your marriage relying on a smooth hotel transfer.

You’re a captive audience like no other.

And according to a tell-all account of life as a low-cost rent-a-car dealer in Spain, the person behind the desk wants to milk you of more money.

Shouting, urgent calls to the bank and demanding to see supervisor occur in ‘99% of cases’ here.

Your tantrum goes nowhere.

Though the airport worker remained anonymous in the viral post on Spain’s Meneame blogsite, the tactics will be familiar to many holidaymakers.

It all starts with salaries ‘under minimum wage’ and ends with workers given a ‘2% commission on any extras’.

“We’re talking about a new model of business that’s centred on scamming the customer,” our blogger wrote.

Welcome to the world of rental car scams in Spain.

Here are four key takeaways to vaccinate you against rental car scams in future.

East Midlands Airport Mmb 01 Volkswagen Jetta
According to a rent-a-car whistleblower avoiding ‘traditional’ rental car companies like Europcar in Spain will often lead to surprise costs at the desk. Source: WikiMedia Commons.

Don’t trust the cheap insurance

If a car rental deal looks too good to be true in Spain, then it is.

According to our informant you have two options when renting a car online in advance: 1. Pay for reasonable insurance through a traditional car rental business (think Avis or Europcar); 2. Pay for a cheaper insurance through a comparison site.

If you went for option 2 then prepare for a bumpy ride.

Over to our rent-a-car insider:

“The party begins when you arrive at the airport, tired, lugging suitcases, in another country… and the rental company says ‘no, the cheaper insurance isn’t worth anything because the insurer is not the owner of the vehicle’. In other words, the €120 or so you paid on a cheaper insurance is lost. You get angry, you’ve already paid for insurance, and it’s outrageous to ask you for a deposit.”

“But despite this not being your plan, or you not having the money, or having no credit card, you’re going to have to pay €2000 which will be returned in 30 days after returning the car without damages. Arguments, more anger, calls to the bank, calls to the company… that’s how 99% of cases were, for my six months of work, renting out 500 cars a day at the airport.”

The problem is that many low-cost rental firms in Spain pay ‘under minimum wage’ with a 2% commission for any extras sold.

Furthermore that 2% is only paid on transactions made at the desk.

Oftentimes you may already have valid insurance, but will still be otherwise convinced to part with your cash.

The worker’s paycheck will depend on ‘scamming’ you.

Watch out for full-full fuel deals

Many low-cost car rental companies rent your car with a full tank, charge you for the pleasure, and promise to refund when you return the car in the same state.

It sounds simple enough, but it’s not.

The company’s petrol or diesel can often cost twice than at the normal pump, meaning a tank of €140.

Sophisticated computers will check your car’s tank when you bring it back and – if it finds the tank a touch under full – the company will give you nothing back.

This is called full-full and it’s something our rent-a-car hero cracks open:

“This happened, all the time. Many airports have petrol stations, but they’re not open 24hr and gave many clients a nasty surprise. Others put fuel in the tank 30km away, and because the computer said the tank wasn’t full, then sorry.”

Extras are not on the house

Few parents would bring their carseats along on holiday when renting a car.

Low-cost rental companies know this and exploit it.

According to our insider, raised carseats would set you back €99 for a week.

“You’d see a dad walk up with two kids and be asked to fork out €200 for two bits of plastic, without any kind of Isofix. It would honestly cost these people less to buy a carseat at a local shop and come back to pick up your kids.”

Prepare to be lied to about discounts, stains and scratches

On many occasions our rental car insider came across better-informed victims.

These were people who knew about a 15% discount applicable to any insurance sold at the desk in Spain.

They bought the car for a low price online, ignored any kind of insurance, and entered the rent-a-car office demanding their 15%.

None of this stopped the company from winning.

“One day the boss turned up shouting (global numbers probably down) and said there would be no more 15% discounts on insurance. We had to lie that prices had gone up so the 15% discount yielded the previous full price.”

“The worst part (and all too common) was when a new colleague became the company’s biggest seller globally in just two months. In the third month, the claims came in that she had lied to customers the insurance was just a deposit that would be returned… and of course it never was.

“The boss called her in, and literally said ‘hey, just cool down a little’.” She was made full-time after six months.”

The insightful blog also detailed accounts of workers leaving each other notes like ‘nice stain on the upholstery’ that would hit a customer with a €30 penalty.

Comments on the viral post are full of victims claiming that ‘€50 fees’ online turned out to ‘€700 at the desk’.

Others claimed of receiving €150 penalties after dealers got down and under cars with a flashlight to find supposed scratches.

Moral of the story? If you go for the lowest prices you might just end up buying the highest.


Joshua Parfitt

Joshua James Parfitt is the Costa Blanca correspondent for the Olive Press. He holds a gold-standard NCTJ in multimedia journalism from the award-winning News Associates in Twickenham. His work has been published in the Sunday Times, Esquire, the Mail on Sunday, the Daily Mail, the Sun, the Sun on Sunday, the Mirror, among others. He has appeared on BBC Breakfast to discuss devastating flooding in Spain, as well as making appearances on BBC and LBC radio stations.

Contact me now: [email protected] or call +44 07960046259. Twitter: @jjparfitt

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