Car rental vacation

Car rental: extra costs are charged which are not always justified

Photo: nomadsoul / panthermedia / imago images

The car is dropped off, the vacation is over – and then comes a cheeky, completely inflated bill. This is often a bitter reality with rental cars. Rental companies claim that the paint has been repaired, for example, or that the tires have been damaged, that the tank has been refilled or that the interior has been specially cleaned. And that usually means: it gets really expensive.

Car rental prices are higher this year than they have been for a long time. On the balearic island of ibiza, for example, the prices for a rental car shot up by up to 235 percent compared to the year 2019. A rental car there costs on average just under 70 euros per day, in 2019 this value was around 20 euros, as the comparison portal check24 has determined. It is all the more annoying when extra costs are charged that are by no means always justified. SPIEGEL lists the typical tricks of car rental companies and gives tips on how to defend yourself.

the "old scratch" trick

Rental cars are often handed over in rather gloomy parking garages or underground garages. it is difficult to detect any previous damage to the car, such as scratches in the paintwork or small stone chips in the windshield. The problem: if these scratches are reported later after the return of the car, the renter may have to pay for them, even though he did not cause the damage. In principle, all previous damage should be noted on the handover protocol, which is handed out when the keys are handed over. If this is not the case, "the renter must insist that they are recorded," advises the ADAC. Otherwise it can be expensive.

"for damage that could actually be repaired inexpensively, the complete replacement of a vehicle part, for example a bumper, is sometimes charged," says thomas laske, lawyer and expert at the consumer center in hamburg VZHH. Car rental companies are not, however, obliged to repair scratches in the paintwork. "the same damage could therefore theoretically be charged to several customers," says laske.

Tip: take pictures of everything in, on and around the car with your smartphone when you pick up and return it, and document the condition of the vehicle as best as possible. Ideally, a second person who is not in the rental contract is present as a witness. Their statement and the pictures can then be the decisive trumps in the fight against the rip-off attempt.

The "fill it up" scam

For rental cars there are different fuel regulations. Experts advise a "full/full" arrangement: the car is picked up with a full tank and returned with a full tank. The advantage: only the fuel costs for the actual kilometers traveled are paid for. But if the tank is not full when you return the car, it will be expensive. Because rental companies that have to refuel the car themselves often charge a hefty flat rate. And this sometimes happens even though the car was returned with a full tank of gas.

Tip: keep the fuel receipts. Also, take a picture of the fuel gauge when you return the car. "this can sometimes avoid excessive flat-rate fuel charges," says the ADAC.

Tyour additional insurance

Car rental companies often work together with local agencies in vacation regions. these sometimes urge you to take out additional car insurances. However, the contracts are then only available in the local language or in English. Insecurity often leads to the conclusion of unnecessary and usually expensive additional insurance policies.

Tip: "to take out a fully comprehensive insurance via the common portals in advance with the online booking is basically sufficient. Additional insurance on site is usually not necessary," says VZHH expert Laske.

The off-road underride

There are terrains on which rental cars may not be driven according to the contract, for example in open terrain. This is how paint and stone chip damage is to be reduced. If the rental car is heavily soiled when it is returned and there are additional defects on the car, some rental companies charge for the violation of this prohibition.

Tip: check for previous damage when renting. If the car is very dirty before you return it, it’s better to drive through the car wash once. This is how unnecessary costs can be avoided later.

The sand trap

A trip to the beach is often part of a vacation. Sand in the interior cannot then be completely avoided. But even that can be expensive. Some rental companies charge a special cleaning fee for "excessive" soiling in such cases. "what is excessive and what is normal dirt, that is not defined. Landlords sometimes try to take advantage of this," says laske.

Tip: If the car is sandy, it is advisable to vacuum it out before handing it over. In addition, it is advisable to document the condition of the interior with a photo when you hand over the car. The pictures are evidence in case of doubt.

The second-credit-card provision

Often, when renting a convertible in spain, two credit cards have to be deposited at the same time, and both have to be made out to the vehicle renter. The card of another person is not accepted. If the renter does not have two credit cards, he will not receive the desired car. Instead, the booking of another vehicle with a significantly lower value is suggested – but the difference in cost is not necessarily reimbursed. "the renter then pays convertible price, but drives a closed vehicle," says laske.

Tip: check with the rental company in advance, especially in the case of expensive rental cars, whether two credit cards must be presented by the same person.

Five other things rental car customers should be aware of

Be sure to pay your parking ticket! Otherwise the landlord will charge the credit card with the fine plus his own processing fee.

accessories like child seats, roof racks and co. Be sure to book in advance. This can often be costly on site.

Return the rental car on time! For one thing, because a rental day consists of 24 hours. If the car is returned even a few minutes later, a whole day is usually charged additionally. In addition, extended insurance coverage ends on the agreed date. In case of an accident afterwards only the standard insurance is valid. The reduced deductible of the fully comprehensive insurance does not apply anymore. It can become expensive.

Always register a second driver! Unregistered drivers behind the wheel void insurance coverage. In the event of damage, all costs must be borne by the customer.

Book as early as possible and online. unlike last-minute package tours, you can never actually get a bargain when booking a rental car at the last second. Comparing different offers online is also much easier than on site.

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