If you're thinking of hiring a car on your holiday to Spain, you may want to think again as a Which? Travel investigation has found that hidden fuel charges have caused car rental prices to triple in the country.
Firms appear cheap when customers are quoted in the UK, but increase up to three-fold when the keys are picked up and a large fee for a full tank of fuel is added.
Traditionally, travellers booking car hire are expected to return the vehicle with the same amount of fuel as when it was picked up - most often 'out full, back full' or sometimes 'out empty, back empty' - but growing competition between car rental companies has led to firms in Spain employing an 'out full, back empty' rule. This means that customers are paying for petrol or diesel that they don't use and are not refunded the difference.
The cheapest car hire price upon booking in Malaga, including basic insurance, was with Goldstar for 30.25 euros, but when fuel costs were added the price rose to 94.25 euros.
Which? Travel researchers found that in Alicante a car rented from Holiday Autos for 28 euros rose to 144.77 euros when the fuel cost was added, with enhanced insurance included in that price.
Rochelle Turner, an expert at Which? Travel said: 'Our research has shown that these unavoidable fuel charges can triple the price of a rental, turning what seemed like a good deal to potentially a very expensive one.
'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.'
According to the Independent, UK car-rental broker Holiday Autos tells customers: 'At the booking stage of the online process, there is a sub-heading of "important information". Under this section you can locate the fuel conditions for the specific car-rental partner that will provide your car.'
One Which? Travel reader said that he drove 50km with the gauge on empty because he was so determined not to give any fuel back to the car hire company.
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