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28·AUG·2013

Inside Car Hire – Part 3

This is the third of our mini-series of blogs about the car rental industry prompted by a thread on TripAdvisor about car hire at Alicante Airport. Last time I looked at the issue of top-up insurance and in this blog piece I shall find out more about fuel policies. Personally I really dislike the full/empty fuel policy operated by most car hire companies. First of all you have no idea how much the full tank of fuel is going to cost before you arrive; and secondly, since you want to give back the vehicle with the least amount of fuel possible (well they do say ‘empty’), you are left on tenterhooks hoping you can get back to the depot on fumes. I asked Martin Drivalia’s Operations Manager for his take on car rental fuel policies. This business of hiring a car full and returning it empty is a scam isn’t it? No it is not a scam but admittedly it has the potential to be used unfairly by companies not as transparent as Drivalia. We have a fuel cost guideline published on our website, but I think we are one of a very few to do so! It’s quite simple, we and most other car hire companies, offer this option because it is the best way to give customers the cheapest rental rate; and, providing a customer is expecting to use over 1/2 of a tank of fuel, then it is indeed good value for money. Car rental companies will then make their money by charging a premium on the cost of a full tank of fuel: our premium is reasonable; other’s might be less so. Currently we charge a 15 Euro administration and refuelling fee with the total cost of a full tank ranging between 55 and 119 Euro, depending on the vehicle group. Put it another way: we discount our rental rate and in return we make a profit on the fuel, instead of an independent petrol station making this profit. We realise though that not everyone is looking for the cheapest rental rate or simply doesn’t wish to return the car empty. What’s more they might not be expecting to cover a lot of miles, so therefore, we were the first car rental company to offer a full/full policy upgrade on a pre-booked full/empty fuel policy rate: collect a car with a full tank of fuel and return it full. Can anyone opt for your full/full policy? At Drivalia the answer is yes. All of our customers, no matter how they have reserved with us (i.e. directly or through a broker) have the possibility to change from full/empty to full/full. Please note that a charge will apply (currently between 17 and 55 Euro, depending on vehicle group and rental duration). For more info on our fuel prices please see our “What’s included” page. But wait a minute! Why do I need to pay you between 17 and 55 Euro more just because I am taking the car full of fuel? Quite simply to replace the profit we would have made had we provided you with the fuel. Car rental companies cannot make a profit on the low rental rates that they charge: they can only make money on the extras. The rental rates here in Spain are the lowest in the whole of Europe: for what you would pay for one day in say UK, Germany or any Scandinavian country you can hire a car for a whole week here. And yet the cost, to the rental companies, of purchasing the vehicles is no cheaper. And we even offer 0€ excess! OK, so if I book a car with you via your website and opt for the full/full policy do I have to pay you anything for fuel or pay any extra charges? No, when you collect the car you don’t prepay Drivalia anything for fuel. The vehicle will be given full of fuel and if it is returned full no charges will apply. If, for whatever reason, you can’t re-fuel the vehicle before returning it to us, we will then charge you only for the missing amount. Also, the full/full rate includes a small profit margin for us, which means there are no extras to pay. If you have any questions about car rental in Alicante please leave a comment below or visit the Drivalia Facebook page. Martin’s tip Choose the fuel policy that suits your requirements. If you are looking for a cheaper rental rate and intend driving 300 kilometres or more then the ‘full to empty’ policy may be a very interesting option, even if a ¼ tank is left remaining in the vehicle. But make sure you get at least an idea of the cost of a full tank of fuel before you start queuing at the airport. If you do not expect to travel far and/or you just prefer not to pre-pay for fuel then the ‘full to full’ policy will suit you better. If your car rental company does not offer that option then of course you might want to find one that does. You know where we are! The Drivalia team believes passionately in providing customers with fair and transparent pricing. Please see “What’s Included” in the cost of my car rental fee.