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05·AUG·2014

Search, Book, Pray

Everyman’s search for peace of mind in the mysterious world of Spanish car rental and in particular fuel policies. (With apologies to Elizabeth Gilbert, Author: Eat, Pray, Love). We have all seen those adverts: “£3 per day for Alicante Car Hire” (Or Mallorca Car Hire, depending what airport you have entered into the search engine) as we seek out the best Spanish car hire deal. Too good to be true? Well probably and a quick look at TripAdvisor will reveal that many people still take these adverts at face value hence cries of ‘rip-off’. Writing from personal experience this is probably how things generally pan out. You find the cheapest car hire deal that you can (and this is often via a broker) and make an online booking. If you have booked car hire before, you know you will have to pay a compulsory charge for fuel on arrival but usually have no idea how much. You just pray that it will not be too much. If you have not booked car hire before and do not receive, or do not notice, the advice about the obligatory full tank of fuel then the final invoice will come as a big (and doubtless, unpleasant) surprise. The price for the fuel will be higher than the cost of that same fuel at a standard petrol station. Just how much higher will vary enormously from company to company: Drivalia aims to be among the cheapest. The car rental company or more usually the broker (and the majority of companies do it) has quoted a rental rate far below cost price to attract attention using a Full to Empty policy i.e. pick-up the car full of fuel and return it empty. You are obliged to buy the fuel from the car rental company on arrival at a premium. It is not surprising then that accusations of dishonesty start to fly. One of the things that I like about Drivalia is the fact that, although they have to play this same game to compete, they very clearly state what you are paying for here on their website, What´s included in your car hire. There are (or should not be) any surprises when the Drivalia customer collects their rental. Problems sometimes arise when a Drivalia customer books through a car hire broker and that broker has not adequately spelt out what it is they are buying. The customer sees the headline price as low as £3 per day, or whatever it is, and are then shocked at the size of the premium they have to pay for the fuel on arrival. It is important to realise that the broker does not represent the car rental company and thus the car rental company, e.g. Drivalia, has no control over how the broker advertises their services. If the broker fails to give full information about what the price of the rental includes (or more importantly, doesn’t include) there is nothing that Drivalia can do about it (although they are constantly asking the brokers to provide complete information). Having said that, in fairness to the honest brokers, they are working with dozens or even hundreds of car hire companies worldwide and the terms and conditions do vary drastically from one to another: it cannot be easy to keep on top of them all. Now that doesn’t help the consumer of course. It is a frustration to the Drivalia team that the industry operates this way and they understand why a customer might feel ripped-off. With experience you and I realise that the real cost of renting out a £10,000 car could not possibly be £3, or even £9, per day but not everyone does. The fuel surcharge then includes both the cost of the fuel purchased (the rate for which of course is higher than a conventional petrol station can offer) and a contribution toward the real cost of hire, the so-called “refuelling fee”, “operational costs” or “administration fee”. In any price comparisons of car rental prices a potential customer must look beyond the headline rate to the total of rental rate plus the compulsory fuel charge. Now, as a general rule of thumb, if a Drivalia customer intends driving 300 kilometres or more, this total price, based on a Full to Empty fuel policy, will be very competitive (Fernando and the Drivalia team work hard to make sure it is!). However for a customer not expecting to cover such distances, Drivalia recommend the Full to Full fuel policy. The quoted rate, which is higher than a Full to Empty rate, reflects the true cost of the rental and the customer will only pay for the fuel used direct to a petrol station (assuming it is returned to Drivalia with a full tank). In spite of the problems it currently remains in the consumer’s best interest to have a Full to Empty fuel policy because it is here that the car rental companies compete. However what is not in their best interest is for the rental prices to be the only rates they see. It is for this reason that Drivalia publishes a table of expected fuel surcharges here on the website, What´s included in your car hire. All the time we consumers search online for “cheap car hire” that is what we will find. However, where we can, (Drivalia is one of the few companies to give an up-front guide to prices), we must remember to dig a little deeper to find the cost of that obligatory full tank of fuel in order to find the true cost of hire. Although we might then find the car hire is not as cheap as we first thought, it is better to find that out now than when we arrive to pick up the car. You will find further comment about Spanish car rental in our ‘Inside Car Hire’ mini-series. Shortly I will be digging deeper into insurance exclusions and the different top-up covers but in the meantime please do let me know what your thoughts are. Also is there another specific area regarding car hire you wish to know more about? Happy and Safe Driving! air max 95 boots nike air max 90 yellow womens air max 2010 wholesale air max air max 97 black