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28·AUG·2015

Car Hire Insider - Damage Charges

People often think that car hire companies are "on the make" when it comes to damages and that they make a fortune for charging clients for non-existant scratches.  We have all heard the stories of dropping off a rental car in a multi-story car park, leaving the keys in a box and then later finding that their card has been charged for a damage that they were not even aware of.

Here at Drivalia we have always prided ourselves on giving the most honest and transparent car hire in Alicante and Mallorca airports.  Our website received continual praise for the level of clarity that it displays and remember that we were one of the first companies to offer a full full fuel policy in Alicante. This honesty is reflected right through to the car return process where we inspect the car with the customer present so that if there are any damages we can discuss them there and then with no nasty surprises.  We still sometimes find however that on occasions when damage must be charged for the clients can be upset by this and often they still don´t understand why they are being charged.

So, lets make some things very clear about the way car hire works, how we decide when to charge for a damage and above all why we must do so...

Most of our clients either elect to take our SCDW or book our Ultimate package which we believe is the most honest and transparent way to hire a car in Alicante.  Ultimate also includes full cover which means that both of these options eliminate all risk from their car hire in Alicante or Palma.

It´s worth pointing out that one of the biggest attractions to our Ultimate package is the fact that the pricing is realistic.  With this package we do not try to lure people in on unsustainably low rates.  We of course offer some of the most competitive rates in the area but a realistic all inclusive car hire price.

There are however some clients who really do want to hire a car at the lowest possible price and are happy to take responsibility for the car.  This is where we have to take a closer look at these particular tarifs and what happens regarding damages... and why!

Back in the good old days all car hire was a pretty reasonable price.  Let´s say that everyone (for example) paid 250 euros a week to rent their car.  Obviously at this price car hire companies were not too concerned if the cars came back with a few minor scuffs and scrapes - afterall it´s part of driving (especially in Spain!).  Over the last few years however the prices of car hire have been driven down...and down... and down.  This is due to a number of things including the growth of the internet and consumer trends to base their decision making often on price alone.  When we say "car hire prices have been driven down" we really mean it - it´s not uncommon for customers to book a low cost car for just a few euros a week during the off peak times because all car hire companies have to compete for clients and of course the big multi-national companies who are making millions worldwide can afford to make a few losses at some sites, particularly in Spain. Obviously the rest of us have to compete to stay in business.

Anyway, I digress! If you look at Drivalia as an example we are really proud of a number of things that we believe make us different to a lot of the competition.  Examples are:

  • Our fleet of cars - we replace our cars much more frequently than most hire companies because we firmly believe that the quality of the car, comfort and of course reliability are all super important to make your holiday special.
  • Our people - we employ a great team of multi-lingual staff who are at your disposal to help you with every aspect of your car hire ... and of course in your language.
  • Speed - because we have what is arguably the highest staff to client ratio (this means we have more staff working at any one time in each role than most hire companies) you are delat with fast...super fast (at times in the main terminal customers can queue for hours to get their car but with Drivalia you are assured of a super speedy service whenever you come).

Now, remember the low prices we offer - just to stay in business.  One of the key things we have to achieve to maintain this is a high resale value of cars.  If we sell cars the buyers will discount the price for every piece of damage, however small.  Indeed if we lease cars the same applies when they are returned - we are fined..heavily for every single scratch (even tiny ones!).

So because we are renting the cars so cheap we simply cannot afford to carry the costs of damages like we would have done in the past.  Clearly when clients book our Ultimate rate there is a little more margin as it´s a fair and realistic rental price so we are willing to bear the cost of such damages.

You can see that we are left with little choice.  If a small scratch can knock hundreds of euros off the value we have to cover the cost of a professsional repair and that does not mean "t-cut" but a professional respray of the damaged panel. This means that not only do we have to cover that cost but the cost and time in facilitating the repair and of course the time that the car cannot be rented out because it is being fixed.

Of course, for minor scratches we don´t always repair the car imediately.  If the damage is serious, "ugly" or could affect the safety of the car then we immediately repair the car but obviously if there are minor scratches it makes more sense to have them repaired all at once before we sell the car or when the car is going in for another repair.

So hopefully from this article so far you can understand why we have to charge when damages occur - it´s not because we want to but at the prices that have become expected for car rental we simply cannot carry those costs ourselves.

I say again that clients who book our Ultimate All Inclusive car hire at Alicante or Palma airports are never charged for any damages and for clients who book another package our SCDW cover which is available at reception is another great way to remove all risk.

So we understand and most customers agree that if the cost is low they do have to pay for anything that happens but just how can you be sure that car hire companies are being fair when it comes to damages and who is responsible?

As I said at the start of this blog post, many car hire companies operate a drop-box facility which may appear convenient but it´s really hard to know what happens to the car after you have left your key.  At Drivalia when you collect your car you are given a comprehensive list of the condition of the car.  We list even the smallest of scratches so you can feel confident that you are not going to be charged for something you didn´t do. Oh, and it´s worth pointing out that the list of damages is in your language!

You will find that the Drivalia offices are well-lit with flood lights meaning that even if you collect your car at night you can easily inspect the car so that you are confident that the condition of the car matches the condition stated on the contract.  Of course, in the very unusual event that you find anything on the car that does not appear on the list then we are not like some companies where your car is a 15 minute walk from the office, our car park is literally outside the door so you are welcome to tell us and we will check the car with you and make sure that we all agree on the condition of the car.

With our multi-stage damage verification system, accountable staff and of course your own opportunuty to satisfy yourself of the condition of the car before you leave we are confident that even for customers who choose the lower priced rentals we still operate the fairest and most transparent car hire in Alicante airport and Palma Airport.

To sum up, car hire companies simply cannot afford these days to pay for all damages when cars are being rented at the unsustainable prices that the market demands.  If you book an all-inclusive car hire from Drivalia you really do have nothing to worry about but even if you don´t you can rest assured that we go that extra mile to ensure that customers are only ever charged when the damage has occured during their rental period. We hate charging for damages but if we have to then I hope that this article gives you a little better understanding of why.

Finally, unlike most car hire companies in Spain we even go as far as listing on our website the cost of any damages so you can make a really informed and educated decision on which car hire package suits you the best.

Our honest and transparent pricing, all inclusive car hire options and full to full fuel policy are the very foundations that have made us such a success and we want to thank all of our customers both old and new for their continued support and for the trust that they place in us with their car hire needs.