On a recent visit to Spain I did the usual search for the cheapest car rental from Malaga Airport. The car broker using the Cartrawler search technology came up with a great offer of a Volkswagen Golf or equivalent for €89 so I checked the terms and conditions of the search website which all seemed fine and completed the booking. I was clearly told that I could expect the following:
- The Best Price On Every Rental.
- Fully Inclusive Rates (Including Vat)
- No Hidden Extras
- Complimentary Breakdown Assistance
- Fully Comprehensive Insurance
- Staff Are Friendly
- You Won’t Get Saddled With Hidden Costs
- No Extra Charge For Paying By Credit Card
Now let me tell you the reality of my booking experience when we turned up at the desk of Goldcar at Malaga Airport to collect the car. The reception from Victoria Eugenia at the desk was “frosty” to say the least and she proceeded to run us through the rip-offs that we were about to be forced on us. Having arrived on the “red-eye” flight from Liverpool we were in no mood to argue with her as we just wanted to get our car and begin our holiday.
Rip-Off 1: Extra Insurance
We were first of all informed that we only had basic insurance cover & were handed a leaflet showing our minimum liability should any of the following events occur:
- Puncture (€50)
- New Tyre (€150)
- Broken Window (€ 55-490)
- Broken Windscreen (€225-850)
- Towing Service (€80-600)
- Wheel Rim (€55-320)
- Damage to Undercarriage (€600)
- Taxi Transfer After Accident (€15-25)
- Outside Mirrors (€190-430)
- Burned Clutch (€290-520)
- Engine Damage (€4,350-11,150)
- Battery Recharge (€50)
- Oil Sump Damage (€80-290)
- Catalytic Convertor (€505-1,750)
- Radiator (€155-300)
- Substitution car (€100)
- Loss of Keys (€150)
- Repair Period (€30 a day)
At the time I scanned the list and commented that I would not be responsible if the clutch burns out as I’d only be driving about 80km to our destination. I was told in no uncertain terms that I would indeed be responsible which really left me with no alternative other than to agree to the additional insurance at €5.00 per day (€35.00 for the week).
Rip-Off 2: Extra Driver
Due to the general strike in France our original Ryanair flight had been cancelled so we had to travel two days later and as such had to change our car rental dates. Our original booking had included an additional driver at no extra charge (with a different company). When we requested the additional driver with Goldcar we charged an extra €17.50 for the week.
Rip-Off 3: Fuel Charges
We were informed that the car was full of petrol and that we were to bring it back empty. Now I know that this scam has been running for a number of years though I thought that many companies had now dropped it but not Goldcar. I would never have been able to use the full tank as I wasn’t on a driving holiday but simply using the car as transport for a return journey to our accommodation. To add insult to injury we were charged €82.00 to fill a Ford Focus Trend 1.6. With average petrol price of €1.18 per litre this car’s petrol tank capacity would have to have been approximately 70 litres. Having since researched this matter I’ve found that the actual capacity is 55 litres which means that we were ripped off on fuel alone by €17.70 (= 15 litres x €1.18 per litre). And that is quoting the airport petrol station´s retail price not the preferential rate available to car rental companies.
Rip-Off 4: Accounting
Finally I had to sign the rental agreement and handed over my UK credit card. I was told that the final price was £204.33. Notice that the final price is stated in Sterling rather than Euros. This final figure was arrived at by adding on €34.09 in VAT (which was supposed to be already included) arriving at a Euro total of €223.50 . Remember the rental started at €89.00!. This figure was then converted to Sterling at a rate of 0.914 which I assumed was Mastercard’s rate for the day. However, I’ve since been told by other clients that this rate is adjusted in their favour. Finally, an “Exchange Rate Mark-Up” of 2% was added to my bill and I was forced to sign an agreement stating:
“I accept the conversion rate & final amount & that the final selected transaction currency is GBP. I understand that Mastercard has a currency conversion process and that I have chosen not to use the Mastercard currency conversion process and I will have no recourse against Mastercard with respect to any matter related to the currency conversion or disclosure thereof”.
This is a story of daylight robbery and cannot be allowed to continue. On my return home I researched Goldcar on Google and found countless tales of people telling pretty much the same story. Some of these people refer to extra charges added to their credit card bills once they arrived home for completely made up claims by Goldcar so I will be watching my credit card statement closely over the coming weeks.
That just about completes my horror story of rip-off car rental by Goldcar except for one final point. By law in Spain it is compulsory to carry a set of triangles and a reflective jacket should you breakdown on the road. These were not supplied by Goldcar and we would have been responsible had the police stopped us during our stay.
Follow Up … I have since written to Goldcar and had no reply. No surprise there! Cartrawler (who provide the search technology) apologised for the incident and hope that it will “not affect my decision to use CarTrawler in future”. Although I have no complaint against Cartrawler I had to point out that I will not be using their technology again when searching for car rental because operators such as Goldcar can falsely provide low quotes that get their rates to the top of the search results then they proceed to rip-off unsuspecting holidaymakers on arrival. This makes a mockery of price comparison websites in this market.
The only solution is for major operators in the car rental search market such as Cartrawler to drop unscrupulous operators such as Goldcar from their network.