You don’t have to do much internet searching to find horror stories about ‘car hires gone wrong’. All over the Mediterranean – not just in Menorca – unwary holidaymakers can find themselves on the wrong side of the contract small print.
Here, then, are a few helpful suggestions if you are thinking of hiring a car to complement your Menorca villa holiday…
Try to book with a local car hire company. Google is your friend here – the local family-run firms are easy to spot because they don’t have the flashiest websites, they don’t offer ridiculously cheap deals and, if you contact them with some suitable questions, they will happily answer all of them.
What should you ask? Firstly, just where will your hire car be found? If they don’t say “In the airport car park just across the road from Arrivals” then start worrying. The companies to avoid all keep their cars at their compounds on a trading estate. OK, not far away, but the queue for the shuttle bus can be eye-wateringly long… a bus ride is just what you don’t want after a red-eye flight with fractious family members.
Ask also what their fuel policy is. Some less-than-reputable firms like to hand over your car with a full tank of fuel and tell you to bring it back empty. Generous? No, because they will charge you 100€ for the fuel – fuel which you are unlikely to burn through unless you plan to spend your week’s holiday at the wheel all day and every day. An honest car hire firm will either give you a car with a full tank and request you bring it back full or give you one that is half-full (or thereabouts) and ask you bring it back with the same amount of fuel on board.
Additional insurances are another scam. A dodgy firm (let’s give the chief offender a made-up name, shall we? Let’s say TinCar…) will, once it has bused you to its depot and has you at its mercy, demand that you agree to insurance waivers for this, that and the other thing. These are insurances that TinCar never mentioned when it quoted you that attractive low rental price, but which it is adamant you must now pay…
Again, a reputable local firm will quote you an all-in price including all insurances, so that you know from the outset what you will be paying. Typically that insurance will be fully comprehensive and without an excess, though the company will retain the right to charge you if you do something really daft, like lose the car keys, fill a petrol car up with diesel, or go charging around off-road and wreck the tyres…
Which brings us to TinCar’s favourite ruse, the “you scratched our car and we insist you pay us 1000€ to fix it” scam. People justifiably get very cross about this one – it’s very hard to prove whether a scratch was pre-existing or not, and sometimes innocent people get charged unfairly.
Why does TinCar insist on irritating its clients in this way, when common sense suggests that it must lose goodwill and custom as a result? It’s quite simple, really… to TinCar and its brethren the hire-car renter is largely irrelevant to their money-making processes. How so? Because where TinCar makes its real cash is by buying and selling motor cars.
Every season these companies go to hard-pushed motor manufacturers and offer to buy perhaps as many as 10,000 hatchbacks in one go. Needless to say, they negotiate a knock-down rate – some experts suggest they can get as much as 50% off the price by buying in bulk. Then, even before the vehicles have seen service as a rental car, they are forward-sold as ‘as-new, low-low-mileage’ secondhand cars to grateful motor dealers across Europe, with TinCar making a handsome profit on each and every one of them.
Sometimes the car will see only one rental cycle before being prepared and sent to its new owner. You see now why every little scratch has to be carefully taken care of? And why ripping off the renter is just the icing on the cake for the TinCar mob?
So to sum up, if you dislike the feeling of being ripped off and want to avoid it then don’t be dazzled by the lowest quote you see online. Ask lots of questions, try to buy local, and insist on a firm price which includes everything.
This is not meant as a Travel Menorca advertisement. Yes, we can put you in touch with a reliable, local Menorca car hire firm which we have vetted and which we know will look after our clients, but the purpose of this article is to warn people off the rip-off merchants. If a price looks to go to be true, then sadly it probably is.