Consumer tips on car hire in Europe

Car rental

Car travel may be a convenient way to get around on your holiday or a business trip in the EU. If you rented a car for your holidays, rights and duties arise from the car rental contract. Not always everything goes according to plan when collecting, using or returning the car.

Car rental in another country

Before you rent a car, compare the offers of different car rental companies. Some may offer a better price with a discount if you book early. However, don’t just look for the cheapest offer, but also compare the services included in the price, such as insurance, unlimited mileage, the possibility of adding an extra driver or child seats, and find out more about the provider, for example from online reviews.

Please note that you do not have a legal right of withdrawal within the cooling off period when booking a car rental online. Whether you can cancel your booking free of charge depends on the terms and conditions of the rental company.

Car rental contract – Beware of additional fees!

Even if the car has been booked online, the rental contract itself is usually concluded on the spot and the content may not be identical to that of the online booking. Some car rental companies insist on additional insurance and various fees, otherwise the car will not be handed over to you. If you want the vehicle, you are forced to accept them them. The contract is often concluded exclusively in the language of the country in which you are renting the vehicle, and some unfair companies will include additional products/services in the contract without telling you. Therefore, do not rely on the content of the booking and before signing check the content of the rental contract, for example by using an online photo translator.

Car rental in Spain

If a car rental company insist on a fee above the scope of your booking, ask for a complaint form “hoja de reclamaciones”. This official form must be provided to you on request. You can submit your complaint to the Transport Arbitration Commission in Spain (Junta Arbitral de Transporte), which deals with complaints in car rental sector.

The infamous car rental company GOLD CAR based in Spain has been several times hit with fines from  Italian Competition Authority AGCM for aggressive and misleading commercial practices. Despite these fines, ECC-Net still receive complaints from consumers who have been forced to accept additional insurance over and above the booking. However, GOLDCAR is not the only low-cost provider with questionable practices.

What insurance is recommended for a rental car?

We recommend comprehensive insurance with no deductible is recommended. In order not to be unnecessarily double-insured, please check that you do not have such insurance with your credit card or check the scope of insurance according to your online booking before taking delivery of the vehicle.

Credit card as a deposit for car rental

Most car rental companies will require from you a credit card as a deposit to cover any damage to the vehicle. For this purpose A portion of the funds is usually blocked on the credit card. If a credit card with sufficient credit cannot be presented, which is often the case with debit credit cards, they may refuse to hand over the vehicle to you.

Collection and return of the rental car

When taking over the vehicle, be prepared to present your driving license, ID card and credit card. Insist on the listing of any defects/damages in the acceptance report and keep a copy of it. Take a photo of the actual condition of the vehicle. Again when you return the vehicle, make sure that the car rental company confirms in writing that no new damage has occurred to the rental vehicle.

Fuel policy

When booking a vehicle, check the fuel policy, when you receive a vehicle with a full fuel tank, you must return the vehicle with a full tank.

What to do if the vehicle is stolen?

If the rental vehicle is stolen, you must report it to the police immediately and return the keys and documents of the vehicle to the car rental company. Follow the instructions in the general rental conditions to avoid liability for damage.

What if you have an accident with rental car?

Follow the terms and conditions of the insurance policy. These include, for example, the obligation to call the police and fill in an accident report. Otherwise, you risk having to pay yourself for the damage, despite having insurance. In addition, you must contact the rental company immediately after the accident.

Parking fines

You are responsible for committing traffic offences. In addition, most car rental companies charge a handling fee for providing the renter’s details to the relevant authorities.

Get free help

If you have questions about your consumer rights regarding car rental abroad, or if you want to make a complaint about a foreign car hire provider based in the EU, including Iceland, Norway or the UK, you can contact us.

Your essential checklist when hiring a car

  • Check what is included in the price quote: pay special attention to airport and other local charges and the insurance coverage.
  • Always check the cost of any extrasyou will need during your rental.
  • Check the fuel policy.
  • Check the cancellation policy.
  • Check for any restrictions (e.g. on the allowed mileage or the countries where you may travel).