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Watch out for Spanish car hire sharks

Industry news

Holidaymakers to Spain are being told they cannot drive away a hire car they have booked unless they pay another €100 (R1068).

Families arriving at Spanish airports say they are being held to ransom by car hire company Goldcar.

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File photo of Madrid Barajas airport.

They allege that the firm is demanding customers picking up cars must pay an extra €100 for insurance or they won’t be allowed to drive away a vehicle.

Hard sales tactics at the car hire counter are not new.

Firms know families with young children and pensioners are easy targets when they arrive in hot countries after long, tiring journeys.

But this is the first time Money Mail has uncovered threats that travellers will be refused a car unless they pay extra.

Bob Atkinson, travel expert at holidays website Travelsupermarket.com, says: “It is concerning that an increasing number of Britons renting cars in holiday destinations are being force sold insurance at car pick up points.

“The forced sale at the rental desk of a product that is not compulsory is unacceptable.”

Goldcar is one of the cheaper car hire rental firms in Spain, and operates out of most of the country’s major airports. On its website the cost of hiring a Volkswagen Golf for a one-week holiday is typically R1330.

Travellers reserve the car for a set price on Goldcar’s website, and then pay when they pick it up.

They are told the price of the reservation includes VAT and local taxes, unlimited mileage, collision damage waiver insurance without excess, car passenger insurance and theft cover.

But despite this seemingly comprehensive cover, travellers - many who have endured long queues to collect their vehicle - are being told they cannot take the car unless they pay an extra ‘super insurance’ or have R13 300 held on their credit card.

Collision damage waiver insurance protects car hire drivers from paying for damage that happens to their vehicle. Often it comes with a sky-high excess, typically of more than R13 000, which drivers must pay before being able to make a claim.

However, car hire companies also offer extra optional insurance to cover this excess - often starting at around R200 a day.

Goldcar is telling drivers that they must either pay this insurance or have their credit card swiped so that the firm can see if the driver has the R31 300 it can take should they have an accident. Drivers who don’t have that kind of money spare on their card are told to pay for the extra insurance or they won’t be able to have a car - even if they have alternative insurance in place.

Firms have long been accused of scaring tired and weary families into paying for this cover.

The excess cover should be optional, and a number of independent insurance companies offer much cheaper policies, costing as little as R260, which drivers can book before they go on holiday.

Money Mail has received a flurry of letters from readers who complain they have been told they won’t get a car if they don’t pay the cover. In numerous cases, rental managers are refusing to look at a customer’s existing insurance policy, even if it specifically covers excess.

Travellers have told of heated rows at check-in desks.

Those who have managed to argue they don’t need to pay the insurance have had €1200 (R12 816) frozen on their credit card in case damage needs to be paid for.

Specialist insurers such as dailyexcess.com, insurance4car hire.com and icarhireinsurance.com offer much cheaper prices to drivers who want full protection. For example, insurance4carhire charges R665 for an annual policy.

A spokesman for Goldcar says: “Goldcar takes these claims very seriously and we are continuously looking for ways to improve the information provided to the customer.” -Daily Mail

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