Reality Training’s Bob Morrell asks: Would it be so hard to have car hire prices which include everything you need?

Every year I hire three or four cars either in the UK or Europe. Like most of us, I go online, compare prices, and have a couple of preferred companies. I find a car at a price I like. I book it understanding I may get an ‘equivalent’ car.

Then when I arrive to pick up the car, we go into the insurance dance. This year, in Italy, it was one of the worst:

“The price you have offers only the most basic insurance.”

“Really? So am I covered if I kill someone, or have a major crash?”

“You are not covered for the entire car.”

“Really? Just the wheels then? So you’re allowing me to drive away without adequate cover?”

“If you want full cover it’s 253 Euros more.”

“Sorry? Did I hear that correctly? The car hire is 400 Euros, and you want another 253?”

Surely this disparity must come under some trades descriptions act rule somewhere? A lost-leader price of 400 – with the hope of 653 (plus a deposit) on pick -up? That’s a tall order for any salesperson.

‘It leaves a bad taste in the mouth’

I pay for an annual policy with Zurich Insurance, to cover excess charges, in the event of an accident or a problem, so I don’t need to buy additional insurance. This was also looked down on:

“You can’t be sure you’re fully covered.”

“Based on what? Your extensive knowledge of the car insurance marketplace?”

This propensity for upselling insurance on pick-up either needs to be dispensed with entirely, or staff need to be fully trained with some idea of a strategy beyond, ‘can we mug this person?’

It leaves customers with a bad taste in the mouth – as if we’re doing something criminal by not paying the extortionate insurance rate.

Also, I’ve had one flat tyre in Italy charged back to me months later – 200 euros! That’s some tyre for a Kia! And, when I definitely returned a car full of diesel, six months later I was charged for a tank of fuel on my card with no notice or contact. Another company has the agent circling your car on return, with a plastic device designed to measure new scratches…

These items and policies may well be labelled in the T&Cs in some form – but clearly, no-one reads them, so they just serve to make us dislike and feel ripped off by the car hire brand we’ve used.

Would it be so hard to have prices that include everything you need and avoid this embarrassing conversation? Do travel agents receive complaints about car hire brands they book with, who then try and upsell insurance to customers at pick-up? A more positive way of doing this is certainly possible. All car hire brands could do so much better if they just changed their model and trained their airport agents.