We’ll call him Andy to protect his identity.
Andy recently left the car rental business, even though he was one of the leading members of the sales team, because, he says, the stress of having to meet sales targets and the way customers are ripped off just became too much.
He hopes that giving his special insight will stop people falling prey to the car rental sharks.
Andy says that by just knowing some basic things and by adopting a trick or two themselves, customers can throw a spanner in the works of the sales team’s tactics.
“The first thing to understand,” says Andy, “is that however nice the person on the front desk seems, they only see you as a sale.
“They are under massive pressure to keep the sales rolling in and they will barely be able to survive on their £15k salary. The best sales people will be aiming to make an extra £4k to £5k in commission.
“The company I worked for had outside consultants hired to help the team make sales and they tell you exactly what to say and how to put the sales pressure on.
“They talk about the ‘Wheel’, which is the whole journey from when the customer arrives at the desk to the point where you make a sale. You know what to say at each point of the wheel.”
Here’s how they do it …
There are two main ways they aim to get you to fork out:
Insurance waiver cover
Car rental companies love it when we sign up for this, simply because it’s so outrageously expensive.
If you don’t pay up for this (and the rental companies won’t call it insurance, as they aren’t licensed to sell insurance), you’ll have anything from £500 to £1,000 debited from your debit or credit card if you return the car with any damage.
The company will then repay what’s left after repairs have been carried out.
And the costs of repairs are often huge, in his experience, says Andy. “We’d perhaps charge £200 or £250 for a flat tyre that could be sorted for £80 to £100.
“All this scares people and that’s the idea – who wants to see their card debited by £1,000 and then have to wait and see how much they’ll get back?
“And if you’ve got off a long-haul flight or perhaps your English isn’t perfect, that will all count against you as you listen to the spiel.”
Don’t fall for any of it.
Andy says car hire companies would massively overcharge for flat tyre repairs
“We’d say you get peace of mind for just another £20 a day,” Andy added. “What wasn’t mentioned is that this figure is minus airport tax and minus VAT.
“Besides this, it’s a huge extra charge for a service you can get for a fraction of the price.”
Think you won’t get talked into it? Andy reveals that some 30% of unwitting customers do fall for the sales-pitch.
“They’re all under a lot of pressure to sell this because the brokers who sell a year’s cover for this kind of excess for about £40 have sprung up all over the place.
“The rental company will ask if you really want the hassle of having to claim through separate cover, and maybe they’ll even say they don’t accept this kind of cover. It’s all rubbish.”
So, the advice is simple: buy annual cover to protect yourself from having to pay out under any car rental company’s excess offering.
The key, says Andy, is to get one that has a simple and fast process for paying out.
He says AXA is good, but there are others and the easiest way of finding the best is to search for reviews.
And, even if you have cover, triple check the car and take photos of all damage, even if you’re told it “doesn’t matter”.
Andy says he has had loads of success with upgrading customers to ‘better’ cars.
“They’ll say they have a special deal and that for just a little more, you can have a much better car.
“This is almost always a scam. And I have personally signed customers up for as much as £250 a day extra in the past.”
Often, says Andy, the fact is that at busy rental sites, they may well not have an available car in the category you booked.
“So they’ll try and upgrade you. But, if you hold your ground, they will have to upgrade you anyway – for free.”
Recently we highlighted how one Hertz customer, Billy Hinken, was hit by a 30 euro forced upgrade when hiring a car in Rhodes.
Andy says he’s heard of cases where a customer will have booked a car in a class, only to be ‘upgraded’ on a special deal to, say, a Golf, which is in the SAME class.
He advises the best way to stop this con dead in it’s tracks is to ask the sales person: “Could you show me what car you have for me today, please?”
“Then take a walk outside and check out the car park. If it’s looking a bit empty and they don’t seem to have a car in the category you booked, then just hang on in there and wait for the upgrade offer, turn it down and they’ll have to upgrade you anyway.”
One thing Andy warns, though: “Do your homework on vehicle size. If you don’t, they’ll sting you on this. If you book a car that is not designed to carry your number of passengers and bags, you will be at their mercy and you’ll have to upgrade – at a price!”
A Spokesman Said is here to help you fight back against companies trying to rip you off. There’s plenty more tips on avoiding car hire cons in our guide and we’ve also higlighted some of the scams you should be aware of.
To make sure you’re not getting turned over on your regular car insurance, use our comparison service to find a better deal. It could save you £100s.