How it works:
- Situation: rental car scams are not specific to Spain, but they have been going on for decades globally as they are so easy to execute (targets are generally tired after a long flight or rushing for a flight to the next destination).
- Version 1 (hidden fees): to some, it may be more of a marketing trick and not a scam technically. That said, we all know the intentions of a misleading ad. If a quoted price seems too good to be true, it probably is. There will be additional/hidden fees which will be charged once you are there, such as insurance, fuel admin fee, a fee if you have driven for fewer than 3 years or are older than a certain age, a fee for picking up at the airport, credit card charge, taxes, etc.
- Version 2 (bait and switch): upon reaching the shop, you are told that the car you booked initially is currently unavailable, and only the big cars are left. It is generally difficult to tell if this is or is not intentional, but you can expect costs to go up (fuel cost, admin cost, if forced to pay for the “upgrade”, larger deposit, etc).
- Version 3 (insurance): inflating excess charges and pressuring you to buy the company’s excess insurance even though you already have full insurance coverage. If you do not, you will have to fork up a large sum as deposit which leaves you vulnerable to scam #4.
- Version 4 (damages): forcing you to pay an exorbitant amount for small scratches/“damages” (e.g. windscreen chip) not caused by you, which could be a thousand dollars for something which only costs $30 to fix. Often, they will not be fixed anyway.
- Version 5 (fuel): charging an additional surcharge for using diesel, or charging an inflated premium for fuel if not returned with a full tank.
Places to beware:
What to do:
- Next, rent from a reputable shop or from an online agent/aggregator like AutoEurope (over 60 years of experience) which will help you in case you face any issues.
- Thoroughly inspect your vehicle before use and take photos and videos as evidence. Read the terms and conditions of the insurance contract carefully. Do not hand over your passport as collateral.