Car hire firms that sting motorists with hidden charges are exploiting Keith Beasant, 79, and his wife Beryl, 72, from Uxbridge, North-West London, discovered they would have to pay more than double the cost of regular car hire for a ten-day holiday in Majorca this autumn because of Keith’s age.
them with an extra trick – targeting them for being old.
Holidaymakers are vulnerable to rip-offs when picking up keys to a car in a foreign country after a long and tiring flight. The most common extra charge slapped on at the desk is for insurance to cover the excess if you are involved in an accident.
But the ageist rule – where hire firms charge extra for experienced motorists aged 70 or over – is criticised by groups representing the elderly for squeezing more money from vulnerable customers
Keith Beasant, 79, and his wife Beryl, 72, from Uxbridge, North-West London, discovered they would have to pay more than double the cost of regular car hire for a ten-day holiday in Majorca this autumn because of Keith’s age.
The retired car mechanic started his search prudently, visiting online comparison sites for quotes. But when he put in his age he found that the best deal he could get was £400 – and many hire firms did not want to offer him a car at all
Eventually, he discovered internet-based broker Economy Car Hire, which was prepared to offer him a small car for £189.
Keith says: ‘As a motorist with 51 years of driving experience – and only one claim made following an accident that was someone else’s fault 25 years ago – I was insulted.’
Among the car hire firms that penalise older drivers are Avis, which demands €6 (£4) a day extra from drivers aged 70 or older and Spanish-based RecordGo, which charges an astonishing €58 extra a day – up to a maximum of €192
Firms such as Thrifty, Sixt, Budget, Enterprise and Europcar either ban drivers aged 70 and over in some countries, or demand a hefty fee. They say frailty can be an issue with older drivers and that means they are more likely to be injured if there is an accident.
However, the Department for Transport says there is no evidence that older drivers are more likely to cause an accident.
Certain comparison websites do not look for car hire deals for those aged over 70 – instructing them to seek out ‘specialist’ hire firms instead. Rory Sexton, managing director of Economy Car Hire, which Keith used to organise his vehicle, says experienced drivers should not be penalised. He says: ‘If you have a driving licence then you are fit to drive
Top ten ploys used by rental firms that drive us to distraction
COVER AGAINST THE INSURANCE EXCESS
At the rental desk there is often a hard sell to persuade you to cover yourself against paying the insurance excess, which can run into thousands of pounds if you have an accident. But you are likely to find better value from an independent insurer through a broker or comparison website.
FULL TANK OF PETROL
If you pay for a full tank of fuel when picking up a car you could be charged as much as double what it costs at the pumps. Also you will only make full use of this if you drop off the vehicle with an empty tank, which most of us find hard to do.
SCRATCHES AND SCUFFS
Take a good look at the car when you pick it up, ensuring any marks are recorded on the hire documents – even if the hire firm appears unconcerned about them. If an office is closed when you return a vehicle take lots of dated photos in case of a dispute later on.
Firms may charge drivers aged 70 or over extra – or not allow them to rent at all. Likewise they may slap on a surcharge for those aged 24 or under and usually hire only to those aged over 21. Brokers can help get an affordable deal.
Muddy boots and sand from the beach are signs of an active holiday. But a car rental company can charge as much as £100 to have it valeted. A brief clear out of major clutter should pre-empt arguments.
CHILD CAR SEAT
The cost of hiring a car seat or booster chair from the car hire firm can boost your bill by £10 a day. Save money by bringing your own. Some airlines let you take seats but check restrictions first.
Arguments over wrong turns can be solved with a satnav, but hire firms charge up to £10 a day for them. Bring your own or use your smartphone, watching out for roaming charges when using it abroad. The trick is to download maps in advance. You do not have to pay for the position-finding function on phones. Or simply buy an old-fashioned paper map.
EXTRA DRIVER FEE
If you want to share the burden of driving do not forget to put your partner’s details into the search engine when seeking the best deal. Having an extra driver on the policy can add £50 to the cost but charges vary between providers.
BREAKING THE SPEED LIMIT
If you break the speed limit or park illegally you will not only be slapped with a traffic penalty, but may face a £50 administration fee from the hire firm, which it claims is the cost of passing your details on to the authorities.
PAYING TOO MUCH
Booking rentals well in advance can slash the cost of hiring. Often there is no cancellation fee. Comparison websites can help you find good deals.
Read more: Thisismoney.co.uk