Goldcar has come bottom of Which?’s annual car hire survey – with customers complaining about having their holidays ruined by pressure-selling, rude staff and shock charges.
The Spanish firm has been rooted to the bottom of the rankings for five of the last six years – with two in five (38%) car hire customers saying they would never consider using it.
While Goldcar’s headline prices – customers paid on average £13 a day – remain cheap, two in five (40%) customers reported experiencing a problem, most often relating to terrible customer service or spurious credit card charges.
One customer told Which? they “were charged (sometimes twice) for extras we hadn’t needed, wanted or agreed to”.
Hopes that things might improve after Goldcar was bought out by car hire giant Europcar have been dashed, as the firm’s overall score has gotten even worse – and stands at a dismal 39% in this year’s survey.
Europcar – which has offices in 140 countries around the world – claims the dubious distinction of owning the two budget brands at the bottom of the table – InterRent and Goldcar.
It’s also the worst performing of the major brands, with an average rating of three stars across most categories.
While most people had a reasonable experience with Europcar, we received a number of reports from customers claiming to have been overcharged for damage.
There is an ongoing Trading Standards investigation against Europcar in the UK for charging artificially inflated prices to repair minor chips and scrapes.
Some Europcar customers also told Which? they had experienced long queues and slow service. One customer had to wait three hours at the airport for a Europcar rental car to be delivered from the city. The customer said: “I’d booked and paid for the car six weeks in advance, but I received no excuses or apology – just a shrug”.
Last year a Which? Travel investigation also found that some car hire companies overcharged customers for damage by as much as 300%.
Meanwhile, in the Canary Islands, holidaymakers are spoilt for choice. Cicar (Canary Islands Car) came top in the rankings – dethroning local rival Auto Reisen, which had finished first for the last six years.
There’s little to choose between them. Both have offices in the Canary Islands’ main airports and resorts, and both offer an all-inclusive price with zero-excess insurance, no deposit, a free additional driver and a fair fuel policy. As one happy Cicar customer put it, “the price you see is the price you pay. It includes everything”.
No surprise then that both received the full five stars for value for money. Cicar just nudged ahead with its option to pay in cash (Auto Reisen accepts debit and credit cards only), and its free audio guide and map of the area.
Of the larger car hire firms, Enterprise and sister firm Alamo are rated highly by car hire customers.
At an average of £32 per day, Enterprise may not be the cheapest, but as one customer pointed out, they offer a “very reliable experience – speedy, efficient and friendly”.
Rory Boland, Which? Travel Editor said: “One wrong turn at airport arrivals could easily make or break your holiday. In an industry dogged by unscrupulous practices and interminable add-ons, making the right choice is paramount, so it is good that customers can rely on companies like Cicar and Enterprise to deliver a quality service.
“Our advice is don’t fall for headline prices, vet your car hire firm and whatever you do, avoid Goldcar – it could end up not being a bargain at all and leave you wishing you’d stayed at home.”