Car hire rip-off, don’t get your pants pulled down abroad

Have you ever heard the expression ‘buy cheap, buy twice’? Well, when it comes to car hire rip-off, this couldn’t be more accurate.

There are the usual car hire rip-off tactics; charging you for your fuel before you take the car and then refunding you a fraction of the cost when you bring it back full, or virtually nothing if you’ve used a drop of juice;  Or charging you for one car, but sending you off in one with an engine half the size; Or even charging you the cost of a week’s hire to add children’s seats (which is just disgusting when you can buy one for the same cost). However the worst must be the ‘excess waiver’.

The excess waiver it’s one of the charges most often exploited by rental companies.

What we’d call ‘car insurance’ is often referred to as a ‘collision damage waiver’ when hiring a car, and this is usually included in the price.  So, when you’ve booked the car online and per-paid for all of your insurance, getting whacked at the airport for more cash isn’t pleasant.

How it works is that you arrive at the airport (or wherever you pick the car up from) and are told that your car hire comes with an excess of about £1,000 that is ‘pre-authorised’ on your credit card at the check-in desk. Damage the car and you’ll lose part or all of this.

However, here’s the sting.  Even though the companies allow you to book using your Visa Debit card, some of them don’t accept these cards when taking the prepaid excess waiver.  So, if you don’t have a ‘Credit Card’ you’re stuffed.

In the event of not having a Credit Card, they kindly request (order you) to buy an excess waiver. But the price of this often exceeds the price of hiring the car and paying for the insurance for a week in the first place.  For example, our car hire with GoldCar came in at around £200, but we were told we had to pay an excess waiver of £216 for a week as we didn’t have a credit card.

This was not mentioned on their website when booking, only that credit cards were only accepted.  One assumes since they let you pay using your Visa Debit at this end, that method is accepted, as is typical in the 21st Century. The excess waiver is rarely quoted by the major companies when you first make your booking. 

When we discovered this rip-off with GoldCar in Sardinia it amounted to pure extortion as they would not give us a refund for the booking or work to find any other solutions.

We offered to withdraw the £1000 in cash and they could return it to us when we returned the car – this was rejected.

We offered to have the payment taken over the phone using a credit card back in the UK – this was rejected.

We asked for our original booking payment to be refunded and we would take our custom elsewhere – this was rejected.

We then called ‘customer service’ where I was told that “hiring a car is a large responsibility and perhaps you aren’t responsible enough if you don’t have a credit card”, then the operative slammed down the phone. Bare in mind the office were not prepared to call customer services for me, no, I had to do this at the desk on my own mobile, with a large queue forming behind me.

After a considerable amount of time basically being held hostage by our lack of credit card we  were forced to pay the non-refundable excess waiver or lose the amount that we had already paid to hire the car take out insurance…  on a VISA debit card.

I must add, the awful customer service continued when we returned the vehicle and were left to our own devices for 30 minutes whilst we waited for someone to come and check the car over and realise our fuel charge back to us.  Although the fuel charge has not yet been returned and I must now engage in more chasing and barking.

So, my advice is stick to reputable car hire companies, check the small print, and find out if there is an ‘excess waiver’ charge before you book, otherwise you could find yourself paying double on arrival. Oh, and avoid GoldCar!


So, despite being told by Goldcar at Sardinia Cagliari airport that our fuel deposit/charge refund would be in our bank account be the end of the week, nothing ever showed up.  Two months later and we are still chasing a fuel deposit refund.

As such, we kept calling customer support who said we’ve been paid, but they can’t tell us when or for how much.

So, we contacted them via their customer support form with the following message:

“I still haven’t had the money back for fuel on the booking below.  A phone operator informed me that it has been paid but couldn’t tell me when.  Please let me know when this will be paid!” 

This is the response:

“Customer Services. Vicente.

Dear customer.

Thank you for your observations about your car hire experience with us.

Your opinion is important to us and is the key to our commitment to fulfil our customer’s             expectations.

We need the your IBAN and SWIFT, in order to refund the amount, because is not possible refund this amount in the your card.

We would like to thank you again for your time and your evaluation of our service.

We hope to see you again soon and remember, for any further information about your car hire, please visit our website

Kind regards

Customer services. Vicente.”


I’ll let you know if this refund ever materialises.  I’m not holding my breath.  My advice, stay well away from GoldCar – worst customer service ever, worst car hire experience ever, and a total rip-off.

© Copyright Mary and Angus Hogg licensed Creative Commons Licence.

2 Responses

  1. Joey

    Good advice.

    Another alternative if you don’t have a credit card is buying your excess waiver insurance at home before you travel for a fraction of what the car hire company will charge you. Be careful though: some companies will try and insist you need their insurance which is just a fallacy to get more money out of you.

  2. John Middleton

    We had a similar experience this year with Goldcar in Menorca (booked through, briefly, we turned up at there offices to collect our pre booked car and it soon became apparent that they weren’t going to release the car to us unless we purchased the “Collision damage waiver” I had already taken out a comprehensive insurance policy with a reputable company in the UK before we travelled as I do every year when we go to Menorca, and that covers me for any eventuality whilst driving a hire car abroad, which I presented to them and it was subsequently dismissed out of hand. What next, the only way to resolve this was to concede under protest, under the circumstances our choices were very limited, but before this I agreed for them to block 1400 euros on my credit card as a deposit for any damage to the car that wasn’t covered by the company’s basic insurance. (apparently)
    My credit card failed twice in there card reader, now we had a problem, they wouldn’t let my wife pay with her credit card as it had to be in the name of the person who hired the car initially, so I paid with my debit card(200 euros + transaction fees) on leaving there office I called my credit card provider in the UK and was told that nobody had tried to use the card since it was last used at home for the car hire! on returning the car at the end of our holiday I should have had 3/4 of a tank of fuel refunded to my card within 2 hours, here we are 6 weeks on and still no refund.
    P.S. are not interested and Goldcar have yet to respond, this experience has left us thoroughly disappointed and angry, and with seemingly no redress.

Leave a Reply