Car Rental Rip-Off

I'm just back from a short break in Spain and had an interesting experience with a car rental company that I'd like to share with you. It could save you a couple of bob on your holiday while giving me the chance to vent a little frustration at the same time.
There's a small town on the Costa Blanca named Rojales that I like to visit whenever the family trip to the sun falls due. It's a short forty minute drive from Murcia airport but visits to the beach and local towns mean that a rental car for the duration of the holiday is a must.
Normally, we book our car hire with international operator but this year a search on Argus Car Hire seemed to offer better value so we confirmed a booking at €131.97 for a Fiesta size car - all in.
What I didn't notice at the time was the dodgy 'Fuel Policy' buried in the terms and conditions.

Centauro Car Hire at Murcia
Centauro Car Hire - Fuel Policy is a Rip Off

Fuel Policy
Pick up full, return empty.
Fuel charges are payable at the rental counter.
Your vehicle will be supplied with a full tank of fuel and must be returned empty. No refunds will be given for unused fuel.

Now is it just me or is it more or less impossible to return the car empty? I suppose I could have tried to drive more on my holiday.  Instead of going to the beach perhaps I should have persuaded the family to spend a day enjoying the view from a local motorway? Such was my frustration at returning the car half full that I was actually tempted to produce a hose and siphon the tank at the drop off point!

Sneaky Charge

It wasn't really the amount involved. All told - Spanish operator Centauro got an extra 30 Euro or so from me but being forced to pay for something I couldn't use struck me as a 'bit Irish'. I'd wager that Centauro (and any other company with similar conditions) enjoy significant profits on their fuel charges.
Argos Car HireI've written to Argos and asked if this is a policy they condone or simply a devious method used by some of their rental partners to make their initial rental rate appear more competitive than it is. They do after all claim on their website that they offer a service with 'no hidden charges'.
Nonetheless - next time I'll be renting from a company with a reasonable fuel policy. In my opinion "Pick up full, Return full" is the fairest for all concerned. It gives the customer a chance to pay for what they use whilst the rental company has the right to levy a pre-agreed surcharge for any refuelling it needs to do later.
Either way it pays to read the small print.

Richard Cleary - June 13, 2011 at 6:57 pm
Re car rental Rip Off. I had a very similar situation in Alicante Airport recently when I was charged €111 for a full tank of diesel in a Berlingo and then expected to bring it back empty. There is no way you are going to bring the vehicle back running on fumes so they make a profit on the fuel left in each car. I complained at the counter about the cost of the fuel when I returned the car but he just smiled and said that is what the boss told them to charge. I emailed the company I had booked it through {Carhire 3000} when I returned home and they came back to me to say that I had been charged €15 diesel surcharge which I should not have been. They then had the renta lcompany{ Gold Car} return it to me. You really do need to check the terms & conditions
Shane Teskey - June 21, 2011 at 8:25 am
Hi Richard, Thanks for your comment. From other comments I'm hearing this is a fairly common fuel policy that catches a lot of people out. I'm glad you were refunded the surcharge. When I emailed Argos about my experience I got the following :(; Thank you very much for your correspondence in relation to the fuel policy applied by Centauro. I would like to summarise the CarTrawler position in relation to the fuel policies applied by the various Car Rental agents across our supply network. The fuel policy is a charge that sits outside the price of your vehicle rental. The policy and its value is set by Centauro and not CarTrawler. We advise the fuel policy in the rental conditions which must be read and agreed to before the booking can be confirmed. We really appreciate your feedback and we are anxious to retain you as a satisfied customer. Our reservations department would be happy to assist you with future bookings to ensure that the details of the booking are suitable to your needs. Alternately, you can find details of the fuel policy in the Rate Details when selecting a car on the website as we also deal with rental agents who operate a pick up full, return full fuel policy. We understand that the pick up full, return empty fuel policy is not suitable for all customers however CarTrawler have no control over the policy applied by the rental agents. I would like to thank you for using our service and I hope it will not deter you from using CarTrawler in the future. Kindest Regards, Louise Benson Customer Service
derek - June 30, 2011 at 6:29 pm
"No Hidden charges" thats a laugh, june 2011, got to alicante airport and was charged a ridiculous charge for fuel, even though i knew i had to pay it, full return empty. What i was not aware of was that they also charged me 22euros tax on the fuel and also charged me for returning their car to the public car park at the airport. Complained to Car Trawler who were not interested, just continue to use the companies who rob you blind. DO NOT USE AUTO ESPANA ,CAR TRAWLER and especially DRIVALIA. Use reputable companies from now on.
Esscee - September 01, 2011 at 10:47 pm
Re Fuel Policy Car rental Spain.Unfortunately there appears to be price cartel with "most" of the car rental companies. I rented a car in May this year, read the T&C and accepted that there would be a charge for a full tank (I had no other option) What I didn`t expect was a fuel charge of 100 euros for an economy car!! it wasn`t a high spec BMW. As I only travel less that 200km in a week it meant that the car rental made a profit by doing nothing of about 85 euros on fuel charges. Total Rip Off. Unless you plan to drive about 500km then unfortunately you caught by the short and curlies and conveniently, the staff at the car rental counters forget their English You get what you pay for, but as far as car rental in Spain Cr*p EssCee