It’s a sad fact that wherever there is money to be made by providing a legitimate service, there is a crook who is willing to defraud people by taking money without providing a decent service.
Car hire is a case in point: bogus car hire companies have often caught out travellers during the festive season, with their offers of very low prices and nationwide availability right up to Christmas Day. Customers have handed over deposits of hundreds of pounds for cars that never materialise, and the car rental industry’s trade body, the British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Asssociation (BVRLA) is warning that similar scams could be running this year.
“These companies offer unbeatable prices and free delivery – but they really are too good to be true,” says BVRLA chief executive, Gerry Keaney. “Unfortunately it is very easy for Christmas conmen to build a simple website and set up a call centre to pass themselves off as legitimate businesses.”
The BVRLA has the following top tips for safe and hassle-free car rental all year round:
1. Only use a BVRLA member. Seeing our logo on the front desk or website is a sign that you are dealing with a reputable company that has been vetted and operates to a professional code of conduct. You will also be able to use our free conciliation service in the event of any dispute.
2. Book in advance to get the best deals. The sooner you can make your reservation, the more likely it is you’ll be able to get a discounted rate.
3. Ensure you’re fully aware of the level of risk associated with your rental – you may have gone for the lowest price available, but be aware of any potential excess charges should the vehicle be damaged or stolen.
4. Never hand over cash. Most reputable rental companies will only want to accept credit or debit card payment.
5. If purchasing online, check you’re on a secure site when inputting your card details. Look out for a small padlock symbol in the address bar, and ensure the web address begins with https:// (the ‘s’ stands for secure).
6. Make sure the company is operating from bona fide commercial premises, not a PO Box or virtual office.
7. Ensure the company actually owns or operates the cars it is offering – all BVRLA members operate their own rental fleets.
8. Thoroughly check the car for damage before signing any paperwork, and ensure existing marks are noted down on the form.
9. At the end of the rental, make sure you hand the car and keys back to the company’s representative, and not the first person you see at the side of the kerb. Again, check damage with the representative, and keep your paperwork for future reference.
10. Remember, if the price or service being offered seems too good to be true, it probably is and you may well end up out of pocket and disappointed!
You can find more tips and info on the BVRLA website, along with a searchable directory of BVRLA member companies.