Trying to get the best deal when it comes to renting a car is no easy matter. We talked to Mike at Coys Rent A Car to find out the behind-the-scenes information.
In this part of the Costa Blanca, businesses have a tendency of coming and going. But not Coys. They have been trading as a car rental company for over 20 years and are well-known in the Torrevieja region for their transparency, personal service and value for money.
Situated in the Torreta 2 urbanisation, five minutes from Torrevieja centre, this family run business still has a full range of top quality cars for you to select from, and you’re not just dealing with a website. ‘We know that some people still prefer to call us up or email for a quote. With us, there is someone on the end of the phone to talk to,’ says co-owner, Mike.
Mike and his partner Heidi have seen many changes in the locality and in the car rental business in the time they have been renting out cars. ‘I prefer not to refer to the recession too much,’ says Mike. ‘There’s been a tendency for people to use it as an excuse for adopting poor trading practices. However, we’ve definitely experienced some highs and lows since we opened.’
The 2008/ 2009 shortage
One of the lows must have been in 2008/ 2009 when the recession (sorry, had to mention it again) had really set in and the banks suddenly had cold feet about their lending. ‘The car hire companies had to reduce their fleets, as leasing arrangements became more difficult,’ explains Mike. ‘There were 8,000 fewer cars for hire in this region alone.’
For those of us trying to hire one at the time, that meant receiving quotes that reached thousands of euros rather than the hundreds we’re used to these days. ‘We saw some very dodgy practices from some of the big companies,’ says Mike. ‘When they saw the opportunity to make money they were cancelling pre-bookings and charging the earth to hire out the cars that were left.’
Since then some of these companies have had to account for their practice in the courts but far too late for those who were affected. Now, a shortage of cars isn’t the problem but there are still plenty of examples of poor practice plaguing the car hire business.
Trouble with fuel
Coys often hear first hand the difficulties that people are having finding the right car to hire. ‘Perhaps the biggest complaint is all the added extras. You think you know what it’s going to cost you and then discover that there is insurance on top, fuel on top and perhaps a child seat too. We also get people complaining about receiving an upgraded car. They don’t necessarily want this, particularly if it means they have to pay more out for fuel.’
Mike advises caution in particular if you are not provided with a final quote before you set out to Spain. ‘You should insist on knowing exactly how much it will cost. If you don’t then you can be sure that there will be additional extras at the airport when you come to collect.’
He gives the example of a car that perhaps costs you 100€ to rent that is provided with a full tank of petrol to return empty. ‘It can cost you 90€ for the tank with possibly a 20€ to 30€ charge included for filling the car up!’
Hire companies are supposed to offer a full-to-full fuel option. Mike advises that if you take a look at what the cost of this is, you will get a better idea of what they are likely to charge you for the tank. ‘I do recommend that you insist on having a full quote before travelling,’ adds Mike.
But surely price comparison sites must help potential customers find the best deals? Mike is not optimistic; ‘They tend to only show the prices of those companies they have an ‘arrangement’ with. If you look closely at them, most actually feature a limited number of companies. I would not advise using them because whatever price they charge, they will be taking some of that in commission.’ It is then up to the supplier to make their profit from added extras.
Instead Mike suggests that those searching for a good deal go directly to the rental company’s website; ‘That way you know what their terms and conditions are too. You must remember that they keep their initial price low to feature high on these sites. What you see is not what you’ll pay at the end.’
One comparison site, however, that Mike is keen to recommend is that of www.reviewcentre.com. This site doesn’t compare the prices on offer but it does compare customer ratings of services and products. Anything from training courses to treadmills.
If you do take time to have a look you will see that Coys has a rating of 4.9 out of 5.0 whereas some other well-known hire companies do not do nearly as well.
Paying excess up front
One particularly annoying practice is that of taking money off your credit card to cover the excess should you have an accident. ‘Some companies don’t just block the money,’ says Mike. ‘They actually take it from your card. We know of cases where people have struggled to get the money returned to them even after two to three weeks of having brought the car back undamaged. You must remember that you can lose out on the exchange rate during this process.’
A bright future
Coys Rent A Car has continued to maintain its business and reputation throughout some difficult years. Now they are looking to the future with an expanding fleet and new features such as their newsletter. ‘We’re increasing our fleet by 25 cars which will bring us back to where we were before the ‘recession’. We’ve kept true to our values and our loyal client base proves that this is a strategy that works.’