Hidden fees, upgrade costs, petrol policies… Getting a car rental can feel slightly overwhelming. Here’s a basic guide to hiring a car on Mallorca without feeling like you’ve been run over!
You’ve booked tickets online for your holiday when up pops an offer to hire a car. You think about it and say to yourself, “Probably a good idea…" but you aren’t going to jump at the first offer you see. No, you’re a smart consumer and you are going to research it properly to get the best deal. As you start comparison shopping, it hits you just what a palaver it is, and how hard it is to sift through the dodgy deals to find a truly good one.
Here is a basic guide that will hopefully help you both get a good deal and avoid the pitfalls of hiring a car on the island.
This may sound like a no-brainer, but you will usually get better deals if you book online in advance, rather than taking your chances at the airport after arrival. Not only will you most likely do better on the price, you will be sure to have a car waiting for you (no sell outs) and the process of getting you on the road will be streamlined. That being said, if an online deal sounds too good to be true, it most likely is, so be careful to read the fine print so that your €12/day car doesn’t cost you €50 more in unexpected fees.
Affordable Mallorca Tip: The website palmaairport.info provides an up to date breakdown of current base rate pricing and is updated fairly regularly.
Pick Up #
Once you’ve arrived and you’re face to face with an agent, there are a few things to be aware of and to make sure to do. This is how to avoid any unpleasant surprises when you go to pay the bill:
It cannot be stressed enough that reading the Terms and Conditions is imperative. It’s a bore and it may be slightly uncomfortable as there are usually several people waiting, but if you don’t know what you’re signing for, you could get ripped off. Remember, when you sign for a hire car, you have signed a legally binding document and cannot come back later saying you didn’t know just because you didn’t bother to read the fine print.
Also, it’s a good idea to have a credit card, not debit, on you. Most agencies require some kind of refundable deposit, and you don’t want a chunk of your cash flow blocked whilst you’re on holiday. You also very well may have insurance coverage attached to your credit card. Call your bank and ask, as this could save you paying for additional insurance.
Affordable Mallorca Tip: To be given the protection and service offered in a credit card package, note that you will be required to pay for the car using that card.
What You Need and What You Don’t Insurance-Wise
- To hire a car, you must be 21 years of age, and special insurance must be purchased for younger drivers between 21-15, so keep this in mind if you are in this bracket. For drivers aged 70+, an extra insurance is required which can be quite expensive. Better check beforehand!
- Remember to bring a valid driver’s license and passport for you and other drivers on the contract. If you are from a non-EU member state, Spanish law requires you to also possess an International Driver’s Permit (IDP). These can be obtained from AAA in the USA or online through several websites. Whilst nothing is certain as of writing, there is a strong possibility that UK drivers will also need to obtain IDP’s when hiring a car in Spain after Brexit.
Don't Buy a Pig in a Poke #
Make more than a cursory inspection of the car before you take it. Kick the tires, check that the bumpers are firmly on, and of course, point out nicks and dings that the agent may overlook. Take photos of the car before you drive away. The same goes upon return, especially if you are in a situation where you leave the car and keys and no agent attends you. One of the biggest complaints about agencies recently has been due to this. They claim damage that you claim wasn’t there when you left the car. He said-she said. It gets messy fast.
Affordable Mallorca Tip: If you find yourself unable to have an agent check you back in, take clear photos, or better still, a video of the car to ensure no trouble after the fact.
Ups, Extras and that Pesky Fine Print #
Nothing is for free in the car hire game. Everything you add adds up, so plan ahead and again read the fine print. If you have an additional driver, need a car seat or GPS, or return the car without petrol, are you going to be slammed with huge fees? You’ll know if you read or ask in advance.
Upgrades are another thing to be wary of. Often you will be offered one upon arrival. Sounds fab, but make sure you aren’t paying extra for it.
Also get to know the fuel policy. The days of scamming customers with massive fuel bills are coming to a close, but they still exist. If the policy is pick it up and return it with the same amount of fuel (full-full, for example), take photos of the gauge so there is no question later on. Do not pre-pay for gas. You will get charged at the rental agency rate and that could be way over market cost. Ask if the agency has a “refuelling charge”. This can be up to €50 if the agency deems you didn’t completely refill the tank to their liking. And while we are on the topic of fuel, ask ahead if you are renting a car running on diesel. If so, you could be required to pay a surcharge of €12 or more.
Not every agency is on the make but knowing what to look out for can save you a lot of aggravation and expense. A well-informed consumer is a smart one.
What You Need and What You Don’t Insurance-Wise #
What insurance you need, what’s included, etc. - there is a lot here to untangle…
- Many companies include damage and theft coverage in the price of the car, and some even include cover for basic breakdowns. But even the better companies charge excess if there is a fender bender or damage of any kind. One way to limit the amount of excess you’ll have to pay is by increasing the amount of coverage. The car hire agencies try to sell you their version, which is usually expensive. To avoid this, go through an independent third-party insurance provider before you rent, and you can get comprehensive coverage for much less. Some agencies claim this insurance isn’t valid. Don’t listen to them. They’re trained to upsell and this is all part of their schtick.
- Before you buy additional coverage whether from a third party or from the company, double check what coverage you have on your personal auto insurance, and on your credit cards, as mentioned earlier. Note that US car insurance does not cover you internationally, but many credit cards do. This could save you having to purchase anything else, insurance-wise. If you find either of these options will work, double check the fine print in your rental contract to see if they charge, in the event of an accident, “loss of use”. This is a charge to cover the lost revenue on a damaged car. Most private insurance companies do not cover this stipulation, and it typically costs another full day’s rental fee. Visa, Mastercard and AMEX do often cover this fee, just double check before you rent.
Alternatives and Bright Spots #
One a cheerier note, for those who are environmentally minded, electric cars are available to rent of the island from most of the major car hire agencies. There are also some smaller niche companies who only do electric cars, like Wattacars (www.wattacars.com). Wattacars also has a listing of local hotels with recharging points and maps of “green routes” to travel, making it an eco-friendly one-stop-shop.
Muvon is another niche electric-only car hire outfit that allows you to pick up and drop off a car and only pay for the hours, rather than days, you use it. “Carsharing” customers pick up a car from a designated spot, and when they have finished their usage, they return it to the exact same spot, paying only for the time they used the vehicle. The caveats are that you must be the holder of an EU driver’s permit, be over 25 years old, reserve in advance, and be ok giving them your bank details. It is all done with an app, and eliminates the need of dealing with agents in person.
Mallorca is instituting a policy that by 2025, half of all rental cars on the island will need to be electric, going rapidly up to 100% by 2030. This is great news considering that roughly 90,000 hire cars are on Mallorcan roads at any given time in the high season months, not only jamming roads, but also generating vast quantities of air pollution. With almost 250 charging stations on the island, and another 500 in the works, Mallorca will soon be able to boast its green credentials making it a destination of choice for eco-warriors everywhere!
There is a lot to know, look out for, and be aware of when hiring a car. With a little foresight and planning, you can avoid big bills and even bigger headaches and keep you holiday fun and stress free!
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By Stephanie Horsman
16 May, 2019