LONDON, April 13, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Thousands of travellers are putting themselves at risk by booking cheap car hire through "cowboy" brokers.
According to a report by Holiday Autos, "Car Hire Uncovered" - investigating consumer opinion around car hire - almost a quarter (23%) of UK adults admit they would consider booking their hire car through a brand or website they'd never heard of if the price was right.
With dozens of new 'back room' car hire brands having started up in the past three years, travellers are urged to carefully consider who they book with as they may end up paying the price in the long run. With complaints about car hire increasing by 30% since the start of 2010*, Holiday Autos is working alongside an industry body to create a recognised "Code of Conduct" for car hire brokers with the aim of regulating practices within the sector.
The report reveals that nearly half (43%) of those that have hired a car in the past said price is the most important factor. Only 5% said service was most important to them, while less than a quarter (23%) consider reputation to be the be all and end all. However, they often pay the price for doing so - one in ten (10%) UK adults who hired a car in 2010 reported having a bad experience.
The research shows that consumers don't always research car hire companies prior to booking. Of those who have hired a car in the past, 70% have never checked if the company has a 24 hour customer support service, and 76% have never looked into whether family or friends have heard of or would recommend the company.
Mystery shopping conducted in the last month amongst a number of recently launched car hire firms reveals that a significant proportion are not providing their customers with enough support during and after a booking has been made.
- Half (50%) do not have a customer support centre
- Only two fifths (38%) allow customers to amend their booking online
- When questioned, two thirds (75%) would not disclose the age of the vehicles loaned to customers
- 50% have no 24hr point of contact in the event of a problem or emergency
- Only 10% have been given industry recognised awards
In addition, the report reveals that a significant number of travellers have been exposed to what are considered in the industry as "rogue practices". These include travellers arriving at the pick-up desk to find that the car they booked was no longer available, being sold insurance that they later realised they already had or didn't need, or in the worst cases, being told that there was no evidence of their booking.
Alison Rice, travel and tourism commentator says: "In order to avoid getting taken for a ride by a rogue car hire broker, I recommend that customers consider the following points before clicking the "book" button:
- Cheap is not the same as value for money - cut-price car hire companies may add costly extras when you pick up the car. They may even be compromising on vital vehicle maintenance. It's also worth checking if the pick-up desk is at the airport or a shuttle bus ride away as, while it may be cheaper, the extra distance will add time and hassle to your journey.
- Beware the hidden extras - book with companies willing to agree all costs in writing when you book. Arriving at your holiday airport tired and anxious is not the time to negotiate insurance costs. Also make a note, if you are not paying in sterling, to check that the exchange rate used to calculate the end cost is in line with the current rate.
- Look for a 24-hour customer support service - this may not sound important when you book but if something goes wrong it will be vital
- Look for sites with a phone number - many websites only offer online forms. Why are they not encouraging you to contact them easily?
- Ask friends and family for recommendations - there's nothing better than a personal recommendation. Review sites don't always offer an accurate picture
- If you book through a broker, check out the car suppliers they use. How are the suppliers selected? - brokers work with all kinds of suppliers from big names such as Hertz to smaller but reputable country specific suppliers such as Auto Jardim (Spain). Reputable brokers vet their car suppliers. It's worth asking how they go about doing this and what each supplier has to commit to before the broker will use them.
- Spend time researching and asking around if you are unsure of a company's reputation - cutting costs with a cut-price car hire company can leave you out of pocket or worse - risking your safety in a car that's not up to scratch.
Stuart Nassos, Managing Director of Holiday Autos says: "For many people, hiring a car is an essential part of the holiday experience and should be an easy and straightforward purchase. However, there has been a worrying increase in the number of companies that are taking advantage of consumer trust and tarnishing the reputation of the car hire industry with their unscrupulous behaviour.
"We are keen to help our regulator stamp out some of the malpractices which occur within the industry. The Code of Conduct we are working to create for brokers aims to regulate industry practices. For too long consumers have had to put up with unclear advice around car hire terms and conditions, insurance and pricing and we are keen to bring clarity and trust back to the industry."
To download a full copy of the Holiday Autos "Uncovering Car Hire" report, please visit http://www.holidayautos.co.uk/car-hire-uncovered.html.
Notes to editors
Holiday Autos commissioned a body of research in February 2011amongst car hire brokers and holidaymakers. This involved mystery shopping UK based car hire brokers and a quantitative survey amongst 2080 consumers.
All consumer figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov plc. Total sample size was 2080 adults. Fieldwork was taken between 11th and 14th February 2011. The survey was carried out online and the figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults (18+).
*The UK European Consumer Centre reported a rise of 29% in the number of complaints and enquiries about car rentals in the EU in the first five months of 2010 compared to the first five months of 2009. Report issued on 21st July 2010.
About Holiday Autos:
Since 1987, holiday autos has helped millions of customers with their car hire needs and quickly established itself as the leading leisure car hire broker in the world. The holidayautos.co.uk website was launched in 1999, designed to offer fully inclusive car hire with no hidden charges in 3 easy steps. Holiday Autos's multi award-winning service now operates in over 5,000 locations globally.
Working with partners including Avis, Alamo, Europcar, Sixt, Hertz, National, Thrifty and Budget, Holiday Autos offers competitively priced car hire and a high level of service to all its customers. As well car hire, Holiday Autos also offers motorhome hire, van hire, prestige and hybrid car hire as well as chauffeur drive services through its consumer website.
With support for consumer bookings, trade partner bookings and B2B partners, Holiday Autos is an undisputed leader in the car hire market.
Travellers can book directly at http://www.holidayautos.co.uk or by calling one of the customer services team on 0871 472 5229 (calls cost 10p per minute plus network charges) between 7am to 10pm, 7 days a week.
SOURCE Holiday Autos