By Denna Bowman
Holidaymakers are renting overpriced “death traps” when hiring cars in the Mediterranean, according to the AA.
On the Greek island of Santorini the worst car rented by the inspectors had a missing nut on a rear wheel, while the front tyres were also badly damaged.
In Spain a 4×4 had half-inflated tyres as well as a windscreen wiper which was falling off and in Turkey, a 4×4 leaked oil and had damaged suspension.
The survey, which covered 60 car hire outlets in 12 resorts and seven countries, produced the horrifying results relating to the vehicles themselves and also the paperwork.
Inspectors were twice overcharged on their credit cards. There were a number of other occasions when hidden costs were added to the bill, such as fuel.
In some cases rental companies imposed excessive costs for second drivers, which regularly approached £30. Child seats could cost as much as £20 to hire; in many cases they were in poor and dirty condition.
Insurance cover was inadequate with holidaymakers finding they had to pay extra to cover themselves against the car being stolen, the inspectors found.
Some contracts were not translated into English, adding to the confusion faced by holidaymakers.
The inspection examined car hire in Greece, Italy, Croatia, Malta, Portugal, Spain and Turkey.
“Overall the quality of cars was not too bad,” said an AA spokesman. “But where they were bad they were really bad.
“Holidaymakers, particularly at peak season when rental desks are hectic, are too often vulnerable to the potential for hire firms to accidentally or deliberately overcharge.
“Hiring over the Internet gives some opportunity to examine contracts, agreements and procedures before committing money, and arranging rental with a firm based in the UK provides some chance of getting to grips if a contract goes wrong.
“Otherwise, using a credit card, where there may be some support for a rip-off, and a video camera to film the outside of a hire car before and after driving it may be the only defence.”