Warning - Car Hire Rip-off Pisa

sico24 Image
05/21/2012 - 06:28

HiI travel to and from Tuscany 6/7 times a year to my house and always rent a hire car. I usually go through Auto-Europe, who, as some of you will know, act as a broker as well as having their own hire cars.This year for the first time, the allocated hire company was GoldCar - one I had not heard of in Pisa before (although I have used a Goldcar in Malaga - don't know if it is the same). I checked the details and noticed that the Insurance Excess seemed to be higher than usual (1200 Euro for damage, 1600 for theft). However.....When I got to Pisa airport on Saturday there was a HUGE queue at the Goldcar desk (much longer than any other) which did not seem to be moving at all. All the customers seemed to be British and dissatisfied. The problem seemed to be that in the small print it said that you had to pay 100 Euro for a full tank of petrol and bring it back empty. There was NO option about this - I have had this in Spain commonly but never at Pisa (usually full -> full). Many people were unhappy, but it was in the small print. Also the large excesses were maxing out some people's credit cards and one young couple were in tears. Of course, going to another company, the 'walk-in' rental price would be twice the online rate. Also you could buy Goldcar's excess cover at 20 Euro per day!Compunding this was the fact that the same Goldcar operatives were checking out the cars but then having to go out of the building to check the returned cars, so everything took twice as long as it should.I do not remember Goldcar being in the building before (although I may be wrong). Unfortuately, if you do use an internet broker, you will not know the allocated company until you have confirmed the booking and paid. I will NEVER use Goldcar again, and if is allocated from a broker, I will phone/e-mail and cancel. I am hoping that this is not the trend for all of the car hire companies at Pisa as it is in Spain.So if you do end up using Goldcar at Pisa, BE WARNEDSimon



You can always buy a policy that only covers car hire excess (Protect Your Bubble is one such company) - it only costs around £50 a year and is good for multiple hires all over the world. At least it means there's one less thing to worry about. TK

Hi Thanks for the comments - I do use an excess insurance company (insurance4carhire.com) at £49/year. It was more the fuel issue - I hope that this is not the thin end of the wedge and that all companies at Pisa will move to a compulsory tank of petrol. Simon

We have just returned from Italy and can confirm that the queues at the Goldcar desk was ridiculous - people were waiting for hours to be served. We hired through Avis this time around (a first for us) and we found that their excess was over E2000 and to take this down to zero we would have needed to pay over E300 (which is similar to my years car insurance in the UK), which I declined after being given a very hard sell (and after she dropped the price to E250).  We wanted to add another driver half way into our holiday and we were told that we would have to pay for two drivers for the full rental term, which contradicted what we were told at the the time I collected the car in the first instance. When I complained they gave us the extra driver for free! I think that much of the time they just try their luck with tourists. We have previously tried Hertz and Advantage, which were better but not perfect. I now have a friend going out in July who has asked me who to book through, and it is proving difficult to recommend anyone with confidence. Thanks by the way for the links to 3rd party insurance cover - I think this is a good idea.

I use the search engine carrentals, and I often get a good price. However, I did get locauto once and had only heard bad things about them, but then I have also been allocated Advantage - their desk is small at Pisa, but they are part of the Hertz group - they just use older cars and hence the price difference. Cars nowadays that are a few years old -still have AC for even the most basic of cars, so these older cars are fine for rental. I have found the car rental company to be fair and friendly enough - I did have some damage to a car - by accident - and they were fair about it, I look forward to business with them in the future. I also use Car excess insurance cover at £49 a year and I have claimed and they do pay up - even if it takes some time.   For those that travel from Pisa through Liguria to get back into Tuscany again, off on  the way to Parma - do you rent snow chains from November to April?????

I was able to push them away regarding excess as I have annual cover.  However, they told me that if I took the car back full I would have to show the receipt from filling up and if it was more than 10km from the airport they would apply a surcharge.  They then offered the return with an empty tank @ €1.74 a litre for a 56 litre tank, which on reflection was a resonable rate compared to the prices at the nearest Autostrada garage that happened to be 10.6 km from the rental place. Car hire is a rip off wherever you go but Italy does seem to excel.  Generally I book through rental cars (formerly car hire 3000) or Holiday Autos (when they have offers available) and find their rates difficult to beat.

"....... They then offered the return with an empty tank @ €1.74 a litre for a 56 litre tank, which on reflection was a resonable rate compared to the prices at the nearest Autostrada garage that happened to be 10.6 km from the rental place. ......." Did you only pay for the fuel used to top up the tank - or did they charge you for all 56 litres, however much you'd left in it?

Yes we have just returned from Italy. We usually use Hertz have been happy with them on the whole. They gave us the option to return full or empty. Just for the record the Petrol filling station on the FPL nearest the airport is Closed, so I think the nearest one is the one 10.5 kms away. we filled up there and still showed full. masterphoto

  Hertz always offer us this option but on further questioning, they did tell us that it is only cost effective if the tank is less than a quarter full.  So towards the end of our car hire, we run it as low as possible, work out the km/l ratio and put in just enough petrol to get us back to the airport.  Most times it has been on reserve when we’ve returned it.

We have also been subject to the Goldcar rip off at Pisa - don't go there!  I have always used Auto Europe (broker) to book car hire and in fairness have always found them fine (until Goldcar!)  We had a scrape some time ago but fortunately I had taken the 'refundable excess' option and got my money back.  I have since always taken fully comp insurance as it was a pretty stressful experience. Since the recent Goldcar fiasco I decided to go through Advantage directly.  We've had Advantage cars in the past via the broker and although they are often older vehicles, for us they are fine.  We need to drive through a very narrow 'gate' into our village so a small, less than perfect Fiat Panda is just what we need!  I found going to Advantage direct was reasonably priced and I was able to add the extra insurance, online for 11 euros a day which I thought was ok.  As long as you don't want anything fancy they are fine - if something goes wrong I don't know what they are like but as always it's a case of fingers crossed!  In theory with fully comp insurance there shouldn't be a problem.

By the way - forgot to add - Advantage give you the empty / full tank option.  We always fill up on return.  Have just checked costs: It was 27 euros per day including fully comp.  If we hadn't filled up it would have been 57 euros.

We recently had a car from Advantage that was so dodgy that we decided to get it swapped over before it broke down. Fortunately, we were near Pisa so it wasn't a problem. However, the second car they gave us was just as bad and did break down as we were returning to Pisa to get our flight home. A tow truck arrived quite promptly, but we were abandoned - Advantage just told us to make our own way to the airport. We asked them to send a taxi, and they refused. We asked them for the telephone number of a taxi company and they said they couldn't help. We asked them if the tow truck could take us to the airport, they said no. They had absolutely no interest in the fact that we might miss our flight Fortunately the breakdown occured at a service station on the motorway - heaven alone knows what would have happened if we were at the side of the road, particularly as it was pouring with rain! The folk at the service station weren't exactly the most helpful even though we spoke to them in Italian, but after trying a number of different taxi companies, one turned up about an hour & 20 mins after we had broken down.It did involve a €120 taxi ride at 170km an hour in the pouring rain, but fortunately, we had allowed plenty of time and we only just made our flight, which fortunately for us was slightly delayed.  My husband was due to fly to Portugal first thing the next morning, so the knock-on affect of missing our flight would have been awful and the whole situation was terribly stressful. Advantage has refunded the taxi fare, but we won't use them again. It is just not worth the stress. By the way, both the cars we had were so dented and scratched that if we had scratched them, it would have been impossible to notice.   We asked the aggregator how to avoid getting an Advantage car if you booked online. We were told to get a price online and then phone them to book, and they would make sure it wasn't Advantage.

A similar thing happened to friends of ours a few years ago. Their hire car from Avis broke down (in the Lunigiana countryside) and, after ages getting through to anyone, a tow truck was sent to get the car. The driver had no interest in what would happen to my friends. As it was Sunday the nearest Avis office open was at Pisa. Luckily we had a car we managed to squeeze them into (making 6 people in the car) and could take them to the La Spezia office the following day to collect another car. We thought then how difficult it would have been if there were young children/elderly parents/masses of luggage, all abandoned in the middle of nowhere in the scorching August heat. We actually managed to laugh about it and decided it had actually been booked on Avis' dodgy sister's site, which we christened Mavis, and decided to steer clear of "Mavis" after that. It could have been much, much worse though. Are there in fact any car hire companies that offer more assistance in the event of a breakdown? By the way we have also had an Advantage car that only just made it back to the airport.

We got caught with Locauto at Fiumicino Airport. We had t a full tank and had to bring back a full tank. We had to hand over E100 on the spot to be returned when we came back with the full tank. Rental agencies should give out full info so that we can make our own minds up

In reply to by flyingveepixie

Consumer protection? In Italy? Is the concept even known here? The only think I know of that vaguely resembles consumer protection applies in the event of the consumer being powerful and well enough connected to make the rip-off retailer's life a misery. Al

I have had the "buy a full tank of petrol at the outset with no refund if you don't use it" arrangement with car hire in the USA as well. They told me at the time that this was how it was always done there. I contemplated the possibility of running the car completely out of petrol and then pushing it into the car park, to get my money's worth, but unfortunately I was only planning to be there for a few days and was not going very far during that time...

  I used Goldcar at Pisa last week, and found it fine. Admittedly I had seen the reports on forums and was expecting the worst. However, I booked through Argos and read the contract so knew I would be paying up front for a full tank. There was no queue - other than Pisa airports system of taking you in a bus for 400m, which frankly is easier to walk.   I explained that I wouldnt be using the car much - and was upgraded to a car with a smaller fuel tank - the cost of which was exactly the same as filling it myself at the local AGIP. If I had taken the car for only 3 days its a pick up full return full policy, More than 3 days its pick up full return empty.   I paid 70 euros for 4 days hire, plus 120 for petrol - it worked out 50 euros per day hire including petrol - which to me is better than average.   It seems that people book via brokers and then get angry when the contract arrives - this is the brokers fault for not telling clients on the fuel policy, not the car rental company. Its like Ryanair - read the small print - accept it or not - but there's no point going apes/(it when you cant get exactly what you want.

This does not only happen in Pisa. Same happened to me in Rome - but worse!I had pre booked everything from home, and paid for the rental. I knew I had to pay for a tank of gas at the airport, and I would be refunded for any gas left in the car - minus a €20 refuel charge (which they charge even if you leave the car with a full tank again - rip off one).At the airport, after 1 hours wait to even get to the desk (only 2 people in front of me when I arrived but everybody seemed to argue about the insurance), I was asked if I wanted an extra full insurance for €110 (4 days). i said no since my credit card covers that. Then they needed to "hold" €1,600 on my credit card for liability!! I said fine, do that I don't want the full insurance. So - they proceed to first charge €103 for a full tank of gas (the tank was small so a full tank was €60 when the warning light was lit btw), had me sign that and that was done. Then it was the €1,600 "hold" on the same card. Turned out that amount pushed me over my limit on that card so I took out another card. "No madame that is not possible. It has to be THE SAME card!!". So I ask them to cancel the first transaction and put it all on the other card."No, that wasn't possible". After a lot of arguing and they just refused to cancel anything I was forced to take the €110extra insurance.So you would think it ended there?? Noooo. I return the car with a full tank of gas. They did actually refund all of the gas except the €20 refuelling charge (for not refuelling the car!!), BUT they had now charged me €36 for an extra cleaning fee!!!So - a rental I though would cost me €76 ended up costing €242 in the end!!!!

Hertz and Avis best in my experienceWe always use Hertz or Avis from either Pisa or Perugia.If you want to get the cheapest prices sometimes it's less expensive at  www.hertz4ryanair.com  (you don't need to have flown out by ryanair) but sometimes it's 50% more expensive!   Worth checking this as well as hertz.com however.

Hertz in Pisa not necessarily immune from some of the "nefarious" practices of lesser known and/or "discount" car rental agencies. We have used them for a number of years for transport to and from the airport with no problems. This year, we were given a "new car" with about 5k kms.Upon return after an overnight rental, the check-in girl, or, as I would name her, "the scratch scrounger," came into the check-out office and announced there was a scratch on the back of the passenger side rear view mirror for which we would have to pay extra.  I asked the manager to go out with me to view this "scratch."Upon inspection, I wet the tip of a finger and wiped off the remains of an unlucky bug.'Nuff said.

This scam has been going on for a number of years.  I must, just out of curiousity look at the accounts of some of the major car hire companies to see just how profitable they are, and how much they make from the non-car hire part of the business; its a little like Ryanair and other budget airlines - the basic costs of a seat is competitive, its the add-ons and fees that make up the profits.  I think these scams have always existed, they've always had us so to speak, over the barrel (or bonnet in this case).  The difference between now and then, is that now we are all able to talk to each other through forums like this, to swap stories and keep each other informed of the rip off tricks the car hire companies get up to.  I've had experience of this is France and in Italy at a number of airports.  In Carcasonne I started my current practice of taking photos on my Iphone of the car when I pick it up, and when I drop it off.  Sure enough the girl at the hire desk in Carcasonne tried the 'oh look you've scratched our car routine'  and looked very surprised and (how shall I put it), somewhat disappointed when I was able to produce photos of the car before and after hire.  I strongly advise anyone on this forum who is considering hiring a car to follow the same practice.  Incidentally, I photograph the dashboard as well which normally gives me a photo of the fuel gauge before and after, so no arguments there either.  Happy snapping my friends.

Dear Simon,We are constantly striving to improve our services and customer feedback is essential for us to do so. Please allow me to inform you that since January 2014, there have been great changes and improvements made to our policies, for example:- Thanks to our Flex Fuel plan with a Fast Return System, customers are now always refunded for unused petrol and do not have to worry about refuelling close to the office before returning the car (please note that a small fee for this service is included in the fuel charge). A Full to Full plan is also available when booking through our webpage and on a few brokers’ we work with.- Customers are offered our full coverage (Relax Cover) for their peace of mind and as an alternative to blocking a deposit on the main driver’s credit card (unblocked 15-20 days later if the vehicle is returned in the same condition).- Our official YouTube channel offers very informative and easy to understand videos for our customers (they include meeting point directions and information regarding the extras we offer).- Our GoldCarZero package is now available for 12 of our offices : - Alicante airport - Palma airport - Seville train station - Málaga train station - Málaga airport - Madrid train station - Barcelona train station - Gerona airport - Reus airport - Tenerife Sur airport - Lanzarote airport - Las Palmas de Gran Canaria airport- Customers can now reserve a specific brand and model when booking in the following offices: - Málaga - Alicante - Palma - Lisbon - Oporto - Faro - Bologna - Pisa - Roma - Milan - Bergamo - Catania - Cagliari- Our many satisfied and return customers can now join our Customer Club and benefit from discounts, points and other courtesies.- We now have +37.000 cars available for hire (70% of which are renewed annually) and have offices in Spain, Portugal, Italy and Malta.Kindest regards,Victoria R.Goldcar Representative

In reply to by VictoriaR

Seems to be standard practice;Had another “experience” with Hertz in Pisa. Returning a one day rental went through the scratch search routine and the “scrounger” found a “discrepancy” under the front of the car. We went into the office and scoured their computer pix of the car and found that the “discrepancy” was pre-existent, however not noted on their form. Returning to the US, spoke with a relative new-hire with Hertz who told me that “agents are paid minimum wage and are encouraged to earn bonuses by finding “discrepancies” on returned rentals. He actually said he felt uncomfortable with the training from his manager and personally felt it bordered on the unethical. Seems to be an unavoidable situation and the advice given previously about taking your own pix is probably the best defense.

AUTO-EUROPEThis company sells an an excess refund product with illegal terms and conditions, forcing customers to commit a crime in order to process a claim. their terms and conditions that i had to ask for after product purchase, are a contradiction of the Road traffic act and are a violation the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations. they are not authorised to sell insurance but advertise their products as if they are an insurance product when they are nothing more than a con In this market I suggest that all readers look further down internet search results, and save yourself having to file a county court claim.

We had a problem with Maggiore in Malpensa airport a couple of years ago. We had used Maggiore in Bologna with no problem but when we go to Malpensa there was a long queue and lots of unhappy customers. Perish the thought that anyone form the company would deign to tell us what was going on. We waited for an hour to discover that the only cars available were pandas.Now, as there were only two of us, we took one but there was one family of 5 and luggage and they were not going to fit into one of those. They had to wait until a car was sent from Bologna. The attitude of the staff was very dismissive and when I pointed out that we had booked a car in the next category up I was told that the panda was almost as good as the golf type vehicle that we booked. So there VW!It took me a couple of weeks and several phone calls to get a refund ,but get one I did. So, if you are not happy don't accept what you are offered and insist that you are given what you asked for. It may involve a wait though. Flippant customer service is not good enough.