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Highway Robbery

Somehow, a few years ago, car rental in Mallorca went down the wrong year. La Crisis, again. Car hire firms, there are about 40 of them on the island, not counting sub-agents, used to be able to buy their fleet of hire cars from the car manufacturers on a buy-back agreement. They would buy, say, 100 new cars from the factory in March on a contract with a pre-agreed sale-back at the end of the season, say, in October or November. In 2007, or was it 2008, car manufacturers in Spain went through a bad patch of alarmingly low sales. They now suddenly and unanimously did not agree to the usual buy-back condition any longer. Instead, they insisted on an outright sale and payment on delivery, or whatever financing deal might have been deemed agreeable. The Mallorcan car-rental firms were in a stew. They suddenly could only afford fewer cars, albeit for an already dwindling tourist market. In the end, hire cars became scarce during the high season of 2008, when car rental rates became at times erratic, aggravated and outright expensive. Customers complained, but, to no avail.

At the beginning of the 2011 season, the buy-back at the end of the season seems to have returned. Car manufacturers were now in a slightly better condition, certainly on a pan-European level, and they had also felt the pinch of a much reduced sales volume of fleet sales in the previous two years. Purchasing conditions for the rent-a-car firms had improved, but, in the previous couple of years profit margins had dried up to much reduced margins. A new policy started to become more and more the common practice. Customers were increasingly pushed into more expensive insurance policies, regardless of what might have been signed and paid for, up-front, on the Internet where the original booking often had been made. And customers were given and charged a full tank of petrol, whilst being told that the car should be returned with an empty tank. If the tank was not empty or was even as much as half full, no reimbursement was offered.

I had a group of friends staying nearby the other day. They were on the island from Sunday night to Friday morning; in effect they were here for four full days. They had rented two cars. Both cars were handed over with full tanks. Gasoline was charged at a higher price than could have been had at the petrol station. When the group argued that they could not possibly drive the required 800 kilometres in four days that would be necessary to use up the petrol, the sales person simply shrugged their shoulders. That’s what it was; take it or leave it.

Mallorca is known to have had a history of pirates, smugglers and contraband activities. Now, somehow, in the times of crisis piracy and highway robbery seem to be acceptable, once more.

For the sake of fairness, I know one or two car rental firms in Mallorca that hire out cars with a full tank, demanding a full tank upon return. That’s one or two. There are forty.

The photo was taken at PMI airport, near Palma de Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: October 12th, 2011. The time was 14:08:59.

3 replies »

  1. Hello Klaus
    I do so agree, it’s scandalous this full tank/empty tank policy. Even if one does do a lot of kilometres it’s almost impossible to return it empty.
    If you have time, I would love to know, via my personal email, which hirecare companies do not have this policy so that we can recommend them to visiting friends, although if they are at the high end of the market it might work out similar anyway??
    Still enjoying your blog every day even though I haven’t commented lately.
    Sylvia

    • hello sylvia,
      i’m sorry to be late in replying. i was travelling.
      one of the better, honest car rental companies is autosroig in cala d’or (also in can pastilla). there was another decent rent-a-car company but, i cannot remember which one, just now. once i’ll remember i’ll let you know.
      klaus

  2. Hi

    The full/empty tank thing has always been a problem but recently our friends visiting Cala Millor hired a car and were not also taken by this scam but also a dramatic increase in the second driver and insurance costs. I believe the car hire charge was 160 euros but with the additional costs (outwith the fuel) the total price became 310 euros.

    There are 2 companies which I know of that did not operate the fuel scam

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