Beware seasonal car hire scams

Thinking about hiring a car this Christmas? With lots of people flying in from overseas to visit family and many more hiring cars to get to relatives and friends in other parts of the country, the festive season is a busy time for car rental companies. Not all of them are full of Christmas cheer and goodwill to all men (and women), though. In fact, the British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association (BVRLA) is warning drivers to be on the lookout for bogus rental companies that cash in on the Christmas trade to trick motorists out of their money.


Car hire conmen

Over the last few years, unscrupulous conmen have scammed hundreds of drivers out of car rental deposits by luring them in with promises of great cars at low prices – available to be delivered to their homes. Many of those taken in have lost hundreds of pounds as a result, while all have been left without a car when they needed one most. The BVRLA has noticed that scams of this kind tend to take place at Christmas, which is a short-term peak period that allows the criminals to set up a fake website, take people’s money and disappear, all within just a few short weeks. It is therefore urging motorists considering hiring a car to get around this festive season to be aware that similar scams could be running this year. Gerry Keaney, BVRLA chief executive, said: “These companies offer unbeatable prices and free delivery – but they really are too good to be true. Unfortunately, it is very easy for Christmas conmen to build a simple website and set up a call centre to pass themselves off as legitimate businesses.” To help prevent more people losing out, the BVRLA has come up with 10 top tips for hassle-free car rental, including advice on checking whether a website is legitimate. You can find the full list below:

BVRLA Car Rental Tips

  1. Only use a BVRLA member. Our logo on the front desk or website is a sign that you are dealing with a reputable company that has been vetted and operates to a professional code of conduct. You will also be able to use the free conciliation service in the event of any dispute.
  2. Book in advance to get the best deals. The sooner you can make your reservation, the more likely it is you’ll be able to get a discounted rate.
  3. Ensure you’re fully aware of the level of risk associated with your rental – you may have gone for the lowest price available, but be aware of any potential excess charges should the vehicle be damaged or stolen.
  4. Never hand over cash. Most reputable rental companies will only want to accept credit or debit card payment.
  5. If purchasing online, check you’re on a secure site when inputting your card details. Look out for a small padlock symbol in the address bar, and ensure the web address begins with https:// (the ‘s’ stands for secure).
  6. Make sure the company is operating from bona fide commercial premises, not a PO Box or virtual office.
  7. Ensure the company actually owns or operates the cars it is offering - all BVRLA members operate their own rental fleets.
  8. Thoroughly check the car for damage before signing any paperwork, and ensure existing marks are noted down on the form.
  9. At the end of the rental, make sure you hand the car and keys back to the company’s representative, and not the first person you see at the side of the kerb. Again, check damage with the representative, and keep your paperwork for future reference.
  10. Remember, if the price or service being offered seems too good to be true, it probably is and you may well end up out of pocket and disappointed!
Have you had any car hire nightmares, at Christmas or at another time of year? We’d love to hear in the box below – your experience could help someone else avoid the same tricks and traps.

Did you enjoy that? Why not share this article