Why We Will Never Use Goldcar Car Hire Again

Up until arriving on Fuerteventura, my preferred car hire booking agency was Auto Europe. I always found their prices to be extremely competitive, a factor which is even more important when you travel and hire cars a lot, as we do. I confess, I don’t normally even bother to look who the actual car hire company is, I just turn up, sign the documents and collect the car.

It’s a common feature of our travel that we have to ‘hit the ground running’ because inevitably we try to cram as much into trips as we can and time is of the essence. Fuerteventura last month was no different. In that respect, things haven’t always been perfect with our Auto Europe bookings. Sometimes the car hire company has been a distance from the airport and we’ve had to be ferried there and back by the company adding additional time to our journey but on the whole the service has been acceptable, and the price has made it worth it.

We always knew time was going to be against us on Fuerteventura. Over the course of an eleven day trip we planned to undertake nine walks, averaging 16km per day; two driving tours taking in much of the island, and a trip to Los Lobos. So getting up at 4.30am to get the first flight to Fuerteventura and arriving at 8am was essential.

I had booked the car hire from the airport at 8am. By the time we got our bag and walked into the arrivals hall it was 8.20am. My booking form told me to wait at bus stop number 1A with a note alongside that said ‘runs every 10-15mins’. Not being familiar with Fuerteventura airport we went the wrong direction out of the terminal and it took us a little time to get back to the right bus stop. We got to the bus stop at 8.30am and were still standing there at 9am with not another soul in sight. I tried to ring the local number I had been given but got a recorded message that the phones were not working and could I try again later. After several attempts I gave up. Unsurprisingly, by the time the mini bus rolled up at 9.05am, we were livid.

And it went from bad, to worse.

Arriving at the Goldcar office which is on an industrial estate a few minutes drive outside of the airport, I was told I had the option of a) paying €120 non-refundable insurance or b) handing over my credit card for them to ‘stop’ €600 insurance until after my return of the car. I had to ask the woman (who was extremely pleasant and professional throughout my dealings with her) to explain this to me several times as I could not believe my ears.

Finally, and reluctantly, I opted for b) and handed over the card I had used to make the booking only to be informed that a debit card is not acceptable, it has to be a credit card. I don’t use a credit card, I only use debit and cash. I was then told quite simply – pay the €120 or you can’t have the car. I tried to cancel the booking altogether but was told that the money I had already paid to Auto Europe was nothing to do with Goldcar and I would have to apply to Auto Europe for a refund.

I now had a choice. I could either waste more precious time returning to the airport, try to book a car with a different company and then hope to get a refund from Auto Europe when I returned home, or I could succumb to Goldcar’s dodgy practices. With the clock now ticking towards 9.30am, I handed over the €120 non-refundable insurance.

Googling Goldcar, the search results are littered with headlines including the words WARNING! Don’t use! BEWARE! and Rip Off! And with good reason.

I cannot understand the business logic of such short term opportunism at the cost of long term relationships with customers. What’s more, I can’t help wondering if this practice is even legal. Of course, Goldcar say their terms and conditions are clearly laid out to see before you agree to the booking but when you use a broker you don’t get the full contract until after you’ve booked. I have five pages of A4 conditions in my agreement. Guess which page this little condition is on? Yep, Page 5. But it also states that in the case of a debit card the €600 has to actually be taken from the account and returned once the car is returned undamaged. I wasn’t given that option.

Lessons learned?

  • Don’t EVER book a car through Goldcar again and advise everyone you know to give them a very wide berth.
  • Don’t use Auto Europe again as you don’t get to see the full contract conditions until after you’ve made your booking. To be fair to Auto Europe they now include ‘mandatory deposit information’ on all their Goldcar offers but I’m afraid it has left too bad a taste in my mouth and I won’t be using them again.

Andrea (Andy) Montgomery is a freelance travel writer and co-owner of Buzz Trips and The Real Tenerife series of travel websites. Published in The Telegraph, The Independent, Wexas Traveller, Thomas Cook Travel Magazine, EasyJet Traveller Magazine, you can read her latest content on Google+




14 Comments

  1. Hi Guys, I am sure I said it at the time but great article on Bute. I have followed you since and we are heading out to Lanzarote this weekend for couple of weeks. This tale reminds us of the last time we were in Lanzarote and had booked a car through Hertz online to pick up at the airport. The best deal came from them but as you found out and we did it was through third party hire company and they demanded the same deal as you had, even though I had already paid the insurance. We ended up cancelling there and then and using the Taxi service. As you say a bad taste in the mouth, so we later hired from Pluscar cheap and cheerful and it is wysiwyg. Keep walking and writing, needing a cartographer, then please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

    Regards

    Don Williams

    • Hi Don, very glad you enjoyed Jack’s piece on Bute – do you know the island?
      I’m interested and surprised to hear your Lanzarote experience with Hertz whom I’ve always thought were pretty good. It seems this third party hire business is fraught with potential pitfalls. I will definitely book directly in future and, as you say, I’ve heard good things about Pluscar so I’ll try them next time.
      A cartographer eh? Consider yourself now on our radar 🙂

    • Hi Andy, Indeed this Island Cartographer lives and works from my study overlooking the Clyde. Clear blue skies today looking out from Bute Cartographics HQ. hoping the weather is just that bit warmer for the next fortnight.

      Regards

      Don

      • Wow! Bute Cartographics, eh? Excellent. I too hope the weather stays nice for you, Don, and I can’t think of a nicer place to be when the sun is shining 🙂

  2. Hi Guys, great article. i have just tweeted you. we have had a lot of similar reports about Goldcar, but for some they are the best option. we work with a number of suppliers worldwide and can offer, low/zero deposits, debit card payments, low excess amounts and guaranteed on airport suppliers in some cases.

    The cheapest option is now always the best, we try and match a supplier to a customers needs. Get in touch next time or if you have any questions..

  3. Throwing in my own three penn´orth , we had exactly the same experience with Goldcar at Santander airport, so can totally sympathise with you both. It is the worse way to begin a trip, especially when you´ve been up since sparrowfart to begin it! We arrived late on a Sunday evening, had the selfsame problem of a) finding the pickup point and b) waiting for the transport that didn´t turn up. We could see the Goldcar depot off in the distance and ended up walking there and the the nightmare just continued! Thank you, thank you, thank you for penning this piece and like you, we will NEVER use Goldcar again. These rip-off practises need to be stopped! Now, where do I sign?

    • Many thanks for the giggle, Colleen (I particularly like the phrase ” up since sparrowfart” – brilliant!) and for sharing your own Goldcar nightmare. It sounds as if yours was even worse than ours! I think the only thing we can all do is to share our experiences as far and wide as we can in the hopes that others will see them before they make the mistake of booking.
      If that fails – I’ll get the petition started 🙂

  4. And while I’m still in rant mode, I’d completely forgotten about the, surely illegal, practice of having to return the car empty of fuel, to be then charged for a full tank at their own inflated price, PLUS a fee for them having to do it!!! HOW do they get away with it? Call us petty, but when the car went back, we had it on the bare minimum, and proceeded to drive up and down the road until the tank was dry. You want an empty tank, well hup, voila! Since when were car hire companies in the business of selling fuel?

    • Oh, I couldn’t agree more, Colleen! It’s just another way to extract money from customers, particularly on islands as small as some of the Canary Islands like El Hierro where you’d have to drive in circles all day to use a full tank. Whenever I’ve tried to book someone who doesn’t operate the ‘buy a full tank and return it empty’ nonsense the prices have been waaay higher. Luckily, we didn’t only empty the tank but had to put petrol in twice more before we returned the car.
      I just hope this whole practice of dealing with the crisis by trying to screw more money out of your customers leads to companies going out of business because as a consumer, I agree with you – it stinks. Feel free to rant on, any time you like 🙂

  5. Goldcar Rental is the worst firm in the history of car rental. This seems to be the view of everyone who comes into contact with this company and its Vlad-the-Impaler approach to customer service.

    There are even stories of customers being refused the car they booked unless they signed up for Goldcar’s daylight-robbery excess insurance. I unfortunately became a Goldcar customer because I used one of their agents, Auto-Europe, for a trip to Tuscany last month.

    It’s a retail assault I will never forget and involved, as seems to be the norm, bulling, lying and scare tactics. I drove away from Pisa airport feeling I’d been mugged by a particularly well-organized gang of thieves.

    I’m determined to make as much noise about Goldcar Rental as possible and have started by creating a dedicated page to my sorry encounter with them on my website. It includes links to press articles and review sites. I’ll add Buzz Trips to the long list of links.

    http://www.daytripstoeurope.co.uk/Goldcar.htm

    • We absolutely agree with you, John. We were left feeling exactly the same way – mugged. Fortunately for us, the Goldcar employee we dealt with was actually very pleasant and not at all threatening but it does make you wonder what sort of carrot (or stick!) incentives the staff are on for ‘selling’ the excess insurance. We’re also amazed that Auto-Europe continue to use Goldcar but as long as they do, they will not be getting our business again.

  6. I have just completed a rental with plus cars in fuertventrua for 60 days Hire
    I would highly recommend this hire firm if you want excellent value for money and more importantly DO NOT WANT to be RIPPED OFF
    Pick up the car from airport car park (bay 531) and return same location

    Excellent friendly service

    Stewart D

  7. Goldcar can be amazing value. Avoid their insurance ploy by refusing cover and relying on a much-cheaper annual policy. And if you get to know their people at off-airport locations they’re friendly and helpful. Had an Audi once for €5 a day. But sadly I don’t use them any more. No-one at Tenerife North Airport who can check cars in and out? ..and weeks later a big credit card charge for damage? 🙁

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