Was her mother “hoodwinked” by a car rental site? By Christopher Elliott | February 28, 2012 FacebookTwitterGoogle+Pinterest Kathy Galloway is upset at her car rental company, Dollar Rent a Car, and the site through which she reserved the vehicle, Carrentals.com. She says she feels “hoodwinked” by them after running up a big bill on a rental in Germany. But what really happened? Galloway booked a car through Carrentals.com for her 72-year-old mother, who was flying to Germany on personal business. The confirmation had total estimated charges of $1,009 which included taxes and fees (based on November’s exchange rate.) My mother arrived in Frankfurt at the Dollar Rental Car counter and was told that the car was not available, that she would have to take a larger car (at the same rate.) Secondly and more importantly, she was charged 109 Euros for winter tires. She was also charged 189 Euros for the 19% VAT tax and 336 Euros for “CDW with 600 Euro SD”. The total was 1,189 Euros ($1,506), approximately $500 more than the confirmed amount. I clicked over to Carrentals.com and pulled up a price on a rental in Frankfurt. I seemed to offer an all-inclusive rate (see screenshot). I decided to check with Dollar. A representative contacted Galloway and told her she should have “gone to their website, which gives details of the rental contract and the additional charges,” she says. Problem is, the Carrentals.com reservation didn’t tell her she needed to check the Dollar site for extra fees. It offered an “all-in” grand total. Galloway adds, The reservation confirmation excluded all these fees to include the winter tires and collision insurance. In fact, on the confirmation it stated that taxes (the 19% German VAT) were included. What really got my goat was that my mom tried to waive the collision damage (she had her own insurance and was willing to show proof), but the only way to do so was to have an US issued gold or platinum visa card! Of course, they never told my mother that at the airport. Dollar Rent a Car just told her she couldn’t decline [the insurance]. Dollar and Galloway agreed to a $300 refund — and something is better than nothing — but she says she’ll never book online through Dollar or Carrentals.com again. I have a theory about what went wrong. It’s possible that the reservation somehow was reset after her mother was offered an upgrade. That would have meant she was paying the agreed-upon rate, but that the taxes would be extra. As for the winter tires, that’s kind of like charging for air conditioning in the summer. You don’t let your cars off the lot without the proper equipment, and you certainly don’t charge your customers for it. I’m glad Dollar offered Galloway a partial refund. But did it do enough? (Photo: pietpuma/Flickr) FacebookTwitterGoogle+Pinterest Christopher ElliottChristopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Got a question or comment? You can post it on our help forum.More Posts - Website - Twitter - Facebook - LinkedIn - Google Plus DavidYoung2 Well, if it says “Total Price” like in your screen shot, that’s the total price. Unless in Germany the word “Total” means not even close to total. Dollar should refund all of the excess amount charged. sdir Part of the reason I read Travel Troubleshooter is to learn what steps a customer could and should take to prevent mishaps. Is there nothing Galloway’s mother could have done differently at the counter? What about Galloway herself after the fact? It seems a lot of Chris’s recent articles tell a story or encourage debate, yet don’t actually give suggestions on how to resolve travel issues. y_p_w To me, “Estimated” is the key word. That sort of gives a lot of leeway for them to try all sorts of things. Christopher Elliott In this case, I don’t know if there’s anything she could have done, except go directly to the car rental company’s site to book. sirwired This is squarely on the reservation site. This is what they get paid for, no? If Dollar says there were additional charges that the website forgot to include, then why aren’t you chasing after the website to make it right? $16635417 …disregard…moved post. $16635417 Both sites have the charges explained in the local policies link in their websites. If the OP did not read the link on the site they used, I doubt they would have clicked it on the car rental company’s site either. The insurance question was explained in the column. The winter tire rule is a German law that applies when weather conditions warrant.I see the question as how should the “optional” charges that may end up being “mandatory” be addressed on the quote? Paul Hayes sirwired is correct – I work for a rental broker. If our terms or pricing is wrong and the customer is charged more due to our system, it’s our responsibility to either make Dollar (or whoever the supplier is) refund, or we take the hit and refund. Raven_Altosk So, I guess the rental car companies are following the airline’s “ala carte” pricing? I mean, why a separate charge for tires? I would assume TIRES are included in a bloody car rental!??! But then, this is Dollar, so…? Philippa_FRA The winter tyres issue is a bit of a German quirk. It’s an “extra” because they are not required by law – unless you’re driving in wintry conditions aka with snow/slush on the roads. And since winter tyres are more expensive than summer tyres and bad for the fuel economy, there are some pros and cons to consider. Some rental companies put winter tyres on all their cars on Nov 1st; some leave it up to the customers to decide if they want them or not. Some charge extra for winter tyres; some don’t – which basically means other people are paying a little extra for driving on summer tyres. Overall, $300 (out of $500) seems like a reasonable amount. Kathy Galloway didn’t quite do her (mother’s) homework properly. The info on how to waive collision insurance is black and bolded in the pop-up that comes when you click the “local policy” link. Is it too much to ask people to read&understand the policy when they’re renting a car in a foreign country? emanon256 I don’t like the question, because I don’t think dollar owes the OP anything. I think the problem is carrentals . com being yet another opaque website. How about, “Does carrentals . com owe her?” Reason 191 why to book through a trusted brick and mortar agent or the vendor directly and not through an opaque site trying to earn its commission. When I rent a car through the vendor’s website directly, at least they let me know up front they are ripping me off. Philippa_FRA The issue is what “total” means in the US. She booked via Carrentals.com so it’s on them to quote Dollar’s prices correctly. andrelot Chris, Winter tires are not mandatory in Germany all the time, unless there are “wintery conditions” (precipitation of snow, slush or ice on roads). However, more and more cars are fit with all-seasons tires, meaning paying the supplement is unnecessary. $16635417 Dollar and carrentals . com both have the same information in the same place…under local policies. This is also not considered opaque, the renter knew the car rental company before reserving. This has more to do with a German law regarding snow tires and the conditions in which a rental company will waive insurance coverage. $16635417 German law requires snow tires under only certain weather conditions. I took a quick glance at Hertz and they also have the charge. I don’t intend to look at every company, but it appears (based on a sample size of 2!) that it may be standard practice. emanon256 I don’t understand why the renter would use a site like carrentals . com then. Why not just use the vendors? I guess it is not opaque, I thought it was. I still don’t see why people would use it. I actually just did two identical mock rentals in Germany, and the carrentals . com price was $22 higher than the Dollar price. Both listed the fees at checkout except for winter tires. Winter tires were hidden under the link you mentioned. The big difference is that Dollar stated 181 Euros ($243) as the “Base Price” and carrentals . com stated $265 as the “Total inclusive of tax” on one page, and “Estimated total” on another. Anything with the word total sounds like there will be no more fees, while Base Price, sounds like there could be. The taxes and fees listed were the same. Bottom line, I think carrentals . com is charging them more than they would be charged through Dollar directly,so why use them? Philippa_FRA At the counter? I don’t think so. It sounds like Galloway Sr. didn’t have the right credit cards and therefore couldn’t forgo the collision damage insurance. And apparently she couldn’t forgo winter tyres either because it was a Dollar policy or …winter? What she had was an incorrect/incomplete quote on a reservation from a 2nd (3rd?) party and not a booked&paid deal. But beforehand? Sure; she could have made the reservation herself and read the policy, instead of relying on her daughter to do so. SoBeSparky We all know car rental rates are sketchy to begin with. They always try to pile on extras, add-ons, up charges and so on. But then to book a car rental reservation through a third-party website seems like betting against the house in Las Vegas. When you are not paying and getting a receipt for specified charges, just making a reservation, then do it at the vendor’s own official site. Third party sites right off the bat begin the finger pointing. Meanwhile, the consumer almost always loses. On-line travel agents take you one degree away from the primary source of charges. Go to the source for accuracy and sole responsibility. ClareClare Is there more than one definition of the English word “total”? I’m dead serious. If the quoted price isn’t the “total price,” then don’t call it the “total price”–call it something else. If it IS the “total price,” then you can’t add anything on later because you already quoted the customer the total. If you call it the “total price,” but have some fine print on another part of your website that indicates it’s not REALLY the “total price” but you’re just choosing to call it that on your main page to attract customers, well, that’s obvious deception. Good faith and an ordinary grasp of the English language would suggest that this is a no-brainer. If you got your hair done, or new kitchen cabinets installed, or your coat dry-cleaned, you’d hold the business to the “total price” they quoted you–and if they didn’t, you could go to court and you’d easily win. So why is it that rental-car companies seem to think they can do business according to some sort of unique, alternate-reality rules that nobody else can legally get away with? MikeInCtown A quick glance at the photo provided shows “total price” very clearly. One should not then be expected to have to follow a link to another page where they will then learn of an additional $500 charge! TonyA_says she could have made the reservation herself and read the policy, instead of relying on her daughter to do so. Bravo! This for me is one of the biggest source of problems. Interesting that the daughter also did the complaining here. Phillip Mendenhall Why would the reservation “reset” after the upgrade? The upgrade happened because they didn’t have the car that was reserved available, so that really shouldn’t have made any difference. Kotch11 I don’t think she can blame Dollar for this. I always seem to get better prices and trustworthiness from the car rental companies themselves. Nancy Dickinson I’ll probably be in the minority here but, I can’t help but feel, after reading so many of these complaints, that the car rental counters are being a bit predatory. When one walks up to the counter to obtain their rental car while in a foreign country, aren’t you kind of stuck? I mean, your plan was to rent a car (and in this case pre-reserve it before even taking off from the mother land) so no alternative form of transportation is even arranged. You have few choices at that point. I’m feeling as though Dollar needs to refund the entire difference. $16635417 I was not commenting on the way the quote is displayed. I am rebutting the comments that this could have been avoided by using Dollar’s website. The points by Chris and Dollar seemed to imply that she would not have had this issue by booking direct at Dollar’s website. What I am pointing out is that by not clicking on the local policy link at carrentals . com site, what makes everyone think she would have done it at Dollar’s? $16635417 Tony…since you are a travel agent, I’m curious…were you aware of the policies regarding insurance waivers and snow tire charges? When you book a client’s car in FRA on your GDS do these “pseudo-optional” charges display? I would assume that nothing is printed on the itinerary and it would be up to the agent to research this, advise the client and document the itinerary. bodega3 Where do people find these sites to book on? I never heard of this site. Was there a savings over booking with the car company OR through a TA that could use a compnay that has a toll free international number to call if there is a problem? I don’t get this booking at all. $16635417 That is a great question. I use various third party sites to compare prices, but usually go back to suppliers site to book. In some cases the rate quoted by a third party is cheaper due to contacts they have with the supplier, in which case I have to decide if it is worth it to involve a middleman. emanon256 Really good question!!! I was wondering the same thing. I have never heard of it either, and when I compared it, it cost more than the car rental place itself. I wonder if people are just Googling terms like “Cheap car rental” and getting a bunch of ad word sites, assuming they are cheap, and booking. The book Scammed mentions a cruise site where a person books a cruise, pays, and the fake company never made an actual reservation, it just took her money and ran. I bet people are just rampantly setting up on-like booking sites, paying for ad words, and either pocketing the money, in cases like this making a legitimate reservation, but for more than the person could get it for themselves and making a commission. Joe Farrell most folks over 65 still have this bias that companies will treat them fairly and if they are facing unexpected costs they must have done something wrong – those of use under that age tend to assume someone is trying to take advantage of us and stick up for what we agreed upon at the outset. A corrollary is an airline passing the hat before departure claiming: “Its winter, we have to deice and the winds are higher so it will cost more in fuel and we did not expect that when we charged you in July.” Only Spirit and Allegiant would try that. Before you call me a ‘racist’ for making assumptions about those a generation older than I, in 25 years of the practice of law it has been my personal experience that those a generation older have a much more trusting and less confrontational style. . . . That said – in Europe – use public transportation, trains, etc.. . .its much cheaper. Joe Farrell so its ok to add 2 junk taxes to increase your profits? $100 for winter tires? You can BUY 4 winter tires for $500 – so in 5 rentals your ‘tax’ is just pure profit. And you think thats ok? Try to rent a car in Eastern Europe . . . hahahaha Joe Farrell oh give me a break – the car rental company does not pay for fuel if the mileage is less. And its not the tires that reduce the mileage is the road conditions that reduce the mileage in winter. If the LAW requires winter tires then the OWNER of the vehicle whose car is being rented needs to prove them as a condition of rental. Winter tires do NOT cost more than regular tires because you simply put on ALL SEASON tires and even in Germany those are legal in the winter . . . . so if the vehicle CAME with All Season tires then its good to go. Why should the renter be responsible for ensuring the vehicle they are paying for is legal to operate on the roads during the period of time they are renting it? TonyA_says @mikegun:disqus To answer your question on whether a TA sees the details of a car booking. The answer is YES. Here is what I will see to book a (standard) car for 4 days in FRA from Dollar (ZR). Lack of information is not an excuse. In fact there is too much information to read. First the actual rates: #ZR-DOLLAR ** SOURCE RULES ** DOLLAR PICK UP – FRA T01 DROP OFF – FRA T01 PICKUP DETAILS: COUNTER IS IN TERMINAL – WALK TO CAR PICKUP WED 21MAR RETURN SUN 25MAR RATE CODE: ITUD3 SDAR – DAILY CUR FREE CHARGE RATE 32.39 EUR UNL — EXTRA WEEK — — EXTRA DAY 32.39 EUR UNL — EXTRA HOUR 19.60 EUR UNL — TOTAL RATE DETAIL: FOUR DAYS AT 32.39 PER DAY 129.56 SUBTOTAL EXCLUDING MANDATORY CHARGES 129.56 MANDATORY CHARGES TOTAL 61.59 ——– TOTAL RATE 191.15 ————————————————————— MANDATORY CHARGES: 20.00 PCT AIRPORT ACCESS FEE PER RENTAL 25.91 5.16 ROAD TAX PER RENTAL 5.16 19.00 PCT VAT TAX PER RENTAL 30.52 MANDATORY CHARGES TOTAL 61.59 ————————————————————— ADVISORY: CHARGES ASSOCIATED WITH THE BASE RATE ARE THOSE WHICH ARE APPLICABLE AT THE TIME OF BOOKING AND COULD BE SUBJECT TO CHANGE. ONLY THOSE CHARGES LISTED AS MANDATORY ARE INCLUDED IN THE TOTAL RATE FOR THE DISPLAYED RENTAL. ————————————————————— GUAR RESERVATION: GUARANTEE NOT REQUIRED MINIMUM RENTAL: 2 DAYS MAXIMUM RENTAL: 4 DAYS PICKUP TIME: EARLIEST-1000A LATEST-N/A LATEST RTN TIME: 1000A SUN RATE GUARANTEED: 364 DAYS FROM BOOKING DATE RESTRICTED MILEAGE: DRIVING IS ON THE RIGHT SIDE OF THE ROAD. DRIVING IS RESTRICTED TO ALL EU COUNTRIES, SWITZERLAND, LIECHTENSTEIN, CROATIA, NORWAY AND ICELAND ONLY. IT IS STRICTLY FORBIDDEN TO GO INTO OPERATIONAL ZONES (WAR ZONES) AND AREAS OF CONFLICT. GENERAL: NO ADVANCE BOOKING REQUIRED 3 DY MIN 4 DAY MAX RENTAL REQUIRED DROP CHARGES IF APPLICABLE WILL DISPLAY AT CONFIRMATI FOR BOOKING PROBLEMS CALL HELP DESK 1 800 800 5774 Then you display the CDW Rules: ZR-DOLLAR FRA T001 FRANKFURT AIRPORT FRA ** CDW ** WED 21MAR LOSS DAMAGE WAIVER *LDW* IS OPTIONAL. COST RANGES FROM EUR 15.00 TO EUR 20.00 PER DAY, BASED ON VEHICLE TYPE. PURCHASE OF LDW LOWERS RENTERS FINANCIAL RESPONSIBILITY TO A NON-WAIVABLE DEDUCTIBLE RANGING FROM EUR 1200.00 TO EUR 2200.00, BASED ON VEHICLE TYPE. THE FINANCIAL RESPONSIBILITY WITHOUT LDW PURCHASE IS THE FULL VALUE OF THE VEHICLE. TO WAIVE LDW COVERAGE, CUSTOMER MUST HAVE EITHER A U.S.-ISSUED GOLD/PLATINUM MASTERCARD OR A CANADIAN-ISSUED GOLD/PLATINUM VISA AND PROVIDE WRITTEN PROOF BY THE CREDIT CARD INSURANCE COMPANY THAT THE CARD HAS FULL COVERAGE FOR GERMANY OR WORLDWIDE AT TIME OF RENTAL. THESE CARDS WILL ONLY BE ACCEPTED FOR COVERAGE FOR RENTAL PERIODS OF LESS THAN 28 DAYS IN ANY CALENDAR YEAR. IF A RELEVANT CARD AND COVER LETTER IS NOT PRODUCED AT TIME OF COMMENCEMENT OF THE RENTAL, LDW MUST BE PURCHASED. CREDIT CARD COVERAGE IS NOT ACCEPTED FOR PVMN *9 PSGR*. IN THE EVENT OF AN ACCIDENT, ANY DAMAGE OR THEFT, WHATEVER THE CAUSE OR WHO IS TO BLAME (EVENT IF VEHICLE WAS UNATTENDED), THE DRIVER MUST OBTAIN THE RELEVANT REPORT FROM THE GERMAN POLICE. FAILURE TO PROVIDE A CORRECTLY COMPLETED POLICE REPORT TO THE RENTAL AGENT UPON RETURN OF THE VEHICLE WILL VOID THE LDW. THE DRIVER WILL THEN BE LIABLE FOR THE TOTAL COST OF THE DAMAGES UP TO AND INCLUDING THE TOTAL COST OF THE VEHICLE. LOCATION DOES NOT ACCEPT INSURANCES PURCHASED ON THIRD PARTY WEBSITES. . SUPER DAMAGE WAIVER *SDW* IS OPTIONAL. COST OF SDW IS EUR 5.00 PER DAY FOR ALL VEHICLES AND REDUCES THE RENTERS FINANCIAL RESPONSIBILITY TO BETWEEN EUR 600.00 AND EUR 1100.00, DEPENDING ON THE VEHICLE TYPE, WHEN PURCHASED IN CONJUNCTION WITH LDW. THE LOCATION DOES NOT ACCEPT INSURANCE PURCHASED ON THIRD PARTY WEBSITES. . THEFT PROTECTION *TP* COVERAGE IS OPTIONAL. COST IS EUR 3.59 PER DAY. LOCATION DOES NOT ACCEPT INSURANCES PURCHASED ON THIRD PARTY WEBSITES. . SEE INSURANCE AND PAI FOR OTHER COVERAGE INFORMATION. Finally, you can display the whole policy. ZR-DOLLAR WED 21MAR / SUN 25MAR PHONE:49 69 6500-7120 FRA T001 – FRANKFURT AIRPORT FRA 800 800-1000 FRANKFURT AIRPORT IN TERMINAL 2 HOURS: FRANKFURT ** SEE HOURS POLICY DE WRITTEN CONFO: NO *AIRPORT PRIME AIRPORT ASSOCIATED AIRPORTS FRA NONE INDICATED *AGE *ARRIVAL AFTER HOUR ARRIVALS AND RETURNS: ARRIVALS AFTER REGULAR OFFICE HOURS ARE NOT ACCEPTED. AFTER HOUR RETURN ARRANGEMENTS MUST BE MADE AT THE TIME OF VEHICLE CHECK-OUT. A FEE OF 50EUR PLUS VAT WILL APPLY FOR RENTAL RETURN AFTER REGULAR OFFICE HOURS. HOLDING RESERVED VEHICLES: VEHICLES ARE HELD 2 HOURS AFTER RESERVED ARRIVAL TIME. *CDW *COMMISSIONS NO INFORMATION EXISTS FOR THE REQUESTED POLICY *CREDIT CARDS CREDIT CARDS ACCEPTABLE FOR GUARANTEE AX BA CA VI CREDIT CARDS ACCEPTABLE FOR DEPOSIT NO INFO THIS DATE *DROP OFF* *SPECIAL EQUIPMENT … *FACTS *GAS *HOURS – REFER TO ARRIVAL POLICY WED 21MAR OPEN-CLOSE 600A-1100P SEE *ARRV* FOR AFTER HRS AND HOLDING RESERVED VEHICLES. AFTER HOURS: 1200M-600A 1100P-1200M SUN 25MAR OPEN-CLOSE 600A-1100P SEE *ARRV* FOR AFTER HRS AND HOLDING RESERVED VEHICLES. AFTER HOURS: 1200M-600A 1100P-1200M *INSURANCE *MAKES UNSPECIFIED FUEL/POWER WITH AIR CODE MANUFACTURER MODEL DOORS PSGR RANGE SDAR -AUDI A4 4 5 0-0 KM *OTHER ANY CHANGES TO THE RESERVATION OR RENTAL MAY RESULT IN A CHANGE OF RATE OR ADDITIONAL FEES. MAKES/MODELS ARE EXAMPLES ONLY AND ARE NOT GUARANTEED. . GEOGRAPHIC DRIVING RESTRICTIONS: * RESTRICTIONS ON DRIVING LOCALLY: VEHICLES ARE DRIVEN ON THE RIGHT SIDE OF THE ROAD. SEAT BELTS AND CHILD SEATS ARE MANDATORY BY LAW. * RESTRICTIONS ON DRIVING OUT OF THE COUNTRY: DRIVING OF DOLLAR VEHICLE IS RESTRICTED TO ALL EUROPEAN UNION COUNTRIES: SWITZERLAND, LIECHTENSTEIN, CROATIA, NORWAY AND ICELAND. DRIVING IS NOT ALLOWED INTO ANY OTHER COUNTRIES. IT IS STRICTLY FORBIDDEN TO GO INTO OPERATIONAL ZONES (WAR ZONES) AND AREAS OF CONFLICT. . ACCORDING TO GERMAN LAW, WINTER TIRES ARE MANDATORY FROM OCTOBER UNTIL MARCH IF THE TEMPERATURE IS 7 DEGREES CELSIUS OR BELOW. EXTRA CHARGES ARE NOT INCLUDED IN THE RENTAL RATES. COST FOR WINTER TIRES IS EUR 13.00 PER DAY OR EUR 130.00 MAXIMUM CHARGE. *PAI *PHONE LOCAL NUMBERS RESERVATION NUMBERS 49 69 6500-7120 800 800-1000 *PAYMENT *SHUTTLE PICK UP INFORMATION- TERMINAL 1 – CLIENT MUST TAKE THE SKY LINE FROM TERMINAL 1- HALL B- TO TERMINAL 2 AND LOCATE THE DOLLAR COUNTER IN T2- CAR RENTAL AREA- GATE D- LEVEL 2. CARS ARE ON SITE. PHONE- 0049 0 69-65007120 . TERMINAL 2 – CLIENT MUST LOCATE THE DOLLAR COUNTER IN TERMINAL 2- CAR RENTAL AREA- GATE D- LEVEL 2. CARS ARE ON SITE. *TAX *VALID Please note the section on the Winter Tires: ACCORDING TO GERMAN LAW, WINTER TIRES ARE MANDATORY FROM OCTOBER UNTIL MARCH IF THE TEMPERATURE IS 7 DEGREES CELSIUS OR BELOW. EXTRA CHARGES ARE NOT INCLUDED IN THE RENTAL RATES. COST FOR WINTER TIRES IS EUR 13.00 PER DAY OR EUR 130.00 MAXIMUM CHARGE. IGoEverywhere Get off of the cars, they screw you every time unless you are working with a true storefront travel agent. I have never lost a battle hwen my clients were correct. The lady got scammed and at 72 years of age, she not have had to suffer this anguish. She got $300.00 back, so there was no reason to bore us on another typical car rental. they happen at 40% of all rentals and lets get to the real problems of travel; scams, TSA, and airline bumping without proper compensation would be nice to hear about. TonyA_says Mike, I answered you with a new post. I need more “real estate”. Joel Wechsler It never ceases to amaze me that people who aren’t entirely sure of what they are doing use third party sites when they could just as easily go directly to the vendor, in this case Dollar. Auto Europe would nbe an exception to this, as they deal with many companies, with Europcar being the primary one. Of course you have to have a little knowledge or do a little research to find them. I also don’t understand why the OP’s mother, if she is competent enough to fly to Germany on business and to drive while there, didn’t do this herself, or ask her travel arranger to do it. Joe_D_Messina I don’t think it’s quite that simple in this case. This was presented in a very deceptive manner. Estimates need to be at least somewhat close. (I can’t quote you an estimate of $1 then charge you $100 because I “forgot” to include a bunch of required stuff.) Her final bill was basically 50% higher than the estimated total. That’s absurd. If they can’t come any closer than that, then it shouldn’t say “estimated” but should more properly be labeled “base pricing” or something similar to make it clear that a large chunk of mandatory fees probably aren’t included. The local info link on the estimate page certainly isn’t labeled in such a way that you would expect there to be huge additional fees involved–the examples they list are “driver’s age, mileage, geographic restrictions and shuttle info.” TonyA_says Yup, they tried their luck with a so-so company because it came up on top of a google search. People think just because it’s on the first page of google, then it’s fine. Yeah right! IF this is the case, then IMO google may have done evil. Joe_D_Messina “Totally” agree with you ;-). And total isn’t the only questionable term used. “Estimates” need to be reasonably close. In this case, the final bill was about 50% higher than the estimate. That’s not an estimate…that’s a deliberate falsehood. If the local info page is going to include a bunch of additional large mandatory fees, then they shouldn’t be calling that page an estimate but rather “base charges” or something like that. If what they’re doing here is acceptable, then they basically could just make the “estimate” the cheapest deal you could get from them domestically then wait for the local page to tell you that the daily rate is 10 times that amount where you’re going. Mary Ramsey When i was stationed in Germany my car broke down allot so i had to deal with a wide variety of rental companies.the only non-scam artists were on base (probaly because those places were under the watch of the base commander). ALL other rental places on germany had mandatory insurance AND once i got a scratch on a car they said (i am not kidding) “oh, you paid for the expensive insurance- that only covers damage of 700 euros or more. if you had bought the cheap insurance it woudl have covered this scratch.” um what? so once i realize there was a scratch i should have made sure to hit a tree? Now I realize I cannot say “all”, because I did not try every single rental place, so if peole out there had good experiences rentingin germany I would love to hear them. TonyA_says I think you nailed it. Insurance can be waived with the proper credentials, so it is not included in the rates YET. Same with winter tires since there is no telling whether it would be 7Deg C or below. Joe_D_Messina I found that part rather interesting about the letter. On the one hand, you’ve obviously got a very strong, independent woman–in her 70s by herself abroad doing her own driving. On the other hand, she has the daughter completely take care of the rental transaction. Possibly a case of her just not being comfortable with buying online? But she also could have done it by phone and probably would have come away with a much clearer idea of what the total cost would have been. Sometimes the extra “help” isn’t very helpful. TonyA_says Some people only see what they want to see. TonyA_says What really got my goat was that my mom tried to waive the collision damage (she had her own insurance and was willing to show proof), but the only way to do so was to have an US issued gold or platinum visa card! A GDS and website would likely read the same database for Car Rentals. So here are Dollar’s Rule for FRA airport site: TO WAIVE LDW COVERAGE, CUSTOMER MUST HAVE EITHER A U.S.-ISSUED GOLD/PLATINUM MASTERCARD OR A CANADIAN-ISSUED GOLD/PLATINUM VISA AND PROVIDE WRITTEN PROOF BY THE CREDIT CARD INSURANCE COMPANY THAT THE CARD HAS FULL COVERAGE FOR GERMANY OR WORLDWIDE AT TIME OF RENTAL. THESE CARDS WILL ONLY BE ACCEPTED FOR COVERAGE FOR RENTAL PERIODS OF LESS THAN 28 DAYS IN ANY CALENDAR YEAR. IF A RELEVANT CARD AND COVER LETTER IS NOT PRODUCED AT TIME OF COMMENCEMENT OF THE RENTAL, LDW MUST BE PURCHASED. The problem is that some people don’t read the rules. Then they complain. $16635417 Almost word for word what was in the “Local Policies” link on carrental . com and Dollar’s website $16635417 Dollar’s website did not include these charges in the rate. She would have needed to click on the “local Policies” link. Since this information was also in the same link on the site she used, I would have to assume she would not use it on Dollar either. I agree with Auto Europe…always had a knowledgeable agent and never a problem. If you book on their website however, the “tire fee” is also in the fine print link. TonyA_says Well then no one got “hood winked” — the ole lady and her [feisty] daughter. What a waste of time unless she can prove she was really overcharged. Just because you paid MORE THAN YOU WANT means you were OVERCHARGED. Read the damn rules next time! $16635417 Last week there was a story about fake goods being sold over the internet! (Pretending to be shocked.) The issue at hand was someone who bought a Rosetta Stone language program that turned out to be fake. They searched “Rosetta Stone” on Google and clicked a sponsored link to a website that offered a cheaper price, but that turned out to be fake goods. Google claimed they can’t police all the links, but doing that search now, I see only the official website and well known retailers on the results page…Oh..and ebay. (Only bashing ebay because it is common to see fakes on there, even though it is against their policy.) scapel Woops, missed that one. I rented a car in France once and they made me take their insurance. I either took it or didn’t get the car. I have used a local personal (relative) contact in Germany for cars there. I do not like doing business through third parties. I always like to talk to the people I will be looking face to face with. If she woud have called the rental car company and spoken personally all those other things would have been known up front. I have been looking to book a hotel in Singapore and keep getting third parties. Difficult to get the actual hotel itself, but keep trying. TonyA_says Mike, do you know if these 3rd party car rental sites are any cheaper than direct? I am not sure commissions on car rental are that big to support this kind of operations unless they are as large as AUTO EUROPE. Cybrsk8r “Winter tires”? That’s kind of like charging for anti-freeze. $16635417 I was about to say Auto Europe…and then I got to the end of your post. I have seen cheaper rates on Orbitz, Expedia, etc…but they tend to be cheaper only because they have what amounts to a corporate discount off the full price. When I use the AAA discount code on Hertz. com for example, I get a better rate than elsewhere for Hertz. TonyA_says A TA can always join some consortium and perhaps get better prices. The problem I see with some aggregator’s price is that they demand PREPAY. That defeats a lot of flexibility. In the end, a traveler either knows what they are doing and buy direct -OR- pay a professional to do his/her booking and avoid problems (at least most of them). This is the current “state of affairs” with air, hotel, car, cruises, etc. Either D-I-Y it at your own risk or pay a PRO a fee. (Fee due to lack of commission nowadays.) Even the hotel booking problem yesterday could have been avoided if only the rules were followed. So the use of a PRO is to educate and help the consumer on the rules! TonyA_says Noticed the ole lady was on her own PERSONAL BUSINESS. Was the trip so hush-hush that the daughter had to make the reservation? Weird. $16635417 Tomorrow’s case…being charged for “Summer Tires” in Honolulu. Philippa_FRA Joe, you sound you don’t know the first thing about tyres!? The conditions in Germany call for winter/summer tyres, and nobody wants to drive on all-season M+S tyres because they pretty much suck all year round (albeit in different ways). Second, in Germany the driver is fully and exclusively responsible for his/her driving. In other words, it remains the personal responsibility of the driver to not be drunk, to wear a seat belt, to abide by speed limits… and to not drive in wintry conditions on summer tyres. If you don’t feel comfortable with all that responsibility; please don’t drive. MarkKelling It is interesting to note the LDW still has a hefty amount the renter has to cover. I doubt that is made clear at rental time. Philippa_FRA Well, there are at least 10 different rental car companies at FRA in addition to an excellent public transport system, so it’s not like you’re completely and utterly stuck. But obviously your options depends on where you’re going and what you were planning on doing. Why do you think the refund should come from Dollar and not Carrentals, BTW? y_p_w I haven’t done a lot of cold weather car rentals, but I remember picking up a car with relatives in Chicago (I didn’t drive). The car was equipped with deicer in the washer fluid reservoir (it easily melted through the windshield ice) and had an ice scraper in in front of the passenger seat. Winter tires are generally very specific. “All-season tires” are the most common type in North America, but in Europe they typically run what are known as “three season tyres” when it doesn’t snow and dedicated “winter tyres” when it might snow. They can cost quite a bit, but the real kicker is that they are very soft (to maintain grip when cold) and tend to wear down quickly. They also need to be replaced before the tread is completely down in order to maintain their snow capabilities. A lot of people don’t like them. They tend to be squirmy/noisy, and they’ll wear down quickly if there’s no snow on the ground. Joe Farrell I lived in New England for 18 years – we get ten times the snow and ice that Germany gets – since ‘summer’ tires have a ‘do not use below 0C’ restriction – I simply cannot imagine that ANYONE iin Germany who rents cars runs summer tires at ANY time of year. All Season M+S tires cannot be that bad since Mercedes, BMV, VW and Audi deliver 100% of their vehicles with all season M+S tires . .. you might want to revisit your opinion. Furthermore- in every country in the world the driver is responsible for their driving. I don’t know why that seems like such a tremendous observation . .. Joe Farrell According to German law tires capable for the conditions are required – NOT ‘Winter Tires.” In Germany, H rated M+S tires would satisfy the requirements. These are readily available and are standard equipment on almost every rental vehicle in Germany. This is a way to generate more revenue. End of story. Here is my proof – http://www.hqusareur.army.mil/goodstuff/FAQ_winter_tires.htm and, http://www.german-way.com/ice-snow-tires.html TonyA_says Actually if I can believe the OP, the ole lady paid a lot more than I thought she was supposed to pay extra. The winter tires should only be EUR 13/day and LDW no more than EUR 20/day and SDW(a CDW) 5/day That’s only EUR 38/day more or about $50/day. I don’t know what else she bought, maybe better insurance coverage. Chris’ example only should 4 days of rental. I’m not sure how long the lady rented the car. But $500 seems to be too much. If she rented 4 days then $200 is the extra amount, not $500. Maybe that’s why they returned $300. I would like to see the breakdown of the charges so I can understand where they got screwed. (Maybe they charged her a higher rate for the larger car. That’s bad.) So, the lesson of the day is PRINT THE CONTRACT & FEES and take it with you when you get the car. Better still read and understand it. Philippa_FRA The 7C rule is an old rule of thumb; nowadays the recommendation is to don winter tyres when the first snow is on the ground or in the forecast. The law, per 2010, is that winter tyres (or M+S) are required if there is snow, slush or ice on the roads. TonyA_says Re: Auto Europe. They also go by the name Kemwel. If anyone wants to book 3rd party this is the outfit to use. Otherwise go direct; or use a TA if you have air, hotel and other needs to combine. TonyA_says Ok so it snowed in Europe, and the rental companies can now make more money charging for snow tires. But the way CAR RENTAL FEES are stated (look at my example above) do not consider the extra fees as part of the TOTAL RATE. Do we now need Consumer Alliance folks to lobby Congress and demand it in Europe? Do we now have to argue with German car rental companies that their all weather tires are OK for winter and therefore they are scamming us? Or maybe just budget 10 Euro more per day and forget about it. Seems like the way the rate is displayed in GDS is OK with European Authorities as long as you can get it (info) somewhere. Maybe Europeans always ask the question – what else do I have to pay BEYOND the total charges? Philippa_FRA People use summer tyres because they’re better on wet roads and/or in warm weather, plus they’re less noisy, less expensive and last longer. Besides, the temps are far above 0C most of the year; it’s not Siberia. And no, the default is summer tyres (in Europe). MarkieA There’s a difference between being responsible for your driving – sober, seat belts, speed, etc. – and being responsible for the safe condition of the car. By this logic, the renter should be responsible for making sure there is enough oil in the car, that the tires are properly inflated, that there is plenty of wiper fluid, etc. Certainly, if any of these things are lacking, it is the renter who will suffer the shortcoming, but I don’t believe that it is the renter’s responsibility to assure that these things are proper; it is the rental company’s responsibility. TonyA_says I believe you Joe. I live in Connecticut and never change to winter tires. But there is no way I (or you) can get that fee out of there. It’s gonna stick. Nancy Dickinson Because it was Dollar that ended up with the extra money, not Carrentals.com. Also, Phillipa_FRA – you’re addressing one overseas airport. It’s not always that easy to get somewhere from the airport. Philippa_FRA I was just pointing out that the GDS info about German law was outdated/incorrect. The info on winter tyres is readily available on European car rental sites, plus the full-price-disclosure-rule applies to them too. So no, no secrets here. The problem with this Galloway case seems to be that Carrentals didn’t pass on all the info from Dollars – which, BTW, is just a codeshare facade of the German company Terstappen – which, BTW-2, puts winter tyres on all their cars when it’s winter. (Or, so they claim, in big bold letters on the first page). TonyA_says Mike, I checked my GDS – Hertz, Avis, EuropCar does not have the winter tire charges. Budget has one, though. Looks like a gimmick to make more money. Philippa_FRA That’s true, and it’s a good point – there may not be any other option than to pony up the $$$ if you should be so unfortunate to end up in that kind of situation. In this Galloway case, I’m putting the blame on Carrentals for quoting the incorrect/incomplete price. Dollar was very upfront with how to waive the collision insurance on their own site, and I wouldn’t call it “pocketing extra money” because Mom Galloway couldn’t produce the right kind of proof she already had insurance. TonyA_says The snow tire stuff is clearly just another way to charge the customer extra. I couldn’t find it (winter tire fee) in Hertz, Avis and Europcar. Yes, the charges is hidden inside all the gory details. But that is what one gets when they don’t rent from the top tier. Lesson – if the rate is cheap, read the fine print. Philippa_FRA But the thing is, it’s perfectly safe (and preferable) to drive a car on summer tyres in the FRA area where it’s currently 5-10C and dry. On the other hand, if you’re going to be driving from FRA to, say, south Germany, where there’s still snow on the ground, then you need to consider whether you’ll be needing winter tyres. And per German law it’s the driver’s responsibility to check/consider these things. It’s sorta like how you don’t need winter tyres in Florida just because there’s snow in Alaska… unless you’ll be driving from FLA to Alaska ;-) TonyA_says Hey, guess what I found out. http://www.carrentals.com/media_room/press_release/03142008.jsp They are an Expedia company. Like Hotwire! Well that answers all the questions we have. Also just like what Emanon256 is saying, I still cannot understand how they managed to bill the OP another $500 when Dollar would probably only charge $200 (based on the info in GDS) for 4 days. It seems that they are more expensive that Dollar itself. Philippa_FRA That’s odd!? It was right in my face when I fake-booked on Europcar, Avis and Terstappen. I’m not sure I agree with you that it’s just a money grab – winter tyres is an “extra” which you’ll need if you’re going to be driving on snowy roads – per German law. But you don’t need them if you’re staying away from the snow. It’s sorta like how you don’t need a car seat for small children if you’re not driving with small children. Joe Farrell ‘Summer’ tires have soft compounds, do not last long, generally are poor in wet and have superior dry traction. You are NOT talking about summer tires – you are talking about ALL SEASON tires. Go look at the standard definitions for tires at Continental, Michelin and Pirelli – all European brands catering to the European market. Winter tires are ‘snow’ tires – and THEY are noisier than normal, have larger tread blocks, sipes and also have poor life. Joe Farrell Actually – Tony, the correct analysis is that: “it snowed in Europe, we have All Season M+S tires on the car, we can CHARGE more.” If they have the SAME tires on the car year round, which I would think is EXACTLY what is happening, all they do is add a surcharge for something they do not provide. I would PAY someone to go to a car rental lot, and photograph some cars in February 2012. Then go back in May 2012, find the SAME cars, and see what tires they have on them . . . . I think we ALL know what we are going to find – Phillipa please- you are shilling for a scam. Figure it out, ok? Joe Farrell and US All Season M+S tires would work perfectly fine in most of Continental Europe – and in fact – are perfectly legal as ‘winter’ tires. Joe Farrell To Chris Elliott – LETS SEE IF IT WAS A SCAM — Do you have the rental receipt? If so – what kind of car was it? Make/Model/ Year Lets see what tires come STANDARD on that car. I looked up small Audis, Fiats and BMW’s = all pretty standard rentals in Germany. They ALL come STANDARD in European configuration with either Michelin, Continental or Pirelli ALL SEASON M+S rated tires. Thus – every car – from the factory – comes equipped street legal with German ‘winter’ tires. . . . If it was a Japanese car for the European market – same thing – comes with Kumho or one of the Asian makers of M+S rated tires. So there is NO reason for ANY car company to charge anyone more money – next – did they actually have ‘Winter’ only tires on the car- why – they should be able to prove that – and – did the 72 year old grandmother take any photos near the car so we can see what tires it might have on it. . .. I might be going overboard but this is a money grab pure and simple – they could take advantage of the unknowing and make absolutely no changes to the vehicle, charge more for it – and blame ‘the law.’ $16635417 I disagree. When I checked Dollar’s site and carrentals . com’s site, the procedure to read both issues (the insurance and tire polices) in this case involved clicking on a link after getting an initial quote. Why would you say Dollar was upfront? $16635417 I saw it on hertz . com earlier today. Dick Jordan The “winter tire” fee is a new one to me. Do you suppose there is a “summer tire” charge, too? I’m not sure why Galloway booked through the Carrentals.com Website rather than the Dollar Website. However, since the Carrentals.com site apparently didn’t advise customers to check the Dollar site for additional information on fees, then Dollar should refund the total amount above that quoted to Galloway by Carrentals.com. $16635417 I am getting confused by some of the comments. When I went through the booking process to book a car on carrentals . com, I click the “Local Policies” link on the quote page and see the fees in question. When I went through the booking process to book a car on dollar . com, I click a similar link on the quote page in order to see those fees. Why have several people, you and Chris included, imply that these charges are not spelled out on carrental . com? $16635417 It is on their website. I just looked again, and I notice it is included in the initial total, but in the breakdown it shows it at a charge of 17 euro/day. TonyA_says Okay I used my GDS to display rental rates for an intermediate car in FRA airport for 01MAR-05MAR. The following car companies were available: AutoEurop, Avis, Budget, Dollar, Enterprise, EuropCar, Hertz, National, Sixt and Thrifty. Only 4 companies mentioned WINTER Tires. Budget – Winter Tires Are Available At A Cost Of 14.00 Sixt – SPECIAL EQUIPMENT: WINTER TIRES PER MONTH 13.44 WINTER TIRES PER DAY 13.44 National (Serviced by EuropCar) MANDATORY CHARGES: WINTER FEE 12.60 EUR A DAY MAX PER DAY INCLUDED IN FEES Dollar – According To German Law, Winter Tires Are Mandatory From October Until March If The Temperature Is 7 Degrees Celsius Or Below. Extra Charges Are Not Included In The Rental Rates. Cost For Winter Tires Is Eur 13.00 Per Day Or Eur 130.00 Maximum Charge. Summary: Not all rental cars charge for WINTER tires. I assume that for Budget and Sixt, Winter Tires are OPTIONAL. Of the 10 companies listed only 2 have “mandatory” WINTER Tire charges. (1) National does not hide it and includes it in the total rate. (2) Dollar hides it inside its policy and does not include it in total rate. CONLUSION: DOLLAR TOTAL RATE IS PROBABLY DECEPTIVE SINCE IT DOES NOT INCLUDE AN EFFECTIVELY MANDATORY WINTER TIRE FEE. Customer has to dig it up in policy details. *Note your search in the web may have a different result than my GDS. TonyA_says Mike, it is a safety OPTION only in Hertz. Not Mandatory. Winter Tires During the winter months, we recommend to book winter tyres along with your rental car for your safety and the safety of your passengers. * PLEASE NOTE: For rentals in Germany – The new supplement of German road traffic regulation introduced in December 2010, does not generally force the use of winter tyres. It is the motorist who is required to use appropriate tyres (“M+S tyres”) when driving on icy, snow covered, snow packed, slushy and frozen roads. In order to avoid any constraints on your mobility and also for your safety, we recommend adding winter tyres to your rental car booking. MarkieA I’m not arguing whether or not you should use summer tires or winter tires in southern Germany in whatever season. My point is that it shouldn’t be the renter’s responsibility to check this. 20w-50 oil is preferable during certain seasons, too; should it be the renter’s responsibility to check that, too? You state that it’s German law that it’s the driver’s responsibility. I’m simply stating that the law is wrong, in my opinion. bodega3 This was an ‘estimated total price’. Not a final price. Wording is important and they got caught in it. TonyA_says Mike, Hertz says it’s optional with a check box. But I can’t remove the tire fee even when the box is unchecked. Weird. The website does not jive with the GDS offering/rules of Hertz. TonyA_says This is confusing. If it is not in the GDS then perhaps customers should use a GDS to book cars. Dick Jordan After reading your response, I went to the Carrentals.com Website, selected a car from Dollar, and got the quote. But here’s the actual language on the screenshot Chris included: “Local policy (e.g., driver age, mileage and geographic restrictions, and shuttle info).” Although you are correct that the winter tire charge is spelled out IF you click on that “Local policy” link, the description of “Local policy” list ADDITIONAL CHARGES as one of the items of information that you will learn about if you click on the link. I then went to the Dollar Website, found the same car and got the same quote. But the link to “Important Local Policy Information” was contained not at the top of the page with the quote for the car I selected, but at the bottom of the page in the box with a quote for the second of two upgrades to larger cars. So if I wasn’t interest in the upgrade, why would I click on the link? The truth is that if Dollar wants to impose the winter tire charge because German law requires such tires, then it must automatically include the charge in the price quote, not require the customer to dig through the fine print to discover it. Dollar and Carrentals.com need to revise their Websites accordingly. In the meantime, Dollar needs to fully refund charges beyond the quote shown on the screenshot. TonyA_says Bodega, IMO Dollar’s TOTAL FEE Quote is deceiving. They hide the MANDATORY fee in the policy details then charge it when you claim the car. Bad, Bad. TonyA_says Philippa, it’s OK to charge for snow tires BUT it must be disclosed on the TOTAL QUOTE. Dollar did not disclose this MANDATORY fee so Dollar’s quote IMO is deceptive. Most other car companies disclose it in their total quotes. y_p_w I’ve bought a set of all season “M+S” rated tires that were absolutely miserable in the snow. They were Pirelli PZero Nero M+S tires – made in Germany I might add. They had absolutely no tread pattern difference than the three-season PZero Nero. They might have used a softer rubber compound, but they were horrible in the snow. I was allowed to go through California R2 chain conditions in my Subaru because they consider AWD and “snow tread” (i.e. M+S rated) tires with 6/32″ tread left to be sufficient in place of chains. That was an adventure. Real winter tires (i.e. snowflake on a mountain) would have been much better. It was rather skittish. Don’t get me wrong. Some all season tires are better than others in the snow. I’ve also tried other tires (Bridgestone Potenza RE960AS) that were better in the snow. However, they’re not going to perform as well as real winter tires if there’s a good layer of snow. I don’t drive in winter conditions often enough to justify buying real winter tires, although I’ve seen them (performance winter tires) on a car parked in the San Francisco Bay Area. It had a ski rack, so I’m thinking the owner didn’t feel like swapping them several times in a ski season when driving the car to the Sierra to ski. Philippa_FRA I agree with all that – mandatory extras should be included in the full price. What I don’t agree with is that Dollar is the bad guy in this particular case. The OP did business with Carrentals – as in, she booked a car on the Carrentals site based on the quote from Carrentals and the information Carrentals provided her with (which she didn’t read, but nevermind) – and her beef is therefore with Carrentals. Whatever Dollar lists as the “total” price on their own site is irrelevant to the OP’s case because she didn’t book anything on Dollar’s own site. Carrentals may have a beef with Dollar and Dollar’s fake prices but that’s between them. TonyA_says Carrrentals only acted as an agent – offering a shopping comparision matrix. Even Dollar’s own price quote in GDS is (IMO) Deceptive. The TOTAL does not include the winter tire fees even if it is mandatory. This is definitely a Dollar problem. Joe Farrell We are talking about what is legal . . . and what what can be charged for – not what provide the best traction. Is your Subaru AWD? Living in Connecticut for almost 20 years I can almost testify as an expert witness on what good snow tires are . . . .and the snow in California is wet, slick and given the generally high sun angles at all times of year the roads are slushy and the roads temps so close to freezing that the snow is slick as goose poop . . . . y_p_w I’ve actually passed an active chain checkpoint when it wasn’t freezing and there was barely any snow on the ground. They were lousy conditions for chains, and I even saw one tire cable that was thrown off a car. What they require in Germany seems to be hard to determine. It’s something about appropriate tires for the conditions. Some rental agencies interpret this as dedicated winter tires and not all seasons – if it looks like there will be plenty of snow. So that probably means Vredesteins Nokians, or Bridgestone Blizzaks. Or perhaps some other similar performance dedicated winter tires. As for my car – Subarus have only been AWD for at least a couple of decades. Philippa_FRA Oil type is an engine issue that doesn’t affect the safety of other drivers – driving on snow with summer tyres does.