The best and worst car hire firms for the summer of 2024 named by Which? - and it's Spanish firm Goldcar that's ranked bottom (again)

  • Which? asked over 2,000 respondents to assess their experiences using car hire firms and brokers 
  • Here's which companies to use and avoid, based on a huge satisfaction survey of Which? members 
  • READ MORE: Five of the best hidden gem Mediterranean islands to visit this summer 

Which? has ranked the best and worst car hire companies for this summer - and it's Goldcar languishing at the bottom of the list, just as it did in 2023.

The consumer group surveyed over 2,000 members of the public and its members, asking them to assess their experiences using car hire firms and brokers based on a range of criteria, including customer service, value for money, clarity of extra charges and vehicle condition before awarding them an overall customer score percentage.

Spanish-based Goldcar took last place in the survey with a customer score of just 52 per cent, its sixth time at the bottom of the table in recent years.

Meanwhile, at the opposite end of the table are the Canaries-based car firm AutoReisen and Cicar, and broker Zest Car Rental - the Which? Recommended Providers earned an overall customer score of 92, 91 and 90 per cent respectively.

The survey revealed that travellers continue to face a range of issues and rip-off practices when hiring a car, and nearly nine in ten (86 per cent) respondents reported concerns about being taken advantage of.

the best and worst car hire firms for the summer of 2024 named by which? - and it's spanish firm goldcar that's ranked bottom (again)

Canaries-based AutoReisen has come top in the Which? annual survey of the best and worst car-hire firms

the best and worst car hire firms for the summer of 2024 named by which? - and it's spanish firm goldcar that's ranked bottom (again)

Which? surveyed over 2,000 members of the public and its members, asking them to assess their experiences using car hire firms and brokers based on a range of criteria, including customer service, value for money, and clarity of extra charges awarding them an overall customer score percentage. Goldcar came last with a 52 per cent customer score

Common issues reported include feeling under 'a lot' of pressure to buy additional insurance at the desk, affecting one in six respondents (17 per cent); being charged more than initially quoted, affecting one in ten (11 per cent); and issues with the condition of the car (six per cent).

The consumer group notes that these figures are even higher among the worst-performing firms in the survey.

The survey discovered that one-fifth (20 per cent) of respondents who used Goldcar said they had issues with the condition of the car and a quarter (23 per cent) reported being charged extra either when they picked up or returned the car.

The firm received just two stars for how well the description of vehicles matched reality, customer service and value for money, and three stars for age, condition and mileage of the car.

Previous Which? investigations have found Goldcar engaging in pressure selling tactics to encourage customers to buy extra insurance at the desk, and in this year's survey, a quarter (25 per cent) of Goldcar customers reported purchasing extra insurance at the desk - compared to just over one in seven (13 per cent) of survey respondents overall.

the best and worst car hire firms for the summer of 2024 named by which? - and it's spanish firm goldcar that's ranked bottom (again)

Cicar was awarded five stars in categories including: clarity of extra charges, clarity of final car hire cost, clarity of fuel policy, and it received four stars for customer service

One respondent told Which?: 'The lady at the desk was adamant that I needed to take out extra insurance. I was in a hurry so I conceded', while another said: 'We were given the strong impression there was no other option.'

A separate Which? analysis of car hire insurance policies found Goldcar's to be among both the 'most expensive' and 'poorly-rated' of any it checked.

Other car hire firms that 'failed to impress' include Dollar, which received a customer score of just 56 per cent, Record Go (57 per cent) and Budget (61 per cent).

Dollar received just two stars for customer service, and three for the age, condition and mileage of the car, and value for money. According to Which?, one respondent complained that the car condition was 'poor', with 'marks and scratches all over', a dead key fob battery and a service light on the dash illuminated.

Worryingly, three in ten (30 per cent) of those who used Dollar reported being charged extra either when they picked up or returned the car, one in seven (13 per cent) said their car had a fault and a quarter (27 per cent) reported waiting 30 minutes or longer to collect.

the best and worst car hire firms for the summer of 2024 named by which? - and it's spanish firm goldcar that's ranked bottom (again)

At the top of Which?'s best car hire brokers was Zest Car Rental. The company received an 'excellent' customer score of 90 per cent

the best and worst car hire firms for the summer of 2024 named by which? - and it's spanish firm goldcar that's ranked bottom (again)

Centauro received an overall score of 83 per cent, scoring five stars for age, condition and mileage of the car

the best and worst car hire firms for the summer of 2024 named by which? - and it's spanish firm goldcar that's ranked bottom (again)

Goldcar received just two stars for how well the description of vehicles matched reality, customer service and value for money

Record Go (57 per cent) scored just two stars for customer service and how well description matched the reality, and three stars for the age, condition and mileage of the car, and value for money.

Which? notes that a fifth (19 per cent) of those who used the firm reported they were given a different car to the one they booked, one in five (22 per cent) said they were charged extra when they picked up or returned the car, and a quarter (25 per cent) had to wait more than 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, table-topper AutoReisen gained a string of five-star ratings in key categories including communication, clarity of extra charges, ease of opting out of extra charges, clarity of final hire cost, clarity of fuel policy, age, condition and mileage of the car, and value for money.

"To ensure you have the best possible experience this summer, make sure you book with a reputable firm" RORY BOLAND, EDITOR OF WHICH? TRAVEL 

At a reported average price of just £21 per day, AutoReisen was the cheapest firm in the survey, 'showing that excellent service doesn't have to come with a hefty price tag,' Which? says.

It also received four stars for customer service. According to the consumer group, one customer said: 'I've used Autoreisen for years - consistently excellent.'

Cicar also scored five stars for clarity of extra charges, clarity of final car hire cost, clarity of fuel policy, and four stars for customer service. None of its customers reported being charged extra when they collected or returned the car.

Other high-scoring firms include Centauro (83 per cent), Alamo (73 per cent) and Enterprise (73 per cent), but these fell short of earning Which? Recommend Provider status, awarded only to companies with a customer service rating of four stars and above.

With the only two recommended car hire firms based in the Canaries, holidaymakers heading elsewhere may want to consider using Which? Recommended broker Zest Car Rental to find reputable local car hire firms.

The company received an 'excellent' customer score of 90 per cent and a run of 'impressive' five-star ratings for communication, clarity of extra charges, ease of opting out of extra charges, clarity of final hire cost, clarity of fuel policy, clarity of information on provider, and customer service.

The consumer group says: 'Despite being the cheapest broker in the table, its rates always include either zero-excess insurance or excess reimbursement insurance, free cancellation up to 48 hours before pick-up and a free second driver in some locations. It carefully vets the providers it works with and unlike some brokers, doesn't work with Goldcar. As one customer put it: "Zest was simply a breath of fresh air."'

Rory Boland, Editor of Which? Travel, said: 'Booking car hire should be straightforward, but all too often it feels like the wild west, with travellers lamenting fraught experiences, poor customer service and spurious fees. Goldcar in particular is best avoided, with customers repeatedly reporting serious issues from pressure selling to poor customer service.

'To ensure you have the best possible experience this summer, make sure you book with a reputable firm. Our Which? Recommended Providers are all excellent choices, and if you use a good broker like Zest Car Rental, they'll also be able to advocate on your behalf in the unlikely event of issues.'

In response to the survey results, Goldcar said: 'Goldcar is, of course, disappointed about the results of the Which? report. The company takes customer care very seriously with a Code of Ethics for counter sales and a Guide of Good Sales Practices, both of which are reviewed annually based on customer feedback.

'We offer very attractive prices, making travel affordable while giving our customers the freedom to choose additional options including premium insurance cover for a seamless process should damage occur during their rental.

'Our customers, of course, have the right to choose to buy their cover separately, however, if this is the case they will be charged for any damages that occur during the rental and will then need to claim the costs back from the chosen provider. We are committed to investigating any incidents where a customer believes they have received a service that does not match expectations for a low-cost brand and continue to invest in staff training and best practices.'

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