There’s an off-time in Mallorca and an on-time, a seasonal divide. Mallorca has its busy season when up to 13,000,000 visitors arrive, when hotels are open and staff are hired for up to 180 days with not a single day off. And there is the off-season when unemployment is rife, many hotels don’t bother to stay open and non-stop air destinations are few and far between. Any time soon, low-cost airlines will be connecting once again to far-flung places such as Edinburgh or Helsinki, Abu Dhabi or Warsaw. Also, at around this time of year, the beginning of April or just before Easter, whichever comes first, one can see a large number of auto-transport trucks making their way from the Port of Palma to the outlying pueblos, as far as Pollença in the North, Cala d’Or in the East and Port d’Andratx in the West. The new fleets of rent-a-cars have arrived and need to be taken to their respective rental outlets.
There are half a dozen major car rental firms in Mallorca, nationals, locals and international ones, plus a good two dozen minor ones. One of the larger firms, though, had to declare a Concurso Voluntario (voluntary bankruptcy) last year. It is said that three or four years ago there were up to 50,000 rental vehicles on offer in Mallorca, but recently that number has taken a steep decline. La crisis, what else. As a consequence, car rental prices have shot up recently and caused anger, consternation and some outrage. This year, with the season just starting, everybody is guessing as to where it all will go. Let’s hope for the best.
A few years ago, car rental in Mallorca somehow went down the wrong way. 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 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 an agreed sale-back at the end of the season, in October or November. But then car manufacturers in Spain went through a bad patch of alarmingly low sales in the private sector. They now suddenly and unanimously did not agree to the usual buy-back condition any longer on fleet sales. 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, when car rental rates became at times erratic, aggravated and outright expensive. Customers complained, but, to no avail.
There is definitely a seasonal divide in car rental as well. In January, you can get a rental car for ten days for under 65 euro, excluding petrol but including full cover insurance, whereas in August you would pay for the same car up to 285 euro per week.
Recently, the buy-back at the end of the season seemed to have returned. Car manufacturers were now in a slightly better condition in Spain, and certainly on a pan-European level. They had also felt the pinch of a much reduced 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. Now, 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, 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. This is a questionable practice of profiteering if not downright fraudulent.
Last year, I had a group of friends staying nearby. They were on the island from Sunday night to Friday morning; effectively 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 the shoulders. That’s what it was; take it or leave it.
Nowadays, many people use price comparison web sites when looking for hire cars where the hire companies make the basic rate as low as possible to attract customers. The only way they can make these basic costs cheap is to add charges on elsewhere, so charging for a full tank of fuel or charging for an extra driver is relatively common these days.
For the sake of fairness, it must be said that there are 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.
You could always check out car hire mallorca. But please make sure to read the small print before signing the contract. Try to get a car with a fuel policy of Pick up full, return full. And have a safe drive.