European Car Hire Survey

One third of car hire firms leave tourists stranded

7 August 2007

Press Information: Strictly embargoed until 00.01 on 9 August 2007

If your hire car packs up on a remote European road, there is a one in three chance that you'll have to deal with it alone, AA research has discovered

A survey of 57 car hire companies across the Mediterranean found that 20 of them failed to provide a breakdown number to call in case of emergencies. And 36 of the firms failed to provide car manuals to explain the basics, such as jacking points, tyre pressures or dashboard warning lights.

Worryingly, the survey, carried out in Turkey, Greece, Italy, Spain and Portugal by Eurotest on behalf of leading partner the AA, also found that only one in four hire cars carried emergency equipment to fully meet their country's legal requirements. Among multinational companies, 40 per cent equipped their cars properly, compared to 21 per cent of local firms.

Portugal was amongst the countries with the best results, with only one of the six cars hired not having a breakdown number and almost all fully equipped with the necessary warning triangle and reflective jacket. Greece was the worst country, with five out of 11 firms leaving their customers without an emergency contact number and none of the cars having the required first-aid kits or warning triangles.


Fines for not having the required equipment on board can be stiff depending on the perceived seriousness of the offence. Police can levy an on-the-spot fine or can take a much higher "deposit" to cover the maximum fine until the dispute goes to court. Typical fines include €120-600 (£82-408) for not using a warning triangle or reflective jacket at a breakdown in Portugal. Italian police can fine €74-296 (£50-201) for not having a warning triangle onboard and €36-148 (£24-101) for not wearing a reflective jacket while standing on the road.

"Holidaymakers must accept that a hire car, like any other, may experience a problem. But it probably doesn't even cross their minds that rental firms could abandon them without an emergency number, or not provide them with the essential legal equipment, such as warning triangles or high visibility jackets for their car" says Paul Watters, head of AA Public Affairs.

"By not equipping European hire cars to the correct national legal standard, UK tourists are left vulnerable to the whims of the local police. We can understand that some hire cars lose equipment through theft by customers, but the high level of missing kit indicates a more widespread problem with rental operators. Operators should find ways to ensure this equipment is always in their vehicles, but customers must also take more responsibility and caution."

AA advice

The AA offers five pieces of advice when checking the street-legality of car hire abroad:

  1. When booking the holiday, ask for a copy of the terms and conditions of car hire. Ask specifically if the car provided will be fully equipped to meet all the legal requirements of the country being visited and have a breakdown number provided.
  2. Holidaymakers should familiarise themselves with the rules of the road of the countries they intend to drive in.
  3. When picking up the car, ask the rental firm about their procedures should it break down and the emergency number to call.
  4. On getting to the car, holidaymakers should check for the presence of emergency equipment. If it's not there, ask the rental firm to provide it. Also take the opportunity to look around the car and check for damage that may be attributed to them later. Check all the switches, indicators and other controls – if any are unfamiliar or don't work, ask the rental firm for guidance.
  5. Holidaymakers would benefit from being able to communicate with a policeman, breakdown recovery firm, garage or local resident, should the car have problems and assistance prove difficult to arrange. A good phrasebook or dictionary will be useful.

Notes to Editors

The research was conducted as part of Eurotest's Car Hire Test 2006. The AA is a leading member of the Eurotest consortium, which comprises of motoring organisations from across Europe.

The full report is available online at:

Analysis of the survey results

If your hire car breaks down, will you be able to telephone for help or consult the car manual?

Multinational car hire companies (15):

Both – 7
Call for help only – 3
Consult the manual only – 3
Neither – 2

Local car hire companies (42):

Both 6
Call for help only – 21
Consult the manual only – 5
Neither – 10

Multinational and local companies total (57):

Both – 13
Call for help only – 24
Consult the manual only – 8
Neither - 12

If you want to pump up the tyres, top up the oil, find out what a dashboard warning light means, or figure out the switches, can you consult the hire car's manual?

Multinational car hire companies (15):

Yes – 10
No – 5

Local car hire companies (42):

Yes – 11
No – 31

Multinational and local companies total (57):

Yes – 21
No – 36

If your hire car breaks down at the roadside, is it equipped to allow you to meet the law of the country you are driving in?

Multinational car hire companies (15):

Yes – 6
Partly – 4
Not at all – 5

Local car hire companies (42):

Yes – 9
Partly – 8
Not at all – 25

Multinational and local companies total (57):

Yes – 15
Partly – 12
Not at all - 30


7 August 2007