It’s holiday season and if you are thinking of renting a car to drive abroad, follow our tips to get the best deal and avoid unexpected charges from the hire car companies.
Book in advance to save money
First off, booking a hire car abroad in advance could save you a lot of money. Even if you’ve left it to the last-minute, booking beforehand will still usually be cheaper than just walking in on the day.
Ensure you read all terms and conditions online before you buy. Including checking you’re covered for unlimited daily mileage if you’re travelling long distances.
Basic insurance will be included in your car hire costs and contract and any car you rent will come with third-party car insurance as standard. This should appear on the rental agreement as third-party liability cover. The rental agreement should also come with a damage waiver, in turn covering any damage to the car. You will however be expected to pay an excess in the event of an accident.
Fair fuel policy
Beware of a common trick used by hire car companies, giving you a full tank of fuel that you pay for upfront. When you return the car, there will usually be no refund for unused fuel. Therefore, if you don’t drive far, you’ll be wasting money. Moreover, the amount charged can be much more than local fuel pump prices.
Also beware of sneaky admin fees around fuel policies, for example, a processing fee if it does refund you for unused fuel. The best firms offer ‘return as you found it’ policies, so you only pay for the fuel you use. So look for companies that ask you to return a full tank of fuel rather than an empty one, referred to as ‘full to full’. This means you will only pay for the fuel that you use.
Watch the excess on your hire car insurance
The hire company is likely to charge you extra for top-up insurance. This is commonly referred to as ‘super collision damage waiver’, ‘deductible cover’ or ‘non-waiver cover’. The excess could be £500 for just a minor scratch and the cover reduces your excess to zero. However, this cover is very expensive compared to buying it in advance.
Instead you can cover yourself by buying excess reimbursement insurance in advance. This will enable you to claim your excess back (if charged). A daily policy starts at as little as around £2 per day. Alternatively annual policies are around £40 (so often good value for a fortnight or more). Either way, car hire excess insurance is certainly a cheaper alternative to the car hire company’s own product.
Be prepared for credit card pre-authorisation
When you sign a car rental agreement, it is likely to include an authorisation for the rental company to charge your credit card for additional items. You will therefore be expected to show your credit card at the desk when you pick up your hire car. Beware that once the hire car company has these details it is possible they can take payment without telling you. There have been many reported cases where the car rental company has charged the full excess, despite only very minor damage to the car. This is why excess reimbursement insurance is so important.
Check your car inside out before driving away!
Before you set off on your journey, inspect the car thoroughly for any small dents or scratches. Moreover make sure you make note of these, flag them to the hire car company and also take photographs as evidence!
Any damage can also be recorded on the hire companies form to ensure they are definitely aware of it. Perhaps the last person has caused a nasty scratch which has not been checked.
Before you set off, check the fuel type the car takes. You don’t want to be stuck at the refilling station not knowing what to use and if you damage the car by using the wrong type, it’s unlikely you’ll be covered. It is also important to make note of the hire car companies 24 hour contact number.
Returning your car
Avoid problems at the end of the car hire period by returning your car on time to avoid late charges. Whilst realistically you are not going to return the care spotless, returning the car in the cleanest state possible will help. Hire care companies have been known to charge for dirty cars!
Check the fuel has been topped up to the correct level and keep the fuel receipt as evidence. In addition, get a photo of the fuel gauge or the acknowledgement of a member of staff that the tank has been filled.
Once you return the vehicle, it is likely a hire car representative will inspect the vehicle. Stick around for the inspection. Assuming the car hasn’t been damaged in your possession, the report should match the one you had when you collected the car. Ensuring all the paperwork is checked carefully before being signed.
Keep your paperwork in case anything is disputed. Likewise, if you are unfortunate enough to have been involved in an accident, keep repair bills in a safe place. You may not be able to claim without them.
Check your account when you get back
Finally, check your credit card or bank statement when you get back to make sure no extra charges have been added to your bill without your knowledge, and ensure you’ve had your full deposit returned.
Are you going away on holiday this summer? Click here for a quality, low-cost quote on your travel insurance