Organising car hire is often the last thing on the holiday check-list, if it gets sorted at all.
But there are many reasons why it shouldn’t be –cost and safety issues associated with hurtling along in a ton of metal, to name but two.
Here’s what you should consider in plenty of time before departure if you don’t want your trip abroad to potentially turn into an expensive nightmare.
1. Don’t leave it till the day – Expecting to find a decent car-hire outfit that won’t rip you off and offers well-maintained vehicles on arrival at a foreign airport during peak times is a recipe for disaster. Get searching online a month or more before you leave.
2. Delay is also costly – Car hire is like booking a flight these days; the longer you leave it, the more you’ll pay. Family-friendly vehicles, in particular, will cost an arm and a leg during holiday season unless booked well in advance.
3. Cheapest often doesn’t equal best – The lowest price might seem attractive initially, but look out for the extras and the things you might have to pay for at the point of hire, such as baby seats, a full tank of fuel, additional driver cover and insurance.
4. Petrol policies – It’s usually better if the car company you hire from has a ‘full-to-full’ policy. However, if you return the car even slightly less than full, they sometimes charge exorbitant sums to ‘top it up’.
A ‘full-to-empty’ policy means you might end up leaving the car with half-a-tank full of expensive petrol, or worrying you’re going to run out if you try and take it to the wire.
5. Watch out for the excess – Most car hire comes with only very basic insurance, leaving you liable for potentially huge excess costs in the case of accidents, damage and theft. Companies will try and sell you insurance to cover this ‘excess’ but this can push up the cost of hire by hundreds of pounds. So check the cost of the more comprehensive insurance you’re offered carefully, and if it’s more than around £6 a day for a ‘compact’-size vehicle, it could be worth sorting out before you go instead. There are now plenty of insurers that offer such cover much more cheaply, from one or two weeks hire to annual policies, for a lot less.
6. Kids seats and gadgets – Extras, like kid seats, sat navs and roof racks, can cost a small fortune to add on; around £10 a day for sat nav, for example. If you can, try and bring your own.
7. Additional drivers – Again, adding extra drivers is something you definitely want to check the cost of before hiring. Even some of the larger more reputable companies say you have to pay this on arrival at the car hire outlet, where you can get stung for large sums as they know you might have no other option but to pay up.
8. Inspect the car – It’s vital to check the hire car for knocks, dents and scrapes. Check the inspection sheet carefully and make sure that what you see tallies with it. If you see things that aren’t noted, get them added. It’s a good idea to take photos/video before driving off.
9. Safety kits – In many countries it’s mandatory to have certain safety items in a car, such as hi-viz jackets and warning triangles. Check yours has them if needed
10. Dropping off the car – As when picking up the car, go around it with the company representative and agree that, hopefully, there hasn’t been any damage and that the fuel situation is correct. Sign the return form, but, again, take photos and/or video if you can.
11. Keep documents – It goes without saying really, but keep copies of damage sheets and hire-agreements.
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Published 19th July 2019