Don’t get ripped off !
This is the one that gives people headaches and makes some people not want to hire a car at all!
Understanding the different types of cover is crucial when renting a car and actually very easy. There are 3 levels of cover, from the more expensive to the cheapest: Super Collison Damage Waiver, Excess Protection and Yearly Excess Cover. Read more about each option here.
The car hire agent will do their best to get you to take out their cover as it will earn them commission so if that’s not what you want make sure you are clear about that and don’t sign anything you’re unsure of.
This is a BIG earner for the rental company and the rental agent at the desk. Think about the type of car you will need for the trip. Is it a family trip and you have lots of luggage? Then go for an estate or people carrier. Only 2 of you on a city break? Go for an economy vehicle. Read our car guide here.
The last thing you want is to book a car that is not suitable for you because then you will be playing right into the rental company’s hand. If you make this mistake one of 2 things will happen:
- You will be stuck with a car that won’t suit your needs because the rental company had nothing else to offer you.
- You will pay over the odds for an upgrade to get the car you need. At this point the agent will know you basically have no choice so will charge as much as possible.
Make sure you know what category you booked. If the agent says they don’t have the car you booked then they have to give you a FREE upgrade to the next category. There are cases where the agent tries to charge for an upgrade even though they didn’t have the car that was booked so stand your ground.
Some companies, especially in countries where the rental cost is very low, will charge you an amount of money for the full tank (at a much higher rate than the petrol stations) and no matter how you return the tank, for example with half the tank left, they will not give any money back. The best option is the Full to Full one, which means that you will receive the car with the full tank and have to return it full.
- Additional drivers – Do you need anyone else to drive? If you do then you will probably be charged more for this. Plan in advance and if possible have just one driver. It may “only” be £10 per day but it soon adds up!
- GPS – A favorite question from rental agents, “do you need a car with GPS?”. If you say yes you will probably be offered an upgrade (at a high cost) to a car which does or they will offer you a portable unit (again at a high cost). Save yourself money and download maps on your smart phone before you travel.
- Breakdown cover – All rental companies have some sort of “premium” break down cover. These usually cover anything driver induced, for example losing keys or leaving the headlights on and battery going dead. They are expensive and your travel insurance probably covers you so make sure you check.
- Personal Insurance – This would cover you in the event of an accident and you required hospital treatment or if personal belongings were stolen from the rental car. All things that are normally covered by your travel insurance so don’t pay twice!
If you do decide to take up any of the options presented to you at the desk just be aware that there will be tax to go on top of any price quoted to you. So when the agent offers you that nice automatic Mercedes for “just £50 per day” it’s actually £50 per day PLUS Tax!
Your rental should be an enjoyable experience and add value to your holiday. The most important thing is to know exactly what you have booked, the kind of cover you have and stick to your guns. Oh and another thing which makes a BIG difference, be nice to the rental agent! Its easy to feel like they are the enemy and trying to rip you off but remember they are only doing their job, a smile and a friendly conversation can make the whole process a breeze.