Car Hire Renters’ Guide

Whether you travel regularly or your time abroad consists of two weeks in August, it’s likely that car hire will be one of the issues you have to deal with before you can really start to enjoy your time away. If having a car is essential for your trip you need to do it properly. Whilst the size and model of the car may be important, there are various other factors you just have to get right; ranging from your car hire excess insurance to the all important checks when you first pick up the vehicle. Take a look at our guide to the most important aspects of hiring a car abroad.

Your Driving Licence

British licence holders should note that many car hire outlets will not release the rental vehicle on sight of a photo card driving licence alone without also seeing the paper licence counterpart. They may also ask to see the paper licence counterpart of all named drivers.

Credit Card

The person renting the vehicle must have a credit card. Many car rental companies will not accept debit or switch cards, or cash.

Car Hire Excess - What to Do

Decline the car rental company's Excess at the counter, you are not obliged to take their cover. You do not need to show them your policy. Be aware that if you decline their excess cover they will place a charge on your credit card or take an imprint equal to the excess; make sure your credit card has enough credit to cover this.

Be aware you might not always get what you asked for

It’s normal for car hire companies to illustrate a specific type of car, or one of a similar size. With that in mind, the car you actually pick up may not be the exact make and model which you originally selected. It will however, be close in size.

Examine the terms and conditions

Each car hire company will have different terms and conditions, making it essential that you carefully read them on the company’s website before beginning any kind of transaction.

Extras

Once you receive all the paperwork, make sure that it states exactly what you have paid for. Does it include a level of car hire excess insurance? Are taxes included? Will there be any additional costs for other drivers or car seats?

Checks

When you collect your hire car, it’s vital that you check it over thoroughly. If you spot anything, even tiny scratches, make sure these are verified by the car hire company and that they make a record. Without this you could end up being blamed for existing damage when you return the car.

Keep all information

When you drive off in your rental car, make sure you have all the vital information with you. This should include the contact details of the car hire company in case you need to contact them in an emergency.

You also need to know where to return the car. This could be the airport and may not be the same site you picked it up from. Make yourself aware of exactly where you need to go and make sure you have enough time.

Check your credit card statement

Once returned keep a track of your credit card statement and make sure you check it regularly for any unauthorised extras which may have been charged to your card. If any appear contact the car hire company and request a full explanation. At this stage it’s vital you keep copies of any correspondence.

If you’re aware of all that needs to be done before, during and after you hire a car on holiday you’ll be in the best position to avoid any issues - leaving you to enjoy your time away.

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Tips for when you're at the counter

When you arrive to collect your car, the staff at the car hire desk will often try to sell you additional insurance, add-ons etc. We’ve put together this handy guide to take with you to make sure you know what your rights are, what you’re covered for and what you definitely don’t need.

1. Super Collision Damage Waiver (Super CDW)
CDW (Collision Damage Waiver) is normally included in the cost of the rental. This can sometimes come with high excess charges in the event of damage or an accident. However, some car hire firms will offer you Super CDW at a daily cost (sometimes as much as £20 per day) which will reduce your liable excess to zero. This will, however, add significant cost to your rental and you may not have anticipated this expense. Often, these top-up policies don’t cover damage to the windows, tyres, roof and undercarriage.

2. Windows, tyres, roof and undercarriage cover
If you are offered cover for the car’s windows, tyres, roof and undercarriage, decline it. Your car hire insurance policy covers you for these and will reimburse your excess if you get charged. Car hire staff may try and push you into purchasing the add-on by citing the excess that you would be liable for. But remember, your car hire excess insurance policy will cover you for up to £4,000 in a single claim.

If you have purchased an excess reimbursement policy from us you DO NOT have to purchase the excess waiver cover from the rental company at the desk (be aware that their cover still excludes damage to the undercarriage, tyres windows and roof). Your car hire insurance policy works by reimbursing you the excess, including any administration fee charged by the rental company for processing the excess. Always make sure the credit limit on your card is sufficient, as they will often put a charge on your card for the excess amount before you take the car. An administration fee may be charged if you take the car back damaged.

3. Always check the small print
Car hire firms sometimes hide additional costs within the small print and then give you an unexpected bill on your return. Make sure that you read everything before you sign the agreement, and don’t sign if there’s anything you’re unclear about. If you’re not sure, just ask.

4. Decline Upgrades
Special discounts might be offered to upgrade to a larger or ‘better’ car, especially in the United States. While you think you might be getting a great deal, it may be because the rental company don’t have your original car in stock. Politely decline the paid upgrade and you may well get a better car free of charge. After all, you chose a suitable car for your trip anyway, so you’re not losing out by declining.

5. DON’T RUSH
Always take your time. Take time reading the small print. Take time checking the details of your rental. Always take time when you’re checking over the car for scratches and damage. When checking for damage, always make sure the agent makes a note of all scratches and dents, however minor they might seem, on their forms and make sure they sign it before you leave. It’s understandable that you might be feeling exhausted if you’ve just arrived after a long flight, but if you take your time, you’re less likely to miss a detail or sign something you don’t want to.