Car hire tips - first hand advice from our customers

For many, the concept of hiring a car can be a little daunting. Whether it’s your first time or you’re a seasoned pro, renting a car comes with its fair share of risks and uncertainties. Whilst we’re always looking to keep you informed with the latest tips and tricks, the true beacons of knowledge sit with you, our savvy car hire excess customers. So, we asked you to share your top car hire tips and we received an overwhelming response.

Top trends from your car rental advice:

1. Car Hire Fuel Policy- 'full to full' or 'full to empty'Airport car hire sign

Full to full car hire is when the hire car is picked up from the rental company with a full tank of fuel and returned with a full tank of fuel.

Full to empty car hire is when the hire car is picked up from the rental company with a full tank but returned with an empty tank.

Almost every customer who responded told us the best fuel policy is always ‘full to full’ which means you will only pay for the fuel you use. The alternative means you’ll get stung for any unused fuel when you return the vehicle.

2. Checking the vehicle

Over 46% of our customers told us you take photos or videos of the vehicle before you drive away or sign the car rental contract. This avoids any unnecessary charges for damage that may have already been caused to the vehicle. Customers also mentioned it’s wise to take a torch in case it’s dark when you collect the vehicle. Lastly, remember to keep your paperwork for at least a few months after just in case you notice a sneaky charge appear on your credit card.

3. Rental company reviews

Many of our customers told us it’s imperative to check the car hire company’s online reviews before you book – it pays to be prepared.

Companies like Feefo and Trustpilot provide customer reviews but you can also visit Which? for an independent overview.

4. Check for Tolls

A few of you told us you always carry loose change in case you reach a toll booth. Some car rental companies can provide you with a pre-paid badge or some tolls charge the vehicle which is usually billable when you return your vehicle – make sure you check the toll procedure before you travel.

The winning top tips

Rental company reviews

Don't just buy what might look like the cheapest rental; take care to check out the detail and add-ons - and the customer satisfaction ratings. Penny-wise, pound-foolish is often the case!

Sent in to us by Paul, St. Albans

Beat the queues

‘If you are travelling with someone, send them to the baggage reclaim and you go off to car hire to beat the rush. Take their driving licence / passport too if you want them as an additional driver. They will have cleared passport control by then.’

Sent in to us by Anthony, Birmingham

Driving routes

‘Establish whether there are areas into which you shouldn't take the car (many European countries have no go zones for private cars which are not always signed as clearly as you might like. It's only when you receive a fine on your return to the UK or find that the hire company has levied the surcharge on to your credit card that you know you've broken the law).’

Sent in to us by Patrick, Wokingham

Get used to the car

‘Once seated comfortably, check the obvious controls, switch on the dipped headlights if possible and leave them on. Operate the windscreen washer and blades, and finally switch on the air con. It is especially important to stay cool as the first few miles abroad can be rather taxing and added to your sense of apprehension of driving on the 'wrong' side of the road in an unfamiliar car, you will inevitably 'feel' the heat.’

Sent in to us by Clive, Dudley

Get sat-nav savvy

‘Pre-load up your portable GPS (or phone if you use that) with your destinations you need for your trip before you get to the car hire. You can even do it on the plane if you are flying. It will save you time inputting during the trip.’

Sent in to us by Nick, Tunbridge Wells

Thank you to everybody who took part in the car hire tips competition.

Happy hiring!

Read more about hiring a car

Europe and UK car hire excess insurance | Car hire firms move it up a gear thanks to CMA research | A guide to car hire documentation