Take a look at our guide to the most important things to consider before, during and after you rent a car.
Things to consider when booking your hire car
- Do I need a credit card to hire a car? - The person renting the vehicle must have a credit card. Many car rental companies will not accept debit or switch cards, or cash.
- Always check the small print on your rental agreement - 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.
- Will my car hire include insurance? - Standard cover for damage, theft and third-party liability is generally included when you rent a vehicle, but the excess may be high. Often, you'll be offered excess cover at the desk, but if you have car hire excess cover from insurance4carhire, make sure you decline the car rental company's excess at the counter. You are not obliged to take this additional cover, and 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 that you might not always get the car 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, should be close in size, model and mileage.
- Examine the terms and conditions of your car rental - 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.
- Select the right car hire fuel policy - When hiring a car, you will often be offered a choice between returning the car with a full tank (full to full), or returning it with an empty tank (full to empty). Almost every customer who responded to a questionnaire sent out by insurance4carhire believed that the best fuel policy was always ‘full to full’.
- Check the rental company's 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.
- Find out whether you'll need to show more than just your licence photo card at the rental desk - UK licence holders should note that some car hire companies 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. Check with your rental company if you're unsure about this.
- Think about taking your own equipment - Extras such as child booster seats and sat navs can really add to the cost of your car rental. For example, in the UK, car hire companies charge around £13.99 per day for a sat nav. That’s almost £100 for a 7 day rental! Alternatively you can pick one up on the high street for £60 or less, and you’ll get a lot more use out of it. Similarly, child car seats can cost from £10 a day to add to your rental. Supermarkets tend to have good offers on car seats which can work out cheaper.
Tips for when you pick up your hire car
- Be smart about upgrades
When you arrive to collect your car, you'll probably be offered additional insurance or upgrades. Make sure you understand what these upgrades are and their costs before committing to them. If you have an insurance4carhire policy and are offered cover for the car’s windows, tyres, roof and undercarriage, decline it. insurance4carhire policies cover this. Remember, your car hire excess insurance policy will reimburse you up to £4,000 in the event of a claim.
- Check the extras carefully
Once you receive all the paperwork, make sure that they state exactly what you have paid for. Are taxes included? Will there be any additional costs for other drivers or car seats?
- Check your windows, tyres, roof and undercarriage cover
Final checks to make when collecting a hire car
When you collect your hire car, it’s vital that you check it over thoroughly and take any photos of damage, including damage to the undercarriage. 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 documentation
When you drive off in your rental car, make sure you have all the relevant 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.
- Check that you're covered for Collision Damage Waiver (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 CDW at a daily cost (sometimes as much as £20 per day) which will reduce your liable excess to zero. insurance4carhire offers an annual policy which includes CDW.
Tips for when you return your hire car
- Check your credit card statement
Once you've returned the hire car, keep 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.
- Check the car for any new damage
Even if you do have cover, it's important to be aware of any damage to the car so that you know to expect charges - and don't get charged for anything that isn't your fault.
About the author
This is a marketing article from insurance4carhire by our car hire excess insurance business unit director, Adam Summersby. Adam is a respected leader with 11 years’ varied experience in niche personal and commercial lines insurance, including caravan, site operators and excess reimbursement, with proficiency in leadership, sales and account management.