On the surface, hire cars can appear relatively cheap – but scratch below the surface and you could end up finding a multitude of added extras and hidden charges which can send the cost of your car hire skyrocketing. If you’re hoping to hire a car on a budget, here are some top tips to save money and find the most appropriate hire solution for you.
Bring your own equipment
If you need additional equipment for your hire car – for example, a car seat for young children, a cycle rack for your bikes or a satnav system to help you plot a route – may be more cost-effective to bring your own.
Some of the continent’s car hire companies typically charge incredibly high rates to rent these additional extras. In some circumstances, the cost of hiring a bike rack or a child seat may cost more than buying one outright!
If logistics dictate that you simply can’t bring your own bike rack or child seat, be sure to shop around to find the car hire provider which offers the most reasonable deal on these additional items.
Invest in excess insurance
Buying car hire excess insurance before you jet off could potentially save you hundreds of pounds. The vast majority of car hire packages come with insurance cover included, but there’s a loophole: most of them only cover major damage, and often the most vulnerable areas of the vehicle (the windscreen and the undercarriage) are excluded from the policies.
If you return the hire car slightly damaged, but not quite damaged enough to trigger the insurance policy, you’ll be left with an hefty excess fee to pay – amounts of 31,500 are not uncommon.
Standalone car hire excess insurance from an independent provider typically may offer total peace of mind. If you’re unexpectedly charged an excess for hire car damage after you’ve returned the vehicle, you may typically be able to claim back some of your excess as a result.
Always read the small print!
When you’ve landed at the airport with an impatient family, excited to start their holiday properly, it can be tempting to simply hand over your credit card and sign whatever paperwork the sales staff push your way. But if you drive off in your hire car without reading about fuel policies, roadside assistance and other fees, you could leave yourself open to a massive bill when you return the vehicle, or call for help.
Some car hire firms now insist on tricky fuel and mileage policies which demand that you bring the car back as close to empty as possible. Some companies will also try and get you to sign for an upgrade if your chosen car isn’t available on the day. However impatient you might be, read through the contract carefully and raise any questions you might have with the sales operative.
In an age where almost everyone has a phone capable of taking pictures, you can thoroughly document the state of the car throughout the hire period, to protect yourself in the case of a damage claim. Even if you don’t have a smartphone, it’s likely you’ll have brought a camera to document your holiday anyway!
Take photos of the car from all angles before you drive it away, and take a further set of pictures when you return the car to the depot. You should also take pictures of the milometer and the fuel gauge, as well as keeping hold of the receipts from petrol stations you filled up at.