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Holiday Car Hire: Top Tips

January 26, 2016 Top tips, Travel and Transport No Comments

Holiday Car Hire: Top Tips

Hiring a car abroad can often be a minefield. There are numerous ways in which car rental companies can charge you for extras that you may not want or need, and it is not always easy to understand what you’re buying.

But you can find trouble-free, cheap car hire abroad if you know what to look for. We have researched some key points for you from Which and the Guardian to help you avoid the pitfalls.

Follow our checklist to make sure you’re not forking out money unnecessarily for car hire abroad.

Before you know it, you’ve paid for them all (just to be on the safe side) and the price you now have to pay bears little relation to the one you thought you’d agreed on.

And all this before you’ve even got the car keys and you may find unexpected costs when you return the car at the end of your holiday, too.

Your rights when hiring a car abroad

Always pay with a credit card, as your rights under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act mean you can hold the credit card company jointly liable if anything goes wrong, as long as the value of what you spend is over £100 and not more than £30,000.

Consumers who hire a faulty car as part of a holiday package have the right to claim compensation through ABTA.
Around 600 car hire firms are members of the British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association (BVRLA), which has a code of conduct and a complaints procedure.

Before signing a contract for car hire abroad

Ensure you read the sales contract fully before you sign. Always ask questions about anything you are unsure of, no matter how long it takes.

Should I buy excess when I hire a car abroad?

When you rent a car, the price generally includes insurance cover for a major crash, write-off, etc. but leaves you with the bill for the first £500 to £1,000. If there are any small scratches or scrapes, adding up to, say, £500 worth of damage, it means you have to pay it in full.

So the car hire firms try to persuade you into buying super Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) insurance to cover this first £500-£1,000. But they charge as much as £150 for a week, compared to the £33 cost of buying it independently. for example is but one of many independent companies who can sell you an annual excess policy for Europe for £49, or £4.75 per day for shorter rentals.

Unlike the car hire firm’s own policies, its policies cover damage to windows, tyres, undercarriage and the roof, and the rest of the car up to £2,000 per single claim. If you damage the car, you pay the car hire firm the agreed excess and then reclaim.

Super Collision Damage Waiver (SCDW) – the Guardian recommend buying the basic package only.

The secret to saving money on car hire is to buy the basic package only. In particular, ignore pressure to buy their collision damage waiver (CDW) or super CDW insurance, which will cover the excess, usually £500-£1,000, not covered by the basic insurance. Instead, arrange your own cover independently.

Many people are surprised when they learn that, even if they pay for extra insurance (SCDW), the windscreen, wheels, tyres, roof or undercarriage of the vehicle aren’t covered by the hire company’s policy.

The Guardian says use online agents such as,, to check hire prices first, but also look on he sites of the major players, such as Hertz, Avis, Budget, Europcar and Sixt.

They often have special offers making them just as cheap as the brokers, and booking direct has its benefits if there are problems later.

Keep to on-airport operators ñ not only are they more convenient, but cheaper off-airport deals can be a false economy when the car turns out to be a dud.

Hire deals organised by airlines such as Ryanair’s link with Hertz are rarely better value than using a broker or going to the hire firm direct.

Money-saving tips

Take out a separate policy for the extra insurance if daily and annual policies are available.
Insurance companies that offer these include,,, Questor Insurance and Worldwide Insure.

Ensure you check the company’s policy thoroughly, as some may not cover you for tyres, windscreen, roof or undercarriage.

Bring your own satnav and child car seats
Always check the cost of hiring a satnav for a week from the hire company as it may be more cost effective to buy a new satnav that covers both the UK and Europe for around £50-£60.

Child seats are more tricky; check hire prices, check your airline extra charges to take your own seats in order to make a financially sound decision.

Check the fuel policy, the mileage and other extras
Before you hand over your credit card details, look up the company’s fuel policy. If you are driving a long way, does your rental limit the mileage in any way? If you are under 25, is there a surcharge?

A growing number of firms (for Spanish rentals in particular) now insist on a full-to-empty fuel policy on rentals of more than three or four days.

You pay for a full tank of fuel and then bring it back empty, which is fine in theory, but if you aren’t using the car much you’ll end up paying for three-quarters of a tank of fuel you didn’t use.

Which recommend If an option, always drive the car away full and return it full.

This is the easiest and usually works out as the cheapest, but only if you return the car completely full. If the hire company feels there is room to add more petrol, you could be hit with a refuelling charge.

When you collect your car, ask where the nearest petrol station is so you know where to refuel at the end of your journey. Also make sure it will be open if you return it late at night.

Are package deals better for car hire abroad?

You can also rent a car as part of a package holiday.

As well as hiring a car independently, it is also possible to rent a car as part of a package holiday.

The advantage of package deals is the security you gain from knowing that holiday providers are regulated by ABTA and therefore will be bonded.

The downside is many operators will only hire cars in week-long blocks and may not provide a breakdown of the cost in their literature.

Also, tour operators and foreign hotels may only have a relationship with one hire company (not necessarily the cheapest) and add their commission fee to any quote.

Car Hire Checklist

The Guardian and Which have complied lists of key points to consider when collecting and dropping off your hire car. We have combined the two lists to provide you with some excellent top tips…

When you collect your hire car, read the contract thoroughly before signing it and ask questions about anything you don’t understand

What if I don’t get what I ordered online?

Be 100% clear about what is and isn’t included in the insurance provided by your rental company
If you do purchase a separate policy for the excess, make sure you know what is covered.

Allow enough time for collection and drop off of your vehicle to carry out the necessary checks. Before you drive away, check all parts of the car thoroughly even if it takes a considerable length of time.

Photo the car on return and keep the paperwork.

If you’re charged for any repair work, ask for proof of how much this will cost
Check credit card statements when you get home for any unexpected charges
Lastly, keep hold of the paperwork. Don’t throw it away, thinking the rental is over It is not.


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