All About Car Hire

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Hiring a car, particularly overseas, can seem a complicated business: different languages, laws, road rules and charges can make the whole process seem less than easy. However, with some simple explanations and advice, the experience can be totally pain-free.

Choosing a Car

There are many car hire companies and website car hire brokers so do your research online and consider all the options available.

You can either go direct to the actual car companies – Hertz, Avis, National and Alamo are four of the biggest – or book through an agent that consolidates car companies, such as Holiday Autos, Expedia or Car rentals. Check what you are paying in advance and what you will need to pay at the car hire counter. With agents you sometimes only pay a deposit, with the remainder of the booking paid at the counter or at the end of your holiday.

It usually pays to book your car in advance to save money, and there is rarely any benefit in leaving it to the last minute. Always get a few quotes first from a number of car hire companies. Obviously the price will play a major part in your choice but also consider where you will pick up and drop off the car and any extra costs.

Extra Costs to Consider

The extras can sometimes cost as much as the car hire. Here are some examples:

Fuel

If on offer, choose a car with a full tank of fuel and you will then return the car with a full tank. Apart from the practical reason of wanting to start your journey with a full tank, it is also often cheaper to pay for fuel at a petrol station than pay for fuel through the car hire company.
Additional drivers and surcharges for young or old drivers
Decide who will be driving the car and if you add an additional driver expect to pay a surcharge. The minimum car hire age is normally 21, although if you are under the age of 25 you often have to pay an additional charge.

Child Seats

If you are travelling with small children then you will have to pay for a child seat (infant and booster seats for children under 12 years old are mandatory in most countries in the EU). You may want to take your own child seat to ensure you get one (they are not always available), although make sure it fits the car you are hiring.

Winter holidays

Skiing and snow holidays need to be considered: you may need a larger car to accommodate equipment such as from ski boots, skis and snowboards. Hiring a ski rack with your car can help to save space. You might also need snow chains or winter tyres if there has been heavy snowfall at your destination, and in some counties this is a legal requirement.

Late return fees

If you return your car late you may be liable for late return fees. There is usually an initial grace period, then charges per hour for the first few hours and then per day. Ahead of returning the car, you can always call the car agent or hire company to extend your booking.

Mileage

Booking in advance usually gives you unlimited mileage, although if you wait until you get to the car hire counter to book your car there may be a mileage restriction with an additional charge per mile over the daily allowance.

Excess Waiver

Usually the insurance that comes with your car hire has an excess, which is deducted off the amount paid to you if you have to make a claim. The exact amount will be detailed in your car hire policy. Excess Waiver is additional insurance that is sold to you at the car hire counter when you collect your car to either reduce your excess in part or in total. Depending on where you go and the type of car you take, the excess you are liable for can be anything up to £1500, and the excess waiver can cost up to £10-£15 per day. However, by purchasing Excess Waiver insurance at the time you hire your car, all excess amounts become null and void. So, for a small cost and peace of mind, buy ‘Excess Waiver’ before you go away.

PAI (Personal Accident Insurance)

This insurance pays out if you kill or maim yourself or a passenger. Your own travel insurance should cover you for injury or death, plus medical expenses. Check the details of your travel insurance policy.
Personal Effects Insurance
This should also be covered with your travel insurance, or home insurance cover if you have opted to take cover for personal possessions away from home.