Many of us will be renting a runaround this summer on holiday. It can be a major expense as well as a minefield so it’s worth taking the time to get the deal done properly. Following these ten tips might help you avoid the most common pitfalls while saving cash too.
1. Look early
Booking in February instead of waiting until June can be cheaper. There are last-minute deals but if you want to guarantee a certain type of car, reserve well in advance.
2. Use price comparison sites
Prices can vary by hundreds of pounds between car companies so make sure you’ve seen everything that’s available. Be aware that the cheapest isn't always best: there may be hidden charges behind the headline rate.
3. Get the right-sized car
If you arrive to find that you can’t get all the suitcases and the buggy in the hire care you ordered, it’s going to cost much more on arrival to upgrade than from home online. Figure out how much space you really need first.
4. Shop around for car hire excess insurance
Should the worst happen, you're likely to be liable for the excess part of an insurance claim after an accident which could be as much as £2,000. The hire car company will inevitably try to sell you a very expensive additional policy (sometimes called excess waiver insurance) to cover this when you pick the car up.
Avoid this by buying a standalone policy before you leave home. For example, provider of some of these tips, icarhireinsurance.com, charges from £2.99 a day or £39.99 for an annual policy. Team Minted is this year with www.reducemyexcess.co.uk on £33.46 for yearly cover.
Prices vary so use the comparison tool at Moneymaxim and read my recent blog here. These policies usually cover damage to tyres and windows which are often excluded from the rental firm policy, possibly so they can try to sell you even more incredibly pricey insurance.
5. Take a spare credit card
If you don’t buy the car hire company’s policy, they will often insist that the excess is held on a credit card until the car is returned undamaged. Take a spare credit card with you, as having £2,000 held on your one credit card could seriously limit your holiday spending.
6. Fill up the car before you return it
Make sure you’re on the deal where you return the car with a full tank. Allowing the car firm to refuel incurs much more expense.
7. Do you need a satnav?
An electronic guide is an added cost which sometimes isn’t disclosed when you book. You could bring your own (updated with European mapping) or just rely on your mobile. Now roaming is free in Europe, you can go to Google Maps and have your Siri or equivalent give the directions. Further afield, in the US for example, you might need to download a special (but cheaper) app.
8. Bring your own child seat
Many airlines will take car seats in their hold for free so consider taking yours with you. Older children could get by on an inflatable booster seat.
9. Stick to one driver
Sharing the driving increases the costs, especially if they are under 25. If one of you is going to do most of the driving, consider whether it’s really worth adding another.
10. Check the exchange rate
Some companies let you pay for your extras when you book your hire car, but others cannot be paid for until you arrive at your destination. Changes in the value of the pound against the euro can make a big difference in price so keep this in mind when making your booking.
See our SMM guide to car rental here and to travel insurance here – something else to organise!