The six biggest car hire rip-offs
Off on holiday and planning to hire a car? Watch out for these six rip-offs...
If there’s one thing that gets our goat when we're going on holiday, it’s the hassle of hiring a car. Why does it have to be so complicated? And why does it always end up costing an arm and a leg?
The trouble is, it’s not just the cost of hiring the car itself you have to take into consideration – it’s all the insurance that comes with it. And this is where the expense really starts to add up. Not only that, but car hire insurance policies are usually riddled with catches.
So here are six of the biggest car hire rip-offs to watch out for.
1. The excess
Typically when you hire a car you’ll take out something called a collision damage waiver (sometimes called loss damage waiver). This is a basic insurance providing cover for damage that may occur to the vehicle you’ve rented.
However, the excess that comes with this is usually sky-high. In fact, it’s often as much as £1,000. So if you have an accident, you’ll have to fork out this amount.
To reduce the excess to a more manageable £50 or £100, the car hire company is likely to offer you a ‘super collision damage waiver’ or ‘damage excess insurance’. But while this might sound like a good idea, it can actually work out to be very pricey – and we’re talking around £15 a day here.
Fortunately, there is a way to get around this. And that’s by taking out a separate policy of your own that will cover your excess payments if you do have an accident. This will work out to be far cheaper.
For example, Insurance4carhire.com will sell you this cover for just £4.75 per day, or you can pick up European cover for £49 a year. Alternatively, carhireexcess.com offers European cover from just £1.99 a day, or worldwide cover from £2.99 a day.
Bear in mind with this cover, if you did have an accident, you would have to pay the expensive £1,000 excess first, and then reclaim that money from the policy you’ve taken out. So this can seem a bit laborious - but it will be worth it if you want to save some money!
You should also be warned that if you do take out this cover, your car hire company is still likely to try and persuade you their cover is more important – so stick to your guns and don’t get tempted!
Another problem with taking out the super collision damage waiver offered to you by your car hire firm is that often you’ll find it’s riddled with exclusions.
For example, many policies exclude chipped or cracked windows and windscreens, broken mirrors and tyre and wheel damage. Given that this kind of damage is most likely to occur, you could find yourself paying out for absolutely nothing – and then having to cough up for these repairs.
Again, however, taking out your own policy from a website such as those we mentioned above should mean you’ll be covered for this.
3. Petrol problems
A further rip-off you could face involves petrol. Some car hire companies provide the vehicle with a full tank of fuel and require you to return it full. Others will provide the car with a full tank and require you to return it empty.
However, be very wary of firms that fall into the second category. For a start, if you’re only using the car for a short amount of time, you won’t use all that petrol so you’ll already have poured money down the drain.
Secondly, if the car hire company fills the tank up for you, you can expect a big bill. Companies that do this charge their own inflated price for petrol and you’ll end up forking out significantly more.
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So this is well worth checking before you sign up to anything and if you can, opt for a company that allows you to fill up the car yourself.
Bear in mind that if you do return the car with a full tank, you need to make sure it really is full. Otherwise you could get caught out if the company decides to charge you a refuel cost.
What’s more, make sure you use the right type of fuel – if the car only runs on diesel, don’t fill it with petrol! The cost of putting this right can be in the region of £200.
4. Additional charges
You should also watch out for additional charges. Make sure you read the small print carefully to check whether you’ll be charged extra in certain circumstances.
For example, some car hire firms charge extra for child car seats, roof racks, returning the car to a different branch, additional drivers, drivers under a certain age, peak travel season, and returning the car early or late. You have been warned!
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5. The big inspection
Car hire firms will jump at the chance to charge you for damage to the car you’ve hired.
So always make sure you carefully check out the car you’re hiring when you go to pick it up. Check the paintwork, tyres, windscreen, and lights for any signs of damage and if you spot any, report it to a staff member.
It’s also a very good idea to take photos of the car. That way you’ve got evidence should the car hire company try to charge you for damage to the car that was already present before you got behind the steering wheel.
6. Booking last minute
Always try to book your car in advance. The longer you leave it, the more expensive it’s likely to be. If demand is high and supply is short, you’re likely to be stuck paying significantly higher prices. So don’t leave it until the last minute.
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