Put the brakes on excessive car hire charges

KEEP your eye on the road if you are booking a hire car this summer, as hidden charges could dramatically drive up the total cost. Hire car companies routinely offer eye-catching rates to secure your booking, then slam on extra fees when you pull up at the arrivals desk.

The biggest hazard is the car hire excess waiver, which can almost double the cost of your rental, new TravelSupermarket.com research shows.

You could blow a gasket when you discover how much your car is really costing you.

EXCESS CHARGE

If you have a knock or a scrape in your hire car you will have to pay an “excess” towards the cost of repairs, which can be anything between £500 and £2,000 and even more on some high-value vehicles.

Desk staff will alert you to this when you arrive to pick up your car, which is often the first time it is mentioned during the booking process.

They will then pressure you into taking out the firm’s car hire excess waiver cover, sometimes called collision damage waiver, which will pay the excess, but at a cost of up to £20 a day, which really adds up over longer trips.

For example, Hertz currently charges just over £152 for a medium family car such as a Volkswagen Golf or Renault Megane for eight days from July 28, in either Gran Canaria or Lanzarote, according to TravelSupermarket. However, its excess waiver policy then costs £124, adding another 80 per cent to the bill. Most car hire companies impose similar charges, but the same family could buy a stand-alone excess waiver policy in advance for just £2.99 per day, which is less than £24 for eight days.

This will save them almost £100 compared to using the car hire firm’s policy. Emma Grimster at the travel site said: “Not only are these policies a fraction of the price of those offered at the last minute by car hire firms, they also offer more comprehensive cover.”

WAIVER GOODBYE

Stand-alone providers typically cover tyres, windscreens and the car’s undercarriage, which are usually excluded on rental company policies.

She added: “Most of us do not think of booking car hire excess waiver in advance, but if you value peace of mind or would struggle to pay the excess should you have an accident, shop around for the best deal before you leave home.”

If you plan to hire a car more than once then consider an annual multi-trip policy, with European cover starting from £40 a year.



DRIVE IT DOWN

There is more you can do to cut the cost of your summer car hire, said Nigel Wolstenholme, head of brand at RentalCars.com.

  • Know the fuel policy. The most common and best value policy is “full-to-full”, where you pick up with a full tank and return it full. “The alternative is a full-to-empty policy, but some companies charge more than you would pay at a petrol station, plus an admin fee and no refund for left-over fuel.”
  • Look beyond the airport. Although it is quick and easy to pick up your car direct from the airport, you could save money by choosing a company that operates a free shuttle bus to a site just 10 minutes away.
  • Choose a designated driver. Rental firms typically charge around £10 per day per driver. “It is cheaper if just one of you gets behind the wheel,” Wolstenholme said.
  • Take your own extras. Whether you need a baby seat or a sat nav, it is usually cheaper to take your own as rental companies charge by the day. “Most airlines allow you to carry baby equipment for free,” he added. To find the best car rental deal search comparison sites such as TravelSupermarket, RentalCars or HolidayCars.com.

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