Where you can go on holiday | Check FCDO updates before you travelFind out more
For many, taking a holiday and hiring a car go hand in hand. Not only does it give you much more freedom to get around, but it can also add a sense of adventure to your trip. However, while renting a car should be fun, it’s important to make the right car hire choices to ensure your break away doesn’t end in financial disaster.
Here, we show you five ways to slash the cost of your car rental without compromising on quality.
Every time we survey prices at TravelSupermarket we find that pre-booking your hire car saves money on the walk-up rates at airport and downtown locations.
For example, renting an economy car for one week at Malaga airport, with pick-up on July 25, 2015, would have cost as little as £74.91 (plus fuel costs) with Auto Europe when pre-booked via our car hire search. However, the walk-up rate with Hertz for the same dates was *£304.72. That’s more than four times as expensive, showing you can save as much as 75% by booking ahead.
The earlier you book, the cheaper the rates you will secure, so compare today by using our online price comparison engine.
When you go to pick up your car, all rental companies will try to sell you an additional product called excess waiver insurance. This is designed to lower the expensive excess you would have to pay towards the cost of repairs if you had an accident – often in the region of £750 to £2,000. However, the amount car rental firms charge for this excess waiver insurance is very high (as much as £20 a day) AND you don’t get full cover, often meaning cracked windscreens or damage to the underside of your car are NOT covered.
Instead, you are far better off buying a standalone policy in advance. Doing so will mean you can claim on your policy to recover any excess you have to pay out. Our policies have far better protection, including undercarriage and glass cover, and come at a fraction of the cost of buying from your rental company. European cover starts at just £2.99 a day, with an annual policy costing from £39.99 – and UK rentals are automatically included for UK residents.
With car hire companies constantly on the lookout for ways of generating revenue, charging for car seats for the little ones is a big money spinner. Europcar, for example, was charging £61.20 for one week’s rental of infant, toddler and child safety seats up to the age of seven over the summer of 2015. Even a booster seat for those aged eight to 12 would have set you back £43.40 for a week.
And not only do car hire firms charge you, you will usually be expected to fit the seat yourself. So why not take your own car seat with you, carried for free by most airlines, and ensure that your child has the familiarity of their own seat when you drive on holiday?
Unless you know your location well, you may want to rely on a sat nav to get around unfamiliar territory. But while they can certainly help you to navigate your way around, they can also be costly. Car rental firm, Sixt, for example, was charging £4.67 a day at Palma for a one-week rental over summer 2015 – that’s £32.69 a week.
You can, of course, do it the old fashioned way and go ‘sat-nav free’, relying on free pre-printed route maps online from companies such as Michelin or directions from your accommodation website. Or there are traditional maps you can use – remember those?
But if you can’t cope without a sat nav, why not check if your own can be used abroad and download the additional software for your destination? Alternatively, your smartphone may offer an app subject to connection charges.
Many people treat driving a rented vehicle as an excuse to drive badly, especially if they rent a ‘souped up’ model to cruise those holiday roads in. But driving carefully and avoiding excessive accelerating and braking, as well as reducing your speed and the weight of stuff in your rental car, can lower the cost of fuel consumption by as much as 25%, according to the AA.
And, of course, parking carefully to avoid damage, ensuring there are no items on show in the car to dissuade car thieves, and paying extra attention to where and how you are driving, can seriously lower the chances of you being involved in any form of accident or claim. And that not only costs money, but costs you precious time when you should be enjoying your holiday.
*Please note: All prices were based on travel in summer 2015 and are for illustrative purposes only.
Subscribe now for hand-picked holiday deals, inspiration and the latest travel tips, straight to your inbox.