How to keep your hire car costs down

Some of the best discoveries on a holiday can be found when you’re exploring in a hire car. Having your own wheels allows you to stumble upon stunning viewpoints as you drive, to look around nearby attractions without having to master the local public transport system, and to access secluded beaches many travellers will not find.

Shopping around to find the best deal on your holiday hire car always makes good sense, but there are several other hidden costs that can catch you out and cause your hire car costs to spiral.

Read on to find out how to avoid these hidden costs and to keep your overall car hire costs down.

How to find the best car hire deal

Whether you’re looking for a sporty vehicle, a super mini or a larger family car, you’ll find the best deal on your hire car by shopping around online in advance. Not only will this save you money, it will help you to secure the vehicle type you want rather than turning up and choosing from the cars everyone else has left – if there are any left at all.

We looked at prices to hire an economy car from Palma de Mallorca Airport for a week at the end of the school summer holidays (with pick up on August 25 and return on September 1) and saw a huge difference in price. A quick search on TravelSupermarket, for example, brought back quotes from as little as £79.13 for the week whereas Hertz’s pay at location price for an economy car was £199.77. That’s a huge difference of £120.64 and a saving of nearly half the Hertz price for a few clicks of a mouse.

Being organised is particularly essential during peak travel periods, such as the school summer holidays, when many of the popular car types will sell out well in advance.

Don’t forget your car hire excess insurance

Once you’ve sorted out your hire car itself, there are still significant savings to be made, and car hire excess insurance is a common area that trips holidaymakers up.

The cover (also known as excess waiver insurance) is an important purchase as it means you won’t have to foot the first part of the bill should your hire car be stolen or involved in an accident. Without this insurance in place you could end up paying thousands in excess. But there’s no need to pay over the odds for this protection.

The cheapest and easiest way to buy this insurance is online in advance rather than waiting until you reach your rental desk. Not only will this allow you to brush off the hard sell you receive when you arrive to pick your vehicle up, but it can take your costs down by as much as 65%. For example, the cost for a week’s excess insurance in Europe can easily go over £100. In comparison, the cover can be bought for as little as £3.99 per day on TravelSupermarket.

Some extra charges that can be avoided

Even if you’ve pre-booked your hire car and have already bought your excess insurance, the chances are the car hire rep will still have other extras and upgrades up their sleeve to sell you. So, to avoid paying any more than you have to, here are a few extra charges you can avoid.

A pitfall to be aware of

When you pick your hire car up, you may be asked to leave your credit card details as a deposit. To prevent any problems, find out how much this deposit will be and make sure you have adequate funds available. And, remember, this type of transaction is not suitable to put on a pre-paid card.

Keep your fuel costs down

With the pound’s value at a low it’s just as important to shop around for fuel while you are away as when you are at home.

Many car hire companies now also operate ‘fuel empty’ policies, whereby you pick up your hire car with a full tank of fuel and are charged for it at a price set by your company. You are then expected to return your car with an empty tank. If you want to avoid this type of policy to control your own fuel costs, find out the rules of the company you are planning to hire with before you book.

Don’t get fined for inadvertently breaking the law

If you’ve managed to escape from the rental desk without paying over the odds for a single item, don’t fall at the last hurdle by picking up a fine while you are away for inadvertently breaking the law. To prevent this, check what the speed limits are on all road types in your destination, do some research on the drink drive limits and find out which essential items you are required by law to have in your vehicle.

Also check parking restrictions carefully and do your homework on a few of the local signs and regulations so you know, for example, if you need a permit for entry into certain parts of the city you are visiting or a vignette (a sticker) displayed in your vehicle to drive on the motorway. Read more on this in my recent blog post ‘Your 10-step plan to driving abroad this summer’.

Please note: All deals and prices were correct at the time of updating (December 21, 2017)


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