Car hire excess cover – where to get the best deal

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Many holidaymakers hire a car when they go abroad. But how many of us read the small print of the contract? And if we bother to study the details, do we really understand the terms and conditions?

Take the excess. Most hire companies hit you with an excess if the car is lost or damaged, even if it’s not your fault. It’s a bit like the excess on an insurance policy – it’s the amount you have to pay the rental company towards the cost of repair or replacement.

The excess can be anything from a few hundred to several thousand pounds and could even end up costing more than the holiday itself.

Excess all areas

Excess insurance can help. Put simply, excess insurance covers the excess, so you can claim back the cost.

The car rental firm will usually try to sell excess insurance when you book or collect the vehicle. But watch out! Excess insurance is a money spinner for the car hire company and the cost of the policy can be high - £25 a day is not unusual, or £350 over a two-week holiday.

That’s about ten times more than the cheapest standalone policy. Cover from a car rental company is also typically more restrictive.

Excess insurance is not compulsory – and you certainly don’t have to buy cover from the car hire firm. Instead, you can search the market for a better deal. A number of firms offer excess insurance and prices start from as little as £3 a day.

Location, location, location

The cost usually depends on the location, with European cover generally cheaper than worldwide insurance.

But always check that your destination is listed, particularly if you are travelling somewhere out of the ordinary or potentially dangerous.

The level of excess cover varies from insurer to insurer, so it’s worth taking the time to compare the options. Look for a policy that insures the full amount of the excess and make sure it covers damage to headlights, windscreens, tyres and undercarriages, as they are particularly vulnerable but sometimes excluded.

You might also want to find insurance that includes damage caused by filling up with the wrong type of fuel – just in case! If you plan to hire a car more than once during the year, it usually works out cheaper to buy an annual policy, instead of arranging cover for each trip.

You can also find excess insurance that covers car rental in the UK, in case you ever have to hire a car at home.

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