Ultimate guide to hiring a car overseas

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If you’re heading off on your summer break in the next couple of months, don’t leave it until the last minute to think about your holiday transport.


You’ll need to book well in advance if you want to rent a car while you’re away, as demand for hire cars can be huge in peak season. Leave it too late and you could find yourself having to rely on public transport or your own two feet to get around – not fun if you’re miles from anywhere, especially if it’s baking hot.

Shop around

  • Don’t just plump for the first car hire company you come across, or you could end up paying much more than you need to.
  • Always compare costs from lots of different providers before you book, as charges can vary widely.
  • Make sure you read the small print carefully before booking too if you want to avoid a nasty bill shock on your return.

Here’s our run down of the main things to watch out for:

Excess waiver cover - Most car rental covers impose a hefty excess – the portion of any car insurance claim you must pay yourself – but offer excess waiver insurance at the rental desk when you collect your car. Charges for this cover can be steep, sometimes over 10 euros a day if you’re holidaying in Europe. Avoid these fees by taking out inexpensive standalone cover in the UK before you go.

Fuel policies - Check the fuel policy of your car hire provider before you book. Failure to do so could result in unexpected charges if you don’t return the car with the correct amount of fuel. One of the most expensive types of policy if you’re only taking a short break is ‘full-empty’, where you collect the car full, and must return it with an empty tank. You don’t get any refund for returning the car with unused fuel. If possible, it’s usually a good idea to opt for a ‘full-full’ policy, where you collect the car with a full tank, and it must be returned with a full tank. That way you only end up paying for the fuel you actually use. If you don’t return the tank full you’ll probably be hit with a fine, and the cost of re-filling the tank at an inflated price, so when you arrive keep an eye out for petrol stations near to the airport where you can re-fill your tank before you go. Top tip! If you’re filling up in France, remember that gazole’ is ‘diesel’ and NOT gas/petrol.

Extras - Wherever possible, take your own extras such as a baby car seats and satnav, as car rental companies can charge ridiculous fees for these items. Most airlines don’t impose any charge to take a car seat, and you’ll have peace of mind of knowing you’re using one you’re happy with. If you are taking your own satnav, make sure the maps are up to date for the country you’re in.

Check for existing damage

We’ve all heard those horror stories about holidaymakers being stung for garage bills to repair damage to their hire cars which was already there. If you notice any scratches or dents on your hire car, point them out to the rental company before you drive off, and ask them to make a note of them. Take photographs too, so that you have evidence of any pre-existing damage in the event they try to blame you.

What you’ll need to collect your car…

There are three things you’ll need to take with you when you pick up your rental car:

  • Credit card Most car rental companies insist that you have a credit card when you collect your car. They’ll often swipe the card as security, so that they have your credit card details in the event there’s any problem. Debit cards are not generally accepted and the card usually has to be in the name of the main driver.
  • Your driving licence You’ll only need the plastic photocard part of your licence and not the paper counterpart. Rules changed in June, so that you now need to take a code instead of the paper part. You must get the code no more than 72 hours before you collect your rental car, and it lasts for 21 days. You can get the code from www.gov.uk/view-driving-licence, or by calling 0300 083 0013. You will to supply your National Insurance number, your driving licence number and your postcode to get a code. Get the full lowdown on hiring a car overseas without the paper counterpart licence.
  • Your booking form: Take a print out of your booking form and any reference number when you go to the rental desk, or it could take them ages to locate your booking.

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