Things to watch out for when you hire a car abroad

If you’re looking to hire a car for your holiday or business trip, keep these tips in mind so you can find a better deal

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Car hire abroad: what you should know

Book early

If you leave it until you’re abroad to find a hire car, you might find yourself short of choices – and the ones you have could be more expensive than if you had shopped around beforehand. Comparing prices and quotes before you travel can give you a better chance of finding a good deal as you’ll be able to see all the options available, including and additional extras you might need.

Beware of extras

Car hire companies offer a number of extras alongside the vehicle itself, so it’s important to know which you need and which you don’t. For example, some providers charge extra for baby and child car seats and sat-nav systems, so you could save by bringing your own– or you could even use your smartphone as a sat-nav, but beware of data and roaming costs (if you’re outside Europe).

Check for pre-existing damage

When you pick your car up from the car hire company, give it a thorough once-over to check for any pre-existing damage – for example, dents, scratches or stains caused by previous drivers. This way you can ensure they’re logged before your own hire begins, so the damage won’t be pinned on you.

Forced upgrades

Car hire companies may have the right to upgrade your car to a more expensive model if the one you were promised is unavailable, and they’ll generally charge you extra for this. Read the terms and conditions of your car hire carefully so you can avoid this potential problem or be prepared if you can’t.

Keep an eye on the fuel tank

Car hire companies offer different options when it comes to fuel – so after collecting the car with a full tank, you may either have to return it with an empty tank or a replenished tank. You may lose out if you have to return it empty as it can be difficult to use every drop of fuel.

However, if you elect to return the tank full and fail to do so, you may be charged a higher price to refill it than you would pay at a petrol station. This is why it can be important to read the terms and conditions carefully to understand exactly what your provider wants from you.

Excess waiver policies

Excess costs (the amount you have to pay) can be high if you need to claim because your hire car had been damaged or stolen, so it can be a good idea to look for an excess waiver policy to cover the costs. However, these policies can be expensive if you take them out at the car rental desk – going to providers such as before you travel can potentially save you money.

Drive sensibly

You can help cut costs and avoid nasty surprises by being a diligent driver when you hire your car. This means following traffic rules and driving carefully, as well as following any rules the car hire company sets out. Remember to return the car on time too, so you don’t have to pay any late fees.

Shop around

41% of people they surveyed knew the importance of shopping around but simply didn’t have the time to, according to research conducted by Opinium and commissioned by a leading provider of car hire excess insurance, The reason shopping around can be so useful is that even the six leading car hire companies can vary hugely in terms of prices.

For example, the price of a medium compact car in Barcelona can be between £294 and £460, depending on the provider you go to. In fact, the average saving across five holiday locations including Barcelona was £169 – which shows just how much you could save by comparing prices before booking a hire car. This way you can make sure you’ve got the car you wanted, with all the extras you needed, and the right level of cover to give you peace of mind.

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