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Tips and what to watch out for when hiring a car in France and Spain.
Now that air travel can be so cheap when using budget airlines to go to France, cost effective airport car hire is important. But check the small print – extras such as "excess insurance" can add to the final bill. Even where you pay for insurance, it generally does not cover the excess which can be substantial. With a bit of pre-planning savings can be made.
Car rental provides the freedom to explore and discover remote hot spots and hidden glories of holiday destinations. In an age of cheaper air travel, hiring a car is an important part of any holiday package. However it is unfortunately fraught with difficulties.
Most companies allow you the option of picking a car up in one place and dropping it off elsewhere. If you are crossing a border however, it is essential you make this clear before taking possession of the vehicle.
Please also read the insurance exclusions. Do not take it for granted for example that windscreens are covered or have a small excess. Insurance policies offered by car hire companies are notorious for exemptions, get out clauses and vagueness.
A lot of bad publicity in the media concerns car hire companies
Always remember to take pictures and make notes, preferably drawing attention to any marks to car hire staff, before you leave their premises.
Do it again on your return. I use to work for a large car hire company (30 years ago) and remember a well staffed department whose sole job was to check invoices and see how they could be increased.
From the Blog; April 25th 2011 – Car hire tips. Car hire companies have been getting a bashing from all corners recently as they dream up more and more imaginative ways to milk customers. E.g. www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/retailandconsumer/leisure/8295623/Shop-Mary-Portas-at-Holiday-Autos.html
Price comparison sites are a useful way of finding a good deal, but not always. Increasingly, companies are not allowing their products to be sold via these sites, although many use them for last minute deals.
Check first with a price comparison web site, then look at the brokers or agencies (we usually find a better deal with these, but there are lot to browse). Always check the individual car hire company sites as well, just to be sure you are not missing out on any offers which may well be marketed only through their own sites.
Avoid using holiday, hotel and airline web sites for the extra's, whether it's a hotel, car hire, airport parking or travel insurance. They usually have exclusive arrangements with a particular company, and do not in our experience offer best value.
Don't fall for marketing terms such as "best value" fantastic deal", superb offer" etc.
Consumer law is vague regarding web site promotions and allows scope for considerable dishonesty by unscrupulous traders.
– Make sure you are comparing like with like. For example, there may be differences affecting the price of a similar size of car. Look out for air-conditioning, size of the engine, whether it has a manual or automatic gear box, sun roof etc.
– Check what insurances are included or are additional to the quoted price. Usually included, but not always, are Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) and Theft Waiver (TW). Your travel insurance policy will probably include Personal Insurance (PI) and Personal Effects Cover (PEC), avoid paying extra on the spur of the moment by checking your policies before you hire a car. You may be offered the option of paying for Super Collision Damage Waiver (SCDW). This reduces liability for the excess (often quite high) and to cover any damage to windscreen, roofs and tyres (areas that are not usually covered by CDW). There is even Supplemental Liability Insurance (SLI) covering third party liability.
Although it will probably require an e-mail to the company before you commit to a hire agreement, it is best to know how much these extra's cost before you hire.
Consider taking out a separate policy to cover them instead.
Additional drivers. This costs extra but think about it before you go.
Administration charges. Even when a quote says that cancellation and amendment are free, there may be administration charges. Read the small print.
Air conditioning. If driving a distance in a hot climate you may regret not having a car with air conditioning. Check online or ask.
Child seats. Check if these are available at your destination and order them before travelling.
Cross borders. Most companies allow you the option of picking a car up in one place and dropping it off elsewhere. If you are crossing a border however, it is essential you make this clear before taking possession of the vehicle.
Distance. A small car may be the cheap option, but is unlikely to be the most comfortable over a long distance.
Exemptions. Take nothing for granted no matter how obvious. Insurance policies offered by car hire companies are notorious for exemptions, get out clauses and vagueness.
Fuel. Amazingly some companies will charge you for a full tank of fuel regardless of whether you use it or not. This charge is often made at the collection desk so is not included in your initial quote. Check before you hire. There is usaully no rebate offered, should you do not use all the fuel you paid for in advance.
Insurance. Despite their expense, in house policies are rarely comprehensive and exclude many of the things you assume are covered. Amongst items generally not covered are: damage to windows, wheels, tyres, the roof, the underside and interior of the vehicle. You may be offered a Super Collision Damage Waiver policy but we strongly advise people to take one out separately with an independent insurance company as it will be cheaper and offer more.
Luggage. How much luggage will you have? Check the boot size of the vehicle you are hiring. Make sure the car you hire can carry skis for example.
Off the road? Some company insurance does not cover you for off the road journeys. If you are planning to do this, check the policy first.
Older people. Two or four doors on the vehicle offered?
Roof racks. Will you need one? If not avoid the extra cost by looking for a car without one.
Sat Navs. Are they provided free of charge or at extra cost?
Ski racks, snow chains or winter tyres. Reserve these at the time of booking as they may not be available on arrival unless reserved. Some companies do offer these as part of the car hire deal. Also make sure you are booking the right type and size of vehicle for your trip, especially if skis, snowboards and lots of luggage are being taken.
Windscreens. Do not take it for granted that windscreens are covered or have a small excess.
Check the entire car in the presence of the operator before you drive away. Look for scratches, faulty tyres and chipped glass.
Use your phone or camera to record any dents etc. This may also prove useful if it is alleged some weeks after the return of the vehicle that it was damaged by you.
Make sure the car is signed off before you depart. Allow plenty of time for delays, busy periods etc. as you may regret it.
Always fill up the tank yourself when returning the vehicle (but don't do this if you have already been charged for a full tank). Check what's is included before you leave with the car.
Hire costs for baby seats vary considerably, ring or e-mail the company before you leave and be specific about charges.
Arrange your own insurance for excess before starting your holiday, its much cheaper.
Find out where the nearest garage is for the return journey.
Make notes of who checked the car on return if at all. Safeguard your before and after photo's and recordings. Keep in a safe place – car hire companies sometimes wait weeks before charging you for damage they think you may have caused.
Webmaster advice – I use to work for a large car hire company (30 years ago) and remember a well staffed department whose sole job was to check invoices and see how they could be increased.