A hire car can offer excellent value for money with the freedom to see everything your destination has to offer.
Many people are put off hiring a car because they have heard scare stories of scams and rip-offs, but hiring a car for your holiday does not need to be a hassle. If you follow a few simple steps you can get the most from your car hire and avoid your holiday turning into a nightmare.
1. Consider your vehicle requirements. The smallest available car may be cheap but may not suit your purposes. Consider the number of people and luggage to be carried, there is nothing worse after a tiring flight than getting to your car then realising you cannot get your suitcases into your hire car. Comfort and safety are important considerations. You and your passengers may be grateful for having an air-conditioned car in a hot country.
2. Check what the car hire rate includes before you book. Some prices may seem unbelievably cheap but there may be hidden extras, this is often the case when booking through an airline.
3. Take out proper insurance cover. In Europe, car hire companies normally offer Third Party Liability (TPL) cover and Collision Damage Waiver (CDW). Theft Protection (TP) may be an optional extra. It is worth making sure you are covered or you could be liable for the full value of the vehicle if it is stolen. Theft Protection is mandatory in Italy for example. In most countries, a daily Excess Reduction (EXR) cover can be taken out to reduce the CDW and TP excess. In the USA, you are strongly advised to top up the state minimum third party cover to $1m with Supplementary Liability Insurance (SLI). Some state minimum levels are as low as only $10,000.
4. Pre-book in the UK. If you are going abroad, a pre-booked programme at a guaranteed rate is likely to be cheaper and will help you with budgeting. You will also be guaranteed vehicle availability.
5. Rent from an operator you trust. It is advisable to rent from a reputable international car hire company, especially abroad. They will generally offer the latest model cars, operate the widest network of locations, prepare vehicles to the highest standards and offer emergency roadside assistance. Also, if you do have a complaint, you can write to their head office in the UK.
6. Always check for bodywork damage. Before you drive off, make sure that any damage, even a small dent or scratch, is noted on the pre-hire inspection form. Otherwise, you may be charged for damage, which was not your fault. At the same time, make sure you have as much fuel as indicated on the paperwork.
7. Check the tyres. It is very important to check that tyres are in good condition, have sufficient tread depth and appear properly inflated. Some customers un-wittingly breach the standard terms and conditions and drive their hire car off-road. This can result in a cut or bulge in the sidewall of the tyre for which they may be liable. Always check the condition of the spare tyre and ensure that you have a jack and wheel brace.
8. Familiarise yourself with the car controls. Make sure you are familiar with all controls and that the lights, wipers and horn work properly. Ask a member of staff if you are unsure and request a copy of the handbook. Before you drive off, check fluid and oil levels and carry out a static brake check.
9. Ensure peace of mind with roadside assistance service in the event of an accident or breakdown. Check you have the necessary cover and a contact telephone number.
10. Check the fuel type and return with a full tank. Make sure you know what type of fuel the vehicle uses as you will be liable for the costs involved if you fill up with the wrong type. Return the car with a full tank of fuel, or topped up to the same level as supplied, to avoid paying a refuelling service charge or a premium price per litre for the fuel you have used.
Last of all make sure you make it less obvious you are a tourist in a hire car, remember when you park that you must ensure no valuables
Shaun Parker has had many experiences both good and bad hiring cars abroad and offers a slightly different perspective on hiring your car abroad, use an established company like Car Hire when you look to hire your car.