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Are you planning on using car hire companies when you go away over the holidays?
Watch out, particularly if you are in Southern Europe.
There are a lot of dodgy dealers around who will try to trap you with tricky contracts and extra charges that you didn’t expect.
Here is our guide to taking out car hire insurance followed by the top 10 hire scams to watch out for.
Thinking of hiring a car abroad? Here’s what you do:
You’re tempted by cheap prices by car hire companies only to discover once you’ve signed up that you have to pay extra locally for insurance and breakdown services.
Top tip: Read the rental contract carefully when collecting the car (boring but necessary). If there are any surprise charges, ask about them at the start.
Prices quoted by car hire companies often say they include “full insurance”, but there’s actually an excess of anything up to 3,000 Euros that you will have to pay if there’s an accident before the insurance kicks in.
Top tip: Make sure you check the excess before driving away. Remember that damage to the wheels, glass parts and the underside of the car are usually excluded from standard insurance.
Some car hire companies expect you to sign the rental agreement before you can read it. This is a sharp tactic so be wary.
Top tip: DON’T be bullied into signing anything until you are ready to do so.
the car hire companies you have to pay for a full tank of petrol before you can pick up the car. You’re then charged much more than it would have cost to fill up at a local petrol station. There’s no refund for returning the car with unused fuel.
Top tip: Find out what the fuel policy is before booking. If online information isn’t clear, phone the company and ask them.
You arrive at the rental counter to be told “we’re giving you an upgrade”, only to find out later you’ve been charged for the upgrade without your permission.
Top tip: Always ask if an upgrade is free. Refuse it if you are going to be charged.
Local reps with the car hire companies who are paid commission will try to pressurise you into buying extra insurance which you don’t need and can’t be cancelled.
Top tip: Just say no and check the contract before signing in case they have tried to add the cost of cover onto the price anyway.
You’re made liable for damage which was already on the car when you collected it.
Top tip: Check the car thoroughly for existing damage before you drive away and make sure the car rental supplier marks this down. When collecting and returning the car, take photos of it including any damage if applicable.
When paying for extras such as child seats and Sat Nav on collection, you are not given the option to pay in local currency. You are forced to pay in sterling, with a poor exchange rate applied.
Top tip: Always opt to pay for extras in local currency. Use a credit card that does not charge commission or fees for currency conversion.
You’re asked for a big deposit to cover the excess and potential parking fines. If you refuse, your only other option is to take out the expensive local additional insurance, costing as much as 15 Euros per day in Europe.
Top tip: Take a valid credit card with sufficient available funds when collecting your rental car as the supplier can use this to authorise a security deposit.
If your hire car is damaged, and it’s not covered by the insurance, you’re charged significantly more for repairs than they should actually cost.
Top tip: If you’re charged for damage, ask to see a breakdown of charges, and a repair invoice. If the amount is unnecessarily high, ask the broker you booked through to challenge this with the rental company.