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Feb 09

Notorious car rental charges and how to avoid them

Reading Time: 4 mins

No-one likes being hit with unexpected costs while travelling – when you’re finally enjoying a holiday you’ve been saving up for, you want to be sure that everything’s covered. However, rip-off car rental charges could ruin your holiday.

Here’s how to avoid getting slammed with huge car hire charges on your next trip!


Research car hire companies before you choose one

Don't rent your car last-minute at the airport - research your hire company first

With peak travel season just around the corner,, the world’s leading online car hire service, shares some insider tips on avoiding nasty surprises.

Isabel Williams, head of consumer insight at, comments: “Before you book your hire car, it’s a good idea to read reviews online and find out about other people’s experiences. The cheapest deal might not be the best, if it means you have to deal with problems or extra charges later on.

“If you use, you can sort the available cars by ‘price’ or by ‘recommended’ so the list starts either with the cheapest deals or with the deals that recommends the most highly.

“Recommendations are partly based on price, but also consider the terms and conditions, the cars’ features, and most importantly, real customers’ ratings.”


Top tips for staying in control of your car hire budget

1. Choose your driver(s)

Sharing the driving may be easier, but it can also cost more. On average, you’ll pay an extra £10 per day per additional driver – and even more if they’re under 25.

So, if you’re planning an epic road trip and everyone wants a turn at the wheel, look out for ‘free additional driver’ offers.


2. Bring your own extras

Whether you need a baby seat or a sat nav, you can save quite a bit if you bring your own. Rental companies usually charge for these things by the day, so it can get expensive if you’re going on a longer trip.

Most airlines these days will allow you to carry baby equipment for free. So if you can, take that baby seat with you. And there are apps out there that let you download maps for free, to use on your phone or tablet without using any mobile data.


3. Take photos of the car

No-one wants to end up arguing about damage to the car. So it’s a good idea to take photos of the car when you pick it up and when you drop it off. Should you need to, you can then prove that you weren’t responsible for the damage.


4. Check the fuel policy

The most common fuel policy is ‘Full to Full’, which means the tank is either full or part-full at the start of your rental. In most cases, it’s also the cheapest policy: as long as you drop the car off with the same amount of fuel it had to start with, you won’t pay the rental company anything at all for fuel.

With ‘Full to Empty’ or ‘Pre-purchase’ options, you pay for a full tank upfront and you drop the car off as full or as empty as you like. But beware: rental companies might charge more for the fuel than a petrol station would, and they don’t always refund you for any fuel that’s left over at the end. They may also charge you an admin fee.


5. Beware of mileage limits

Before you settle on a deal with limited mileage, think about how much you’ll be using the car. That deal might seem cheaper to begin with, but if you go over the limit, every extra mile/kilometre will cost you.

If you’re visiting a small island or only using the car to get to and from the airport, a deal with limited mileage could be a great idea. But if you’re going a long way, or want the freedom to explore, or simply haven’t thought about it yet, unlimited mileage is the safest bet.


6. Know your insurance

Car rental deals tend to come with some basic damage and theft cover, but you might want to buy some extra protection before you hit the road.

If you decide to buy additional insurance, it can be a fair bit cheaper (as well as less stressful) if you compare policies online in advance, rather than waiting until you’re at the rental counter.


7. Be practical about upgrades

If you’re offered an upgrade take a moment to work out the total cost. Unless something’s changed since you booked, you might want to stick with your original choice. This helps you stay within the budget you set yourself.

If you decide that you’re happy to spend more of your holiday money on car hire, make sure you’ve considered everything. A bigger car will use more fuel and could end up being a hassle if you’re driving in an unfamiliar city.


8. Plan ahead for tolls

Road tolls

Some countries have a toll system. The car hire counter staff may offer you some kind of toll package. If you’re planning to pass through plenty of tolls on your trip – often the case for visits to mainland Europe and the USA – this kind of option can work out cheaper than forking out every time you go through.

If you’re not going to see many tolls along the way, you might decide to pay as you go instead.


Any of the charges aforementioned could come with an administration and processing fee as well. This will be on top of the charge you’ve already incurred.

Check with the rental car company if you have been landed with one of these.



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Peter G
Peter G
1 year ago

Whenever we fly into Malaga, we rent a car through Malaga Car Hire, a British-based agency (not to be confused with, based in Malaga, who are also perfectly genuine, but I’ve had no dealings with). Malaga Car Hire uses Niza Cars, based at the airport, I’ve used them for over ten years without problem. But you do have to accept that for the last few years car hire companies in Spain (possibly elsewhere) require extra insurance protection for items that you would think were already covered such as wheels, tires, under-body, windscreen and other items. This is a nuisance… Read more »

1 year ago
Reply to  Peter G

Very useful. Thanks!

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