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The definitive car hire checklist

Hiring a car provides freedom and flexibility to explore new destinations, but you need to be careful to ensure it doesn’t come at a cost.

By checking the vehicle and paperwork thoroughly, you can protect yourself from unscrupulous actions by car hire companies.  Doing so will not only mean you can relax and enjoy your holiday, but you’ll be well placed to tackle any issues if something does go wrong.

Our checklist includes the aspects you should look at when you first receive the keys, and you shouldn’t drive away until you are satisfied everything is in good working order.

1. Check the small print

Read the car hire contract thoroughly and question any part of it that you are unsure about. You should also note any extras that might be included.

Past research from Which? revealed that travellers often get stung by hidden fees as a result of not checking documentation thoroughly, and unfortunately, unnecessarily complicated documentation remains common across the car hire industry.

Where extras are included, make sure that you understand the terms that relate to them and make sure that they are found within the vehicle at the point of collection.

2. Take note of the fuel policy

The paperwork should also detail the rental company’s fuel policy. Recognise what is expected of you and make plans accordingly to ensure the car will be returned in line with the agreement.

A full-to-full policy is widely regarded as the best option, as you only pay for the fuel you use. In this instance, you pick up the vehicle with a full tank of fuel and return it to the hire company with a full tank.

With a full-to-empty policy, you will be billed for the fuel in the tank and then expected to return the car as empty as possible. Should you not use a lot of fuel you stand to lose out, while rental firms will often charge more per litre than you would otherwise pay at a local fuel station.

Car hire checks

3. Take photographic evidence

Given that the vast majority of us own a smartphone, it’s easy to take plenty of photographs of all aspects of the car.

As well as looking for any dents and scratches, photographs can help should you be involved in a claim. Even if you think marks are relatively minor, it’s still important to write down any that already exist upon collection.

View the paperwork as your means of logging any damage and include anything that you have an issue with.

4. Check the unobvious

As well as looking for any dents and scratches, you should also check the windscreen, tyres and locks, noting any anomalies on the paperwork provided.

The windscreen and windows should be checked for any chips, while the tread on the tyres should meet the legal depth. Don’t forget to look at the spare tyre too, if there is one.

Focus on the locks on the hire car to see if they are all in full working order too – this is especially true if the vehicle uses keyless technology. Lock and unlock the vehicle using the physical key if possible, as this is often not checked when drivers are simply touching in to use the car.

5. Take your time with any inspection forms

Inspections play an important part in any potential claim, and you need to ensure that all information is included on the forms.

The existing vehicle condition report may list some issues already, so be sure to check these and make the hire company aware of anything you would like added. This means any pre-existing damage is logged before you hire the vehicle.

6. Look at local road laws

Some countries have road laws that require cars to carry traffic cones, replacement bulbs and a high visibility vests, among other items. Have a look on the AA website if you’re unsure about what you may need and ensure the rental company provides all that is needed to ensure your hire car is road legal. 

Car accident

7. Check your insurance

Ensure that you have adequate insurance cover for your trip and keep in mind that what is included in the price of car hire may not be fully comprehensive.  For instance, car hire excess insurance can cover the excess payment that would be required should your hire car be damaged or stolen.

Date Created: 16/04/2019

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