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Hiring a car: What you need to know

Things can sometimes get confusing when hiring a car, but what do you really need to look out for?  Here are some helpful tips to keep your rental hassle-free.

car rental sign

Planning Ahead

  1. Choose your rental company before you travel wisely, taking into consideration online reviews, range of vehicles on offer, pricing and what’s included. 
  2. Think about how you will use your hire car and what it will need to accommodate.  You don’t want to arrive at your destination with 4 suitcases, only to find the boot space only has room for 2!
  3. Does your rental include insurance, and if so, what does it cover?  Quite often the standard insurance provided by the hire company doesn’t cover damage to tyres, rims, the underbody or stone chips and you are usually liable for an excess amount on the vehicle.  Rental companies do offer additional insurance policies to cover these items, but usually at a hefty price.  You are not obliged to buy this extra cover from the rental company and are within your rights to buy suitable cover from a third party insurance company. Excess insurance usually has to be purchased pre-collection of the vehicle so to avoid the hefty add-on charges by the rental company, be organised and buy your policy in advance from as little as £2.99 per day.
  4. If you choose to take out excess cover, check the claims process.  How easy is it to make a claim?  See if you can find the insurance companies designated claims handlers on various review sites, what experiences have others had when making a claim?  There’s nothing worse than having insurance in place and then discovering that the claims process is a nightmare.  Do your homework only use companies that are highly recommended.
  5. Check to see if the rental company require you to see your driving licence record.  This is available online and you should print a copy before you travel, also get a code from the DVLA’s “share driving licence” service.  This gives the rental company one-off access to the driving licence record should they need it.  The code is valid for 21 days, so remember not to request it too early.
  6. Bring your own extras if you can.  Child car seats and sat navs are not always included in your rental cost, so to keep the costs to a minimum, bring your own.

Collecting Your Car

  1. Check the rental agreement.  Ensure that all drivers names and details are correct as incorrect information may cause issues should you need to make a claim.
  2. Check the vehicle for any pre-existing damage.  Walk around the vehicle and take photos and point out any damage that has not been recorded on the vehicle condition report (sometimes known as the checkout and check-in report) to the rental representative.
  3. Take note of the fuel type.  Filling the vehicle with the incorrect fuel can cause serious damage and can be extremely costly.
  4. Make sure you have a credit card with sufficient funds.   Many rental companies will not accept debit cards as payment.  You will also need your driving licence which you will need to have held for at least a year.
  5. If you have purchased a car hire excess policy, check your credit card limit covers the excess you are liable for with the rental company, as they may hold this amount on your credit card in the event of damage. The rental company may insist you purchase their own expensive excess insurance with the promise of not holding a deposit on your credit card, however rental company’s own excess cover is up to 91% more expensive than third party excess insurance. Know your rights and be firm at the rental desk, excess insurance is non-mandatory and you can purchase from an insurer of your choice.
  6. Ensure you ask the rental company what you should do if you break down, have an accident or the car is stolen.  Take a note of any emergency telephone numbers and make sure you have an emergency contact number.

Returning Your Car

  1. If you are returning the vehicle after hours, take sufficient photographs of where you are leaving the vehicle and keys.  Also, try to take as many photographs as possible of the bodywork and tyres in case of a dispute.
  2. Return the vehicle in plenty of time.  Dropping the car off later than what is stated on the rental agreement can result in an additional day’s rental being charged.
  3. If possible, give the vehicle a quick hoover.  Some rental companies will charge you for a valet should it be returned with crumbs and dirt.
  4. Make sure you keep hold of the relevant paperwork if you are making a claim for damage. 
  5. Check that you have removed all your personal belongings from the vehicle before you head home. 

Remember to do your research, plan and check your vehicle, but most importantly, have fun and enjoy the freedom of exploring and discovering new places at your leisure with a hire car.

Date Created: 16/06/2021


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