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How to save on the cost of your holiday car hire

If the thought of travelling around a foreign country on public transport is enough to make you feel queasy, hiring a car may be your best bet. Many people prefer holiday car hire as it gives them the added benefits of being able to travel from door-to-door as well as ensuring that they can get from A to B whenever they need to. Hiring a car on an overseas holiday may also provide a cheaper alternative to taxis and transfers.

Despite the benefits of hiring a car thousands of holidaymakers are left out of pocket because of hidden charges and inflated prices. If your bank balance has had enough of being run dry because of unnecessary hire car charges, follow these top tips on how to keep the costs down.

Choose a car that meets your needs

The type of car you choose to hire will have a direct impact on the cost of the rental. However, it's not just the style and size that matters, but also the engine and value of the vehicle. Before opting for a car that looks the part, think about your needs. If you're going on a romantic trip with you loved one, you might want to opt for a premium car to make it extra special. However, if you're planning on exploring an entire region with the kids in tow, you'll likely want something economical, but with plenty of storage.

When comparing car hire quotes, make sure you shop around and always compare like-for-like. Don't choose the type of car based solely on price, as the cheapest one probably won't suit your requirements. Car hire is only good value for money if it meets your needs.

Be an early bird

By booking as early as possible you're likely to get a cheaper rate, especially if you're booking at peak times, such as Christmas or summer holidays. Although most car hire is priced per day, there are often discounts for longer hire periods. Booking for a whole week or fortnight, could end up being cheaper than a 3-day weekend.

It's not just when you book, but also how you book. Most car hire companies now have online booking systems, which offer special online-only rates. If you spot a price on the website, but call or visit the branch to book, you could end up paying a higher rate.

Hire excess insurance

Although car hire usually comes with third party insurance, if you do need to claim, the excess is astronomical – often £500 or more. If you've hired a car before, you've probably been offered excess insurance, sometimes known as a damage waiver. This reduces the compulsory excess to zero, giving you peace of mind that your finances won’t be stretched to the limit by excess charges.

Whilst it is important to take out car hire excess insurance, buying it from the hire company can cost a small fortune. £10 per day might sound reasonable compared to the possible £500+ excess, but that all adds up over a week or two.

Fortunately, there is an alternative. Buying car hire excess insurance from a standalone company often works out much cheaper. It tends to cover more than just the rental agreement's excess, such as the tyres and windscreen. Prices are usually around £2.50-£5 per day, but annual policies are also available for less than £50.

Other extras

Where are you collecting the hire car from? Many airport branches charge an additional fee, usually a transfer fee that takes you from the airport to the car hire branch. If you don't require the shuttle, see if this fee can be deducted from your bill.

Car seats and satellite navigation systems are optional extras, but watch out for how much you're being charged. Car hire companies often have ridiculous rates for the privilege of these extras, when it would often be cheaper to buy them yourself.

Check out company policies

It's becoming more common for car hire companies to request that the fuel tank be full upon the return of the vehicle. If it's not, customers usually have to pay to fill the tank, plus an additional premium, so it's worth stopping off at a petrol station first. Make sure you read the terms and conditions carefully though as some hirers have a sneaky 'empty tank' policy. It might not seem like a problem, but it's very difficult to get the car back without a drop of fuel left, meaning that the company get free fuel off every single customer.

Another area you might get caught out in is the mileage. Many companies offer unlimited mileage, if so, you're in luck. When there is daily mileage limit in place, you will be charged for every mile over the allowance. If you haven't checked this, you could face a huge bill upon your return.

In order to avoid the post-holiday blues, make sure you read the terms and conditions of your car hire to find out exactly what's included. Don't give into pressure over the collision damage waiver, but make sure you take out car hire excess insurance in advance instead.