With summer fast approaching, many families will be rushing to organise the perfect getaway to Europe’s sunny shores or further afield. Given that you’ll be juggling booking the holiday, sorting the kids out, packing, flying and remembering everything from passports to flip-flops, it’s easy to forget that you’ll probably need to hire a car.
Due to the maelstrom of chaos that is often the prelude to a dream holiday, hiring a car cheaply and easily often becomes a mad scramble just to get the first decent looking car that pops up. The car hiring market can be a minefield, and rushing will only make you more susceptible to scams. So, sit back, relax and read this handy little guide to navigating the market and finding the best deals.
Getting the best deal
When searching for that deal, it’s essential to compare. Car hire favourites like travelsupermarket.com or sites like economycarhire.com are an invaluable resource to help simplify what can be a bewildering process. Indeed, hiring a car often falls pretty far down the list when it comes to booking, planning and packing for a holiday. Many are put off by the administration and hassle. It is, however, a small price to pay to avoid any traumas while you’re already on your holiday. It’s best to book early to get a cheap deal, so you can take it easy from the moment you land.
Remember, smallest isn’t always cheapest. In fact, supply and demand means that larger vehicles can be more affordable after the stylish city cars have been snapped up. Be sure to check all prices in each vehicle category to maximise your chance of a good deal.
Always read the small print. Some companies limit the mileage, while others require a full tank when you hand the car back. Also be aware that adding a second driver can affect the price.
From July 2015, paper licences will be obsolete. The DVLA now requires you to access your details through its new MyLicence online system. Both you and the dealer will be given a special code that only lasts for 72 hours. Another reason to book well ahead – before you even consider sorting out your beach bed.
Know your fuel
Many companies offer a full-to-empty fuel policy. At first, this sounds handy but can become eye-wateringly expensive. If you’re on an island, it’s effectively impossible to use up a full tank, and you won’t be refunded for any fuel you don’t use.
A full-to-full scheme is, therefore, more cost effective. You won’t be charged for any remaining fuel, but make sure that tank is full when you hand the car back. If an extra drop can be added, they’ll add it and send you the bill.
Don’t be swindled by insurance
Insurance policies offered by hire companies can be excessively high, pushing up your rental price by hundreds. Check the excess cost on your policy. If you feel it’s too high, look for an outside agency. Firms like the AA provide a comprehensive European Excess Policy, which is often the more attractive option.
Check for damage
When you collect your car, have a good look at it. If you spot anything, make sure the issue is noted on the inspection sheet. It’s also handy to take some photos of anything that could be used against you. It’s also imperative you check the car before you hand it back.
Don’t pay extra
If you’re travelling with young ones, it may be handy to bring your own child seat. Hire companies will seek to charge you for any pricey extras. Beat them to it by bringing your own child seats and sat-navs.
Keep the paper work
Many fees are loaded on amid a mountain of receipts. Keep paperwork ordered and simplified, so you can check what you’re being charged for. Additionally, keep your credit card bills so you can pinpoint exactly what you’re paying for, and spot any unfair charges.
So, to recap, here are five essential points to remember when hiring a car:
- Book early
- Compare prices
- Check your car
- Keep your paperwork
- Pay for what you pay for, nothing else