10 car hire tricks to watch out for

If you're planning to hire a car on your next overseas getaway, watch out because unscrupulous car hire companies are using dodgy tactics to part holidaymakers from their cash, warn experts. Here's what to be aware of:

1. Extra charges

You're tempted by cheap prices, only to discover once you’ve signed up that you have to pay extra locally for insurance and breakdown services.

Top tip: Read the rental contract carefully when collecting the car. If there are any surprise charges, raise them with the car rental company or contact the broker you booked the car through.

2. Steep insurance excesses

Prices often state that they include "full insurance", but there’s actually an excess – the portion of any insurance claim you must pay yourself – of anything up to 3,000 Euros.

Top tip: Make sure you check the excess amount before driving away. Remember that damage to the wheels, glass parts and the underside of the car are usually excluded from standard insurance.

3. Speedy sign-ups

Some companies expect you to sign the rental agreement before you can read it, so you end up agreeing to unexpected terms.

Top tip: Don't be bullied into signing anything until you are ready to do so.

4. 'Collect full, return empty' fuel policies

On arrival at the airport, you're told you have to pay for a full tank of petrol before you can pick up the car. You are then charged much more than it would have cost to fill up at a local petrol station.  There’s no refund for returning the car with unused fuel.

Top tip: Find out what the fuel policy is before booking. If online information isn’t clear, phone the company and ask them.

5.  Expensive upgrades

You arrive at the rental counter to be told "we're giving you an upgrade", only to find out later you’ve been charged for the upgrade without your permission.

Top tip: Always ask if an upgrade is free, or if you’re going to have to pay for it. Refuse it if you are going to be charged.

6. The insurance hard-sell

Local reps who are paid commission pressurise you into buying additional insurance which cannot be refunded or cancelled retrospectively.

Top tip: Stand your ground if you don't want to take out extra insurance. Check the rental contract carefully before signing in case the supplier has tried to add the cost of cover onto the price anyway.

7. Pre-existing damage

You're made liable for damage which was already on the car when you collected it.

Top tip: Check the car thoroughly for existing damage before you drive away and make sure the car rental supplier marks this down. When collecting and returning the car, take photos of the vehicle including any damage if applicable.

8. The exchange-rate sting

When paying for additional extras such as child seats and Sat Nav upon collection, you are not given the option to pay in local currency. You are forced to pay in sterling, with a poor exchange rate applied.

Top tip: Always opt to pay for additional extras in local currency. Use a credit card that does not charge commission or fees for currency conversion.

9. High deposits

You’re asked for a big deposit to cover the excess and potential parking fines. If you refuse, your only other option is to take out the expensive local additional insurance, costing as much as 15 Euros per day in Europe.

Top tip: Take a valid credit card with sufficient available funds when collecting your rental car as the supplier can use this to authorise a security deposit.

10. Hefty repair costs

If your hire car is damaged, and it’s not covered by the insurance, you’re charged significantly more for repairs than they should actually cost.
Top tip: If you are charged for damage, ask to see a breakdown of charges, and a repair invoice. If the amount is unnecessarily high, ask the broker you booked through to challenge this with the rental company.

  •  Find cheaper car insurance at Mustard.co.uk or speak to a Mustard adviser on 0330 022 7421