How to get the best deal on your holiday hire car

Hiring a car overseas should be simple but rental companies aren’t always transparent with their prices.

Book before you go for the best deals

It could save you hundreds of pounds. Compare different rental companies using comparison sites such as Travelsupermarket, Skyscanner or Carrentals. Check the terms and conditions and what is included in the cost before you commit - an initial bargain price can rocket once fuel, sat navs, child seats and extra drivers are added.

Loss or damage to your hire car

You’re usually liable for the excess of any claim you have to make on the hire car company’s insurance, which can be as much as £900. Avoid buying an expensive top-up insurance called ‘super collision damage waivers’ (SCDWs) directly from the car rental. This waiver removes or reduces your excess to zero but can cost £25 a day.

Instead, look at ‘excess reimbursement insurance’ (ERI) which you buy from a separate insurer such as Carhireexcess, Bettersafe or iCarhireinsurance. However, some rental firms include the excess cover such as Which? best buy Zestcarrental.

Before you collect your rental

Before picking up your car, you will need a check code from the DVLA’s website or call 0300 083 0013. Hire companies need this to check for driving convictions because the paper part of your driving licence is no longer valid. The code only lasts 21 days, so don’t request it too soon.

In countries such as the USA and Brazil you’ll need an International Driving Permit which is available from Post Office branches for £5.50 and is valid for 12 months.

When collecting your car

Check your hire car for pre-existing damage and make sure it’s noted by staff before you drive off. Take photos when you collect and return the car. And double check what fuel it takes - damaging a car by putting the wrong type of fuel in is unlikely to be covered by your insurance and could cost a fortune. And check what the fuel policy is eg do you need to return it full. Also beware of ‘free’ upgrades as you may be billed for this later. Say no if you’re going to be charged.

Know the road rules

Six million Britons have driven on the wrong side of the road while abroad. The AA and RAC both have details of the different highway rules around the world so check with them before you drive. Always familiarise yourself with the car’s controls before setting off.

5 holiday driving faux pas

  1. In France you must have a breathalyser in the car but it’s illegal to have a sat nav that warns you about speed cameras.
  2. In Germany, not all autobahns are speed-limit free – only a small percentage allow you to drive as fast as you like.
  3. In Switzerland you can be fined for going through a tunnel without switching your lights on.
  4. In Spain you need to carry a spare pair of glasses if you wear them for driving.
  5. In Greece full beam lights are forbidden in towns.

Words Sarah Jagger