The car hire industry is renowned for using tactics that increase the cost of your rental via add-ons, tricks and scams. Although the base price of your hire-car may be quoted as £10 per day, once the rental desk attendant has worked their magic, it could end up being three times this amount. Worse still, on returning your rental vehicle you might be accused of damages you are not responsible for and overcharged for minor repairs.
With a little knowledge under your belt, you can avoid being ripped off. By understanding what you don’t need, what you do need and how to get the things you do need at a much cheaper rate, you’ll be able to keep the cost of your car rental down.
Here we outline 15 tips to help you reduce the price of your car rental.
£ Up to £50
£££ Over £100
*Estimated savings when hiring a car for one week.
No.1. Don’t pick up your hire-car from an airport (£)
Car rental companies with branches at airports often get charged airport tax. This charge is passed on to the customer. Hence, if you pick up your hire-car from an airport, the airport tax could cost up to twenty-five percent of your entire rental bill. Keep costs down by picking up your hire-car from a branch away from the airport. Airport tax is normally only applicable to rentals collected from an airport branch and not to rentals dropped off there. As such, it’s more convenient, you might be able to drop off your rental vehicle at an airport branch without incurring airport tax.
No.2.Book the smallest vehicle for your needs (£££)
Don’t pick a car that’s not practical, but do book the smallest vehicle for your needs. Economy cars are the most frequently booked. Therefore, by choosing a popular model, there’s a chance it won’t be available in which case you’ll get a free upgrade.
No.3.Car share if the vehicle is only needed for short trips (£££)
Think about how much you will be using your hire-car and consider car sharing. If there are long periods of the day when you won’t be driving, car sharing could be an economical option. With car sharing, you’re usually billed according to the number of hours you’ve used a vehicle and the distance you’ve travelled. By only paying for the journeys you make you can enjoy considerable savings.
No.4.Forego the extras (£££)
You might need an upgrade or extras but always bear in mind that, according to an anonymous Europcar whistle-blower, “staff are expected to sell extras and upgrades to one in three customers”. For example, a full-to-empty fuel upgrade might sound appealing because you start with a full tank of fuel and return with an empty tank. Unfortunately, you’ll be charged up to double the price of fuel from a petrol station for the privilege, and you may not get a chance to use all the fuel. Keep car rental costs down by avoiding upgrades wherever possible.
You’ll be offered a variety of extras such as sat nav and a child seat. With a sat nav costing around £15 per day and a child seat around £12 a day, you can see that extras rapidly increase the cost of your car rental.
Buying map upgrades for your existing sat nav or using a map service on your mobile phone can be much cheaper ways to navigate in your hire-car. Take your own child seat and if you’re travelling abroad, remember that some airlines let you carry one for free while others charge a nominal fee of about £20 return.
No.5.Turn down additional insurance through the car hire company (£££)
The car hire company is likely to offer you additional products like excess waiver insurance. These products can double the price of your rental, so never buy additional insurance through the rental firm. Instead, purchase via a specialist insurer as it will be up to fourteen times cheaper.
Click here for quotes on car excess insurance.
No.6.Inspect the hire-car for damage (£££)
Thirty-five percent of people find damage on their rental vehicle that has not been recorded in the paperwork. Such a scenario can result in you being billed for bumps and scrapes that you are not responsible for. When renting a vehicle, always inspect the hire-car for damage before you sign the agreement. It’s a good idea to take dated photos or video footage of any damage you find in case of a dispute.
No.7.Ensure the rental car is checked back in (£££)
You might be stung with additional charges if the car hire firm fails to properly check the vehicle back in upon return. Without a full check-in being completed, repairs for unrecorded old or new damage could be billed to you in error. When you return your hire-car, a member of staff should inspect the car with you. Any new damage should be reported and the paperwork updated and signed whether there is new damage or not. Allow plenty of time for returning your rental vehicle and insist on waiting if necessary so that staff don’t rush or fail to carry out the check-in.
No.8.Hang on to the paperwork (£££)
Any refunds or extra fees could be applied up to a month after the end of your car hire. As such, hang on to the paperwork and keep an eye on the bank or credit card account used for the rental. In the event of an incorrect refund or unexpected charge, you’ll have everything you need to prove an error.
No.9.discount codes (££)
There are lots of websites which list current voucher codes for car rental companies. Additionally, adverts in newspapers and magazines sometimes feature discount codes. It is well worth searching online and in printed ads for discount codes as you could get a hefty discount off your car hire bill.
No.10.Stick to one driver (££)
Unless necessary, stick to one driver for your hire-car. Charges for additional drivers start at around £10 per day so they quickly add up. If you need to have extra drivers, shop around as some car rental firms waive the fees when you join their loyalty rewards scheme. Another common incentive is not charging for an additional driver who is a spouse or partner living at the same address. Remember to check your breakdown and recovery policies, credit cards and frequent flyer programmes in case you are entitled to free additional drivers through their terms.
No.11.Pay in local currency when renting a car abroad (££)
If you’re renting a car abroad, the car hire company may convert your bill into sterling. This is particularly common in European countries including France and Spain. Always insist on paying in the local currency, as any conversion is likely to be at an unfavourable exchange rate.
No.12.Shop around in advance using an online car rental aggregator (££)
Just like flights and hotel rooms, car rental prices vary considerably. How much you pay depends on where you book, when you book and when your booking is for. For an easier way to shop around, use an online car rental aggregator. Aggregator websites enable you to compare prices from lots of different hire firms at the same time. You can view deals from big and small companies and sort results by price to find the best car rental deals at a glance. Bookings are made through the aggregator or direct with the car hire company.
No.13.Check your breakdown and recovery, credit card and frequent flyer programme terms (£)
If you have a breakdown and recovery policy, credit card or are a member of a frequent flyer rewards programme, check the terms and conditions. Breakdown and recovery providers sometimes offer discounts on car hire. Credit cards often include benefits and you might find you have perks like rental vehicle insurance. Some car hire firms partner with different credit cards and if you use one to pay you get a discount. Under the terms of your frequent flyer programme, you may be able to collect air miles or points with your car hire. Should you have been saving for a while, you might have enough miles to get a discounted price.
No.14.Sign up for loyalty rewards schemes (£)
There’s nothing to lose by signing up to loyalty rewards schemes when you rent a car. Most are free. They usually offer a combination of instant perks, like no waiting and longer-term benefits like free rental days once you’ve collected a certain number of points.
No.15.Book online (£)
Most rental companies will offer the choice of paying online upfront or paying later at the checkout desk. Although the cancellation period for the pay later option is usually a lot longer, if you are set on renting, you are likely to save a reasonable amount by paying upfront, especially if you are going to be renting for a few weeks.