Six secrets to know when renting a car

If you are going on holiday then the chances are you will want to rent a car.

But how do you know you’re getting the best deal? Or that you are dealing with a good company?

In this article, we give you some insight into the rental car industry, and let you in on some secrets that will help you when looking for a rental car.

Things to know when renting a car

1. Always inspect the car you’re renting with an employee before you sign anything

When you pick up your rental car, you will have to sign the documentation agreeing to the condition of the car and it’s undergone an inspection.You should always inspect the car with an employee before you sign anything. Car rental offices should have a vehicle inspection list that is signed before you leave the premises. Walk around the car and look for any existing scratches, dents and bumps and make sure that they are noted by the employee.Check the interior as well and look for any stains, marks or scuffs. It’s important that you are as thorough as possible. Otherwise, you could end up getting billed for the damage.

2. Have a look at locations that are out of the airport grounds

Rental services that are away from the airport grounds are often cheaper than the rental companies that are located in the airport.

This is because the vehicles at the airport locations tend to cost more due to airport fees. While it might be easier, the chances are you could find a better deal if you go to a rental location outside the airport, even if it means a bit of an extra walk.

3. Think about fuel and your insurance

You can purchase a tank of fuel from your rental company and then return the vehicle with as little or as much fuel as you like. However, you should be aware that they will be unable to give you a refund for any unused fuel but it does eliminate the need for you to refuel your tank prior to returning.The rental car company encourage you to purchase car rental insurance. This is also commonly referred to as a collision damage waiver, or CDW. However, you should check with your insurance agent and find out if your credit card covers this. While your agreement will often cover this, it does give you a false sense of security as if the vehicle is in an accident or gets damaged then the person renting it is nearly always liable for the first portion of the loss, the excess. The amount you would have to pay in excess varies from one provider to another but is usually between £500 and £2,000 per vehicle. You can protect yourself against this by purchasing an excess waiver for your rental. However, we recommend that you shop around for this, as sometimes they can be expensive. If you shop around, however, you can find deals for as little as £4 a day.

4. Negotiate your upgrade

Upgrade rates don’t exist. They are made up by sales people. So, if you have a mid-sized reservation and you are looking for something larger or more fuel-efficient then you can ask for an upgrade. However, do not pay the extra fee. If they force you to pay a fee then don’t take the upgrade and just take the reservation. However, you can always try for an upgrade if you did want to look at something bigger or slightly different.

5. Bring your own sat nav and child seats

They might be a pain to put on the plane but many airlines do offer to take child seats on for free. Paying extra for car seats and sat navs can cost you upwards of £80 for each item for a week.If you bring your satnav then you will have to make sure it covers both the UK and Europe. You could also use your phone instead if you are driving in Europe. Because of new EU regulations, you don’t get charged extra for using your data in another European country, so it’s the same as if you use it here in the UK. It should be noted that this article was written while we were in the process of leaving the EU and the regulations still applied. Therefore, if you’re reading this far into the future after we have left the EU, we recommend checking to see whether it is still the case. You should also note that some countries have laws against certain navigation systems. If you are driving in France, then you cannot use a navigation system that warns you when there are speed cameras approaching. So you will need to make sure that either your sat nav doesn’t have that or that it is disabled, otherwise you could face a fine.

6. Photo the car on return and keep all the paperwork

If you have done no damage to the car and you have filled the tank up (if you were required to), park it up and take photos of the car. Make sure that they are time and date stamped as well. We recommend taking photos of;

  • Each panel of the car
  • The wheels
  • The mileometer
  • The interior, including seats and footwells
  • The boot

Hand the keys back to the person at the desk, and post them through the letterbox if late at night (though many have people working 24 hours now). Be wary if someone tells you that they are from the company but are not in the office, they could be lying and they could end up driving away in your rental car.

Keep the photos of the car and any documentation. If they decide to charge you and you want to dispute it then you have the documentation and photos to back-up your claim. We also recommend keeping an eye on your credit card statements for a few weeks after you have handed the car back. Make sure that promised fuel payments and excess charges are returned and that no extra payments have materialised without reason.

Hopefully this has given you an insight into how the car rental industry works and what to look out for when getting a holiday rental vehicle. Make sure you take an employee around the car to inspect it with you before you sign anything, be aware of excess fees when it comes to insurance and their waiver fees. You should also be wary of paying extra for things such as sat navs and carseats, and if you can take them with you then we recommend doing it. When you return the vehicle, take photos of the outside and inside with date and time stamps. While we don’t do holiday vehicle rentals, we do know quite a bit about them and can advise you on the best deals and how to make sure the deals are legitimate. So if you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact us. 

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