Car rental can be a potentially tricky minefield, from paying over the odds for your vehicle of choice to getting stuck with a less than helpful fuel policy. I recently travelled to the UK, and managed to halve my rental car costs quite easily. So, where to begin?
Looking for a rental car? You’ll often pay more if you go direct, whereas you could save if you use a third party site such as Skyscanner.ie or Auto Europe, which will also allow you to compare deals across various providers. Always make sure to read their terms and conditions, and bring documentation to the rental office.
Generally speaking, your standard rental will provide you with insurance (sometimes referred to as Collision Damage Waiver) and theft protection, though you will likely have to pay an excess in the event of an accident or incident, up to €2,000 in some cases. Rental companies also offer car-hire excess insurance, which would prevent you from having to pay out in the event of a collision, but they don’t come cheap. Instead opt for a cheaper annual or short term excess policy from providers such as Blue Insurance or AIG, which could save you a packet.
Always opt for a full to full fuel policy – that way you only pay for what you use. If you choose a provider that uses a full to empty policy and you aren’t travelling very far, you’ll simply be making them a gift of whatever fuel you don’t use.
If you’re planning on taking a few road trips on your holiday, make sure you opt for packages with unlimited mileage, otherwise you could have to fork out quite a bit once you go over the daily limit. Use Google Maps before you go to figure out a rough estimate of your daily mileage.
Extras at rental companies generally come at a premium, particularly sat navs. Bring your own GPS or use your phone – Google Maps or Waze are great, free alternatives. Depending on the length of your trip, it might be cheaper to fork out for your own unit. For example, a week’s rental in July with Hertz (collecting at Gatwick Airport) includes a GPS charge of €120.59 (at time of press), while Halfords is currently selling a Garmin Nuvi with lifetime Ireland and UK maps for €78.
I was momentarily tempted by a sleek, black Mercedes S Class when choosing my rental car. But I quickly realised that I wouldn’t be in it for too long, and chose a more frugal option. That materialised in the form or a Kia Picanto and, while not exactly sporty, sleek or indeed terribly fun to drive, it had four wheels and a roof, and averaged 53mpg – good for the wallet! If you opt for the smallest model, in some cases you may be upgraded to a larger vehicle for free, if they don’t have yours in stock.
Invest in a folder, and make sure you’ve got all the paperwork you need with you at the rental desk. That includes ID (passport and driver’s licence), your booking documents and insurance policy documents (if you buy excess insurance beforehand). Go through the terms and conditions with a fine tooth comb – some rental companies may require proof of address, or additional documentation. Don’t forget to take photos of the car both before and after, and ensure that a company representative signs the vehicle checklist form on both occasions.