For many people hiring a car for their holiday stay is quite a regular thing. It gives them the freedom to travel to destinations without the need for a taxi or public transport. I like to hire a car because it lets me enjoy the benefits of having a road trip across a country. For me this means I get to see the sights and sounds of what a country has to offer. Fly into point A, stay a few nights then move onto the next destination, and then keep going until you get to an end point. But there are some things you need to look out for:
Hiring a car can be expensive, and I’m not just talking about the daily rental price. There's always local taxes to pay, along with the inevitable sales push for insurance, fuel and car parks. If you do hire a car, make sure you use it to make the most of it. Like I said earlier, I like to travel across a country and use the car to stop along the way. *Note- in some countries it is cheaper to pay a driver than to hire a car!
Sales people, no matter what they say, are on commission to get you to pay for the ridiculously priced extra insurance to cover you for any accidents. Some people are happy to pay for this, but if you drive carefully, and think about where you are leaving the car each day, you shouldn’t need the extra insurance.
Did you know that Europcar will cancel your hire car order and delete from their system if you are 2 hours late? I found this out to my cost in Greece. If you are late you are supposed to phone to let them know, and no- they won't take “I was on an aeroplane, how am I supposed to phone you?!” as an excuse. Most rental places have their depots close to the airport, it's no harm giving them a time to start the rent a bit later that your arrival time to save you the hassle of having your reservation cancelled.
Upgrading to a better car
I have been hiring cars in numerous countries and not once have I received the car I was supposed to. In the majority of cases I have been upgraded to a better car. Why is this? Well its because the rental cars are in demand in peak season and they would rather have your business and give a free upgrade when you arrive than not have it at all.
Check the car over
Never ever listen to the guy checking the car over for scratches and bumps when he says “oh no don't worry about that one”. Walk around with him making sure he marks every scratch, mark and bump on the car before you sign anything. Pay close attention to the wheels too, they often forget to mark them only to try to con you out of money at the end of your trip saying you damaged them.
Don't pay for the sat nav, it's pointless. Instead use google maps. Google maps works when your phone is airplane mode so you don’t need to use your data roaming and rack up any costs. All you need to do is preload the map before you get the car, either on wifi or when you are still back home. Most hotels or restaurants have free wifi available to use. Load up the journey, and hey presto, the GPS blue dot will show you exactly where you are. It will even show you the direction you are facing. So, put away that map and join the 21st century!
Rental car companies often ask you to fill up with the most expensive unleaded available. Why do they want this? Well it's better for their engine in the long run. But you’re only using the car for a short period, and I bet you normally use the cheapest fuel at home for your own car. Ignore them and find the cheapest fuel.
Googles' maps has a great feature which lets you plan routes without going through toll. Now I know in some countries avoiding the toll roads can be difficult, but if the choice is a journey of 10mins longer, or pay €5 each time, I know which seems the most sensible to me.
Take a credit card
I was stung this summer when they refused to let me take the car with my debit card. The same things also happened to my dad recently when he realised his credit card wasn’t registered. Don’t worry, they will eventually give you the car- but it will cost you! Make sure you pack your credit card and that it has a big enough limit to cover the deposit and is in working order.
My uncle once told me a joke, he asked ‘what’s the fastest car over a speed bump?’ The answer: A hire car! Enjoy your temporary ride, drive it as you like, but leave no lasting damage because they will almost always catch you out!
Do you have any tips for hiring a car aboard? Please leave your comments below!