Life Motor Talk

Tuesday 16 September 2014

Car hire: wise up or risk nasty charges

Ciaran Mulligan

Published 03/08/2014 | 00:00

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With car hire you can be vulnerable to excess fees.
With car hire you can be vulnerable to excess fees.
Ciaran Mulligan

The August bank holiday is one of the busiest of the year when it comes to travel.

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It often marks the beginning of summer holidays abroad for many Irish families. If you're one of these lucky holidaymakers and you're hiring a car abroad, be particularly wary of car hire excess.

Every year, thousands of holiday-goers are being ripped off by car hire companies when they reach their holiday destination.

Innocent holidaymakers often assume they are getting full comprehensive cover on their hired car which will cover the cost of any damage once they drive off. However, there is a big catch - car hire excess.

Car hire excess is the amount which you must pay for out of your own pocket should there be any damage to the rented car while you're hiring it. This excess is not covered by the comprehensive insurance on your hired car.

As the excess can be as high as €2,000 (or more), it is one hell of a bill to face at any time - particularly when abroad. Even a small scratch on a rental car could land you with a high excess charge.

You can buy excess insurance to cover the cost of the car hire excess or any repair costs you would otherwise have to pay should your hired car be damaged.

It can be expensive to hire a car when abroad and this often puts people off buying car hire excess insurance. This, however, can leave you vulnerable to huge excess fees - and often when you least expect it.

One of our customers recently hired a car for a weekend to attend a wedding in the south of Spain. He initially chose a mid-range car but was persuaded to upgrade to a prestige model as part of a special deal. Because he had already arranged his own insurance through ourselves, he refused the rental company's offer of car hire excess insurance.

When he returned the car, it was found to have minor damage. He had managed to pick up a tiny stone chip in the windscreen which he thought would be considered wear and tear. The car hire company disagreed. It said that, because the windscreen was heated, it would deduct the full excess of €1,250 from his credit card.

This particular customer was told by the car hire company that the car hire excess insurance he had arranged separately with CarHireExcess.com would not cover him, which wasn't the case. He reclaimed the €1,250 charge from his policy, which cost him just €49 a year.

Car hire excess insurance can be well worth it - but you must shop around. Otherwise, you could pay hundreds of euro more than you need to.

For example, let's say you're renting an Opel Corsa in Malaga for two weeks. Some car hire companies will charge you more than €330 for car hire excess insurance for this car - but you could pick up the same cover for €42 elsewhere. That means you could save almost €290 by doing a bit of leg work.

Another way to cut the cost of car hire excess insurance is to buy the insurance online rather than at the car hire desk. Unfortunately, many holidaymakers are not aware of this - about one in three of those who buy car hire excess insurance do so from the car hire desk, according to a recent survey by Behaviour & Attitudes.

Your money is precious when on holiday, so get smart about car hire excess - and the insurance that covers it.

Ciaran Mulligan is ­managing director of 
Blue Insurances

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