Hiring a car on holiday can make the most of the trip away - but have some common sense
This time of year is popular for booking summer holidays abroad - especially with the weather we've been having.
Booking a hire car is often part of the plan so you can get out and about without relying on public transport or taxis.
However, it's one of the purchases fraught with scams and rip-offs.
A recent survey by Multitrip.com found that 25pc of us will hire a car abroad on our holiday, but more than four in 10 have felt ripped-off when they did so.
This week I'm looking at ways to avoid this and ensure you enjoy trouble-free driving while you're away.
One way is by buying waiver excess cover while you're still in Ireland and avoiding being flogged it at the car hire desk, as many staff are on commission to sell-up other products.
Waiver cover is not car insurance itself, but insurance against the first part of any claim that might be made - the "excess", as we term it here. While in Ireland excess on most standard motor policies is around €250, that's not the case in other countries, where it can run into thousands.
As companies swipe your credit card for the booking, they have free rein to also charge back excess to the same card, meaning even small dints and scrapes can cost you far more than the repair charges.
The cover itself also protects against other things such as lost keys or towing fees, so do ask.
The panel shows the cost of this cover, which is an added amount to the main insurance, but the peace of mind is invaluable.
I've used annual cover where it's available as it's often cheaper than buying it per trip, but most of the companies have a per-trip limit of 30 or 60 days for any one holiday hire.
Having car excess cover also gives you the opportunity to waive it at the foreign car hire desk and give a firm "Non, merci" when told you have to buy it there.
Here are some other tips for saving money:
- Check the fuel policy. Leaving the car empty on return is a gift to the car company, as they load up with fuel and a surcharge for the effort. Full-to-full is the best option for consumers, but avoid the ultra-expensive petrol station just beside the airport.
- Stick to well-known brands. Although local operators might be cheaper, the rogue ones are hard to pinpoint. In addition, companies such as Hertz, Avis and Europcar are all members of the European Car Rental Conciliation Service (www.ecrcs.eu), which mediates in disputes between customers and car hire companies, as long as the booking was made directly (not through a broker). The service is free and resolution is within 30 days, which member companies are bound by.
- Know your terms. Car hire companies may bamboozle you with what (they think) you need. Knowing your CDW from your LDW is essential. Collision damage waiver (CDW) is insurance from damage caused by an accident. Loss damage waiver (LDW) is for theft.
- Consider bringing your own accessories (check with the airline for costs). When booking your car, you can be charged a fortune for child and booster seats and sat-navs. As data roaming costs have been abolished across the EU, you can just use Google Maps in the car for directions, but check with your phone operator that the data limits are not capped, and buy a bundle for more if you need to.
- Compare quotes based on the final hire cost, not the topline rate. Additional drivers, airport pick-ups and the like will all be charged as extra.
- Check the car, with an attendant, before you drive away. Point out any scratches, marks or damage that you see. Have the attendant mark it on the contract. Take photos front and back.
- If you're travelling in the United States, make sure you have "supplemental liability insurance". Some states (including California) only have a requirement for a small amount of liability on a motor policy; therefore, unless Irish consumers include this, they could be left exposed with liability costs over the minimum required.
- Abide by local rules of the road and watch out for tolls (European roads are tolled to a much greater extent than our own, especially in France, where the tolls can cost as much as the fuel you use on a trip). If you go through a non-barrier toll, it could be registered by number plate, and the car hire company may charge an additional fee to have it paid once the car is returned.
- In addition, speeding, drink- driving and all other offences may be very strictly monitored.