From fluctuating costs depending on the time of year to confusion over fuel payment policies, hiring a car when abroad can be a stressful ordeal. If you plan ahead, budget wisely and do some research, you can save yourself a lot of time, effort and money.
Book online: Shopping around is the key to getting a great car hire deal and try to book your car hire as early as possible.
Small print and hidden costs: Read the small print carefully to find out what is covered by your insurance and check the price of any extras you might need. Often damage to windscreens, tyres, roof and undercarriage are not included.
Check the excess: Don't focus solely on the cost of car hire. Look carefully at the excess figure: this is the amount of money that you will be charged in the event of an accident or damage to the car.
Credit card and driving licence: When you collect the car you will need a driving licence and a credit card. Many companies will also insist on you having at least two years' driving experience.
Paperwork: Make sure you retain all paperwork as it will be useful if the hire company tries to charge you extras at a later stage.
Size matters: Opting for a small car because it is cheaper may not be the best idea in the long run. There is no point discovering at the airport that it's too small for your luggage and passengers, so make sure you are hiring the right size car for your needs.
Finding your way: Bring your own Sat Nav - or even better, just use your smartphone and download an app that stores maps, as you will pay more to hire a sat Nav than you would to buy a new one.
Child seats: Unless your children are under the age of four it is always better to bring booster seats with you on the flight.
Emergencies: Make sure you get an emergency contact for the rental company in case of breakdown or accident.
To fuel or not to fuel: Do you return the car with a full or empty tank? Review the fuel policy before confirming the booking. The "Collect full, return empty' policy is rarely a good idea as you will not be refunded for any unused fuel and it takes a lot of planning to return the tank empty.
Mileage: Make sure there are no restrictions on mileage.
Essential equipment: Open the boot and check that it has a warning triangle, high-visibility jacket, spare bulbs and any other items legally required in that country.
Parking: Ensure you park the car somewhere secure and in a well-lit location, as you will be charged for damage caused to the vehicle even if you don't do it personally.
Inspect it: Have a good look around the car before you set off and make sure every tiny scratch is marked on the contract. If you don't spot any pre-existing damage you could be liable for it when you return the vehicle.