Car Hire: How to avoid getting taken for a ride with your holiday rental
Stick to the high road when renting a vehicle on holiday, says John Cradden
Like airlines, the whole area of car rental is well known as a consumer minefield of hidden charges that, if you step on any of them, are primed to hit your pocket where it hurts.
Things like insurance cover, extra add-ons, fuel policies and car damage policies are all things you have to be super-vigilant about because if you're not, you could end up paying well over the odds for your car hire.
The first step, of course, is choosing a service. For most of us, the lowest price is the biggest draw, but the slog of finding the best value has been made easier by search services like Skyscanner.ie, which scans loads of car hire firms, brokers and travel agents and allows you to filter the search results based on fuel policy, air-conditioning, transmission, pick-up, car size and a lot more.
That said, it's worth looking out for offers or discounts on any loyalty schemes you might be signed up to, or even on the websites of the big players.
You should also see if it is possible to travel to a pick-up point outside the airport. Irish Independent travel writer Thomas Breathnach says airports may have the largest fleets and most competitive car hire markets, but they are also subject to extra levies not present at downtown zones.
"For longer road trips, a quick train trip or cab ride to a provincial town could see your quote drop by hundreds," he advises.
When you are at the car rental firm's desk at the airport and ready to collect your car, make sure you read over the paperwork carefully and that you haven't signed up for any extras you didn't explicitly consent to. But also make sure that what extras you do need, such as child seats, are there.
It's not unknown, as well, for some firms to try and sneak upgrade charges on to the paperwork if they can't provide you with the class of car you have paid for.
Another chestnut, but still as relevant as ever, is to check your car for any damage, inside and out, before you set off. It's part of the paperwork in most cases anyway, which means you'll need to get a staff member to sign off on it. Even if you spot damage that straddles the fine line between a minor scuff and something that needs repairing, point it out to the staff member, otherwise you might be charged for any damage that turns out to have been the fault of a previous customer.
A good tip is to take pictures or, even better, a video of the car, just to be sure.
You should also check the fuel policy. Basically, companies that run a full-to-empty policy should be given a wide berth, because not only will they charge you twice the price of petrol at garages nearby, you will almost never get to use the fuel you pay for unless you have assiduously planned your journey distances to the nearest kilometre so that you hand the car back with a nearly empty tank - which is practically impossible for most of us.
With a full-to-full policy you only get to pay for the fuel that you use.
When it comes to insurance, you are usually covered by the provider for major accidents or damage, but not for minor ones which, depending on the company, can mean you would have to fork out for repairs ranging in cost from €500 up to €2,000.
They will, of course, offer you what's called collision damage waiver (sometimes called excess reimbursement) insurance as an extra, which covers such minor damage, but it's often eye-wateringly expensive.
Better instead to take out this cover separately, such as from AIG or AXA or a broker like Carhireexcess.ie, Insure4less.ie or Getcover.ie for around €3 a day in Europe or €50 or so for a policy that covers you all year.
Read more:10 rules of car rental - how to avoid rip-offs when you hire a holiday car