For holiday peace of mind, it pays to get extra insurance - before you leave home, says Sinead Ryan
It's that time of year when, hopefully, you are looking forward to a summer holiday somewhere sunny.
One of the great pleasures of travelling is hiring a car, piling in bags, kids and a picnic and you're away. But hiring a car and the insurance to go with it can be a nightmare.
This week I'm looking at two elements: the car hire itself, and the emergence of the 'excess' insurance market.
This is the cover which pays for the first part of every claim the driver normally pays in the event of an accident, which in Europe, can be eye-wateringly excessive!
On your own ordinary motor insurance at home, by comparison, the policy excess is generally around €250 as standard; after that, the insurer coughs up. But on a foreign hire car, it can be easily 10 times that leaving you in financial distress, with your pre-swiped credit card taking the hit.
So taking out insurance for the 'excess' makes sense. The trick is not buying it at the car hire desk - the staff are paid hefty commission to 'up sell' products and issue dire warnings about not having it.
Being able to confidently pull out a good, inexpensive policy makes all the difference. Lots of companies now offer it (see table above), and you can buy an annual policy to cover you for all trips, which works out cheaper than individual ones.
Ciaran Mulligan from Blue Insurance, which trades under the CarHireExcess.ie brand, explains how it works:
"Car hire insurance covers you for accidents (usually termed 'Collision Damage Waiver') and theft ('Loss Damage Waiver'). Unfortunately, you may also have to pay a large excess if the hired car is damaged or stolen.
"Car Hire Excess is a reimbursement policy which is designed to help you avoid these large excess costs.
"You can get ripped off at the car rental desk, routinely charged €20 - €25 a day, whereas an Irish policy in advance will only cost €3 to €5 a day, so it's best to buy before you fly."
*Most rental firms demand a credit, not debit, card.
*Compare quotes based on the final figure, not the topline rate. There are extras for things like child seats, additional drivers, airport pick ups, etc.
* Read the contract fully. What is the fuel policy? Is there a maximum kilometre limit? Are you allowed take the car across borders? What is the breakdown procedure?
* Check the car before you drive away, with an attendant. Point out any scratches, marks or damage that you see. Have him/her mark it on the contract. Take photos front and back. Ask about the return policy if it's out of hours.
* If buying car excess insurance, there may be a car value limit (usually €80,000).
* Once purchased, firmly refuse the excess policy offered by the car rental firm. They will insist on taking a pre-authorisation on your credit card for the excess amount on their rental and then use that if the car is damaged or stolen. You can then claim it from your excess policy after you get home.
* If travelling in the United States, make sure you have "Supplemental Liability Insurance".
* Some states in the US (including California) only have a requirement for a small amount of liability on a motor policy, therefore unless Irish consumers include this Supplemental Liability cover they could be left exposed with liability costs over the minimum required by law.
* Abide by local rules of the road and avoid hefty toll charges which can be supplemental. Be sure to check this with the rental firm.