Watch out for car hire excesses
Excesses can be ferociously expensive and hire companies will offer you the opportunity to reduce that figure by paying an additional daily supplement - known as additional liability insurance, a collision damage waiver or theft protection - which can significantly bump up the total cost of hiring the carRachel England, journalist
Do I need to pay extra for car hire excess?
You'll have to make a judgment call on that, but there are strong arguments for both sides. If you're on holiday you're already likely to be pinching the pennies, and such additional charges are likely to eat into your beer fund. However, an extra £15 or so a day is a small price to pay in the face of £1,000+ charges if the worst happensRachel England, journalist
Inspect the car on pick up and return
Thoroughly. That tiny scratch you didn't think worth mentioning when you picked it up could easily come back and bite you on the bottom when your credit card is unexpectedly charged. Make sure an inspection form is filled out when you're picking up and returning, and ensure the company is satisfied that everything's in order when you leaveRachel England, journalist
Should I buy petrol from the car hire company?
Some companies will 'sell' you a tank of petrol and expect the car to be returned empty, or will charge you for however much petrol you use from the tank. This is usually very expensive, so you're better off taking the car with a full tank and simply refilling it upon your returnRachel England, journalist
Car hire safety and peace of mind
Do some basic safety tests - check the brakes and handbrake work, make sure the seatbelts are in good condition and give the engine the once over. If you have any concerns, ask for an alternative model. Always ask for a phone number to call in case the car does break downRachel England, journalist
Do pick up and drop off have to be at the same place?
If your pick up and return destinations are different, be prepared to pay more for this, and have a slimmer choice of provider… Ask about mileage caps and border issues, too. Is there a limit to how many miles you can do, or where you can take the car? This is important if you're planning a serious road tripRachel England, journalist
Should I give a car hire company my passport?
No. Some local car hire companies will ask you to surrender your passport by way of a guarantee to finalise a booking, but the UK Foreign Office, unsurprisingly, says that this is a definite no-no. Also bear in mind that hire cars are often easy targets for petty criminals, so take thorough precautions with security, and only ever pull over for policeRachel England, journalist
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Did you know...?
- Some car hire companies won't give an exact indication of the excesses you're liable for until you've made a payment and arrived at the hire station
- In North America it's illegal in some states to have opened containers of alcohol anywhere in your vehicle
- In Spain, failure to carry a reflective hazard triangle will be met with an on-the-spot fine
- In France, it's mandatory for all motorists to carry an unused breathalyser kit meeting French specifications
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