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Frequently asked questions on car hire

Get the answers to FAQs on car hire, then compare prices to find the right deal for you.

When do people consider car hire?

Car hire can be ideal for holidaymakers needing a vehicle, whether they're travelling abroad or taking a break in the UK, or other motorists needing a car for a short period of time.

Read more in our beginners' guide to car hire.

Which car hire company should I choose?

Car hireConsider factors such as:

  • Vehicles on offer
  • Potential mileage limits
  • Do you have to refuel the car before returning it?
  • Can you choose the specific vehicle you want?
  • Where you have to drop off/pick up the vehicle

Ask friends and relatives for recommendations and read online reviews to find a reputable company.

What types of car can I hire?

Typical choices are:

  • Economy: Vehicles with low fuel consumption
  • Family cars: Space and comfort in a vehicle designed for all the family
  • Convertible: The holiday dream - often at a premium price
  • Luxury: Particularly suitable for business travellers
  • People carriers: If you have a large family
  • 4x4s: Anyone planning to travel off-road

Should I get the cheapest car hire policy available?

Did you know...?

  • There are specialist insurers offering car hire excess insurance policies that you may want to research and consider before travelling

Not necessarily, the cheapest deal you find may not include features that you need.

For example, air conditioning or enough boot space to fit all of your luggage.

Do I need a credit card to book a hire car?

You should be aware that many providers will not accept cash, cheque or even a debit card and will insist on a credit card.

Where do I pick my hire car up from?

This will depend on which car hire company you choose. Many can be collected at the airport but - if that's not the case and the hire firm doesn't offer a shuttle service - remember to factor in the potential cost of things like airport transfers or taxis.

Where do I drop my vehicle off?

This will typically be at the pick-up point. If you want a different drop-off point, you'll need to arrange this with your provider and, probably, pay a premium for the service.

What's an excess waiver? Do I have to pay it?

Credit cardsWhen you arrive at the hire firm, many will ask you/encourage you to pay an extra fee that may be called an excess waiver, theft protection, collision damage waiver, additional liability insurance, or something similar.

If you don't and the vehicle is damaged or stolen in the rental period, you'll have to pay the excess stated in the terms and conditions - note that excesses can be prohibitively high.

There are also specialist insurers offering car hire excess insurance policies that you may want to research and consider before travelling.

Will my car be manual or automatic?

Your hire car could have either type of gearbox, so if you need a particular one make sure you specify it when you book.

How do they work the fuel use out?

This will vary from firm to firm, but perhaps the most common is a 'return it as you received it' policy - so that could be a half-full tank, full tank, or anything else specified by the hire company.

Did you know...?

  • Many rental firms will let you hire a child seat, but costs could be high - you may want to consider taking your own

Watch out for deals where you're 'sold' a tank of petrol and can return the vehicle empty - you'll be paying the price set by the hire firm for that tank of petrol or diesel.

What documents do I need?

You'll need the licence(s) for every driver named on the policy and - depending on the country you visit - it's possible that you'll need an international driving permit. You may also need your passport(s) - but don't leave passports with the hire firm!

From 8 June, 2015, new rules mean you may need to obtain a code from the DVLA before picking up a hire car, whether that's in the UK or overseas.

To get a code you'll need to request it through Gov.UK, providing your driving licence number (DLN), national insurance (NI) number and postcode.

Frustratingly, the code only lasts for 21 days, meaning you can't request it too soon. Depending on your travel plans, you may need to think about making sure you have your DLN and NI number details with you so that you can log on to get the code while you're away.

The code has replaced the old paper driving licence - it's worth thinking about taking the old paper form with you when you travel in case local firms or authorities aren't aware of the rule changes.

Are there any mileage limits?

This will vary - some policies are unlimited, others have set mileages. If you plan to drive across national borders make sure that this is covered by your policy.

Is breakdown cover included?

Read your terms and conditions, but you should expect to given an emergency number - keep this with you!

Can I get a child seat?

Many rental firms will let you hire a child seat, but costs could be high - you may want to consider taking your own.Aeroplane

Will I have sat-nav?

More and more modern vehicles come with this as standard or you may be able to pay the hire firm extra for it - check with your provider, or take your own... or use a map!

Is it cheaper to book my car hire with my flight?

This will vary from deal to deal so shop around and compare packaged deals against booking separately.

Any other questions?

See if you can find the answers in our car hire guides.

By Sean Davies