There is nothing like having the use of a car on holidays but it’s a luxury that can prove very expensive writes Geraldine Herbert
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. A survey by the AA found 40% of Irish people had a bad experience with a car hire company.
If you plan ahead, budget wisely and do some research, you can save yourself a lot of time, effort and money.
Before you go
Shopping around is the key to getting a great car hire deal. Try to book your car hire as early as possible. Similar to when booking flights the price of hire goes up the closer you book to your departure. Also if you leave it to the last minute with demand soaring at peak times you may find yourself with very few choices for a suitable car.
Paying for your car – Debit or credit card
Hertz accept Irish Visa Debit but not all do, some like Sixt accept payment online with an Irish debit card but won’t actually give you the car unless you have a UK debit card. Don’t assume because you have paid with an Irish Debit card that it will be accepted when you turn up to collect the car.
CDW (Collision Damage Waiver)
In the event of an accident is an absolute must and can be bought as a separate policy.
A flexible schedule can mean a better deal, even a couple of hours either side of your chosen pick up time can reduce the cost, a couple of days can make for even great savings.
The Small Print & Hidden Costs
Read the small print carefully and know what is covered by your insurance and what is left out. Check the price of any extras you might need including an additional driver, extra insurance and the cover for loss, theft or damage. Often damage to windscreens, tyres, the roof and undercarriage are not included.
You pay extra for convenience so airport pick up is always the most expensive option so look for car rental options in cities and locations you are staying in, for the cost of a bus or train ticket you might be surprised at the savings.
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. Depending on the make and model of the car excess can range from €750 to €1500. Excess waiver insurance is a policy that protects the driver from having to pay the first part of any claim if their hire vehicle is damaged or stolen but be warned it does not come cheap and can be as much as €10 per day – €70 over a seven-day holiday. A cheaper alternative is to consider a standalone policy to cover this excess that can be purchased, before you travel, e.g. Axa’s offer such policies from €57.75 a year. For more information check out www.axacarhireexcess.ie.
Credit Card & 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 following your driving test.
You’ll be handed copies of the paperwork when you collect and return the car. Make sure you retain this as it will be useful if the hire company tries to charge you extras at a later stage.
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 google maps or download an app that stores maps as most companies charge more to hire one than it would be to buy a new one.
Unless your children are under the age of four its is always better to bring booster seats with you on the flight. The BubbleBum Booster Seat is a very convenient booster seat that retails from €33 and is suitable for kids aged 4 – 11. This seat is inflatable, which makes it perfect for taking anywhere and everywhere. Alternatively small moulded plastic boosters are also ideal and cost between €12 to €15. They are widely available in large supermarkets and auto retailers nationwide.
When you collect the car
In Case of emergency
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. Plus you’re likely to be charged an inflated price for the petrol. If instead you opt for the “full-to-full” policy, that is to return the car full just make sure you do a final fill up as close to the drop-off as possible to avoid a sizable refuelling fee and keep the receipt from the petrol station.
Make sure there are no restrictions on mileage.
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. Also if you travelling somewhere warm make sure you have air conditioning.
Keep it safe
Ensure you park the car somewhere secure and in a well-lit location, making sure all valuables are hidden from view. You will be charged for damage caused to the vehicle even if you don’t do it personally.
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 you could be liable for it when you return the vehicle. Don’t forget to also check the interior and do the same when you return the car. Take some photos of both inside and outside the car.
When you get home
Credit Card Statement
After you get home, check your next credit card statement and challenge any extra car hire charges you do not think are valid.
You can listen back here to Geraldine Herbert on Newstalk Drive talking about the ins and outs of hiring a car- and how to save yourself money
15th May, 2017