You might think it entirely reasonable to think that hiring a car is going to be a simple and straight forward affair. There are generally very few complications in most normal contracts for hire after all. So what makes the business of hiring a car so potentially fraught with frustration – and expense?
There are a number of reasons, so it might be helpful to review just a few of these in order to avoid the more common traps and pitfalls the next time you want to rent a car:
One of the complications, for example, may come if you have left hiring your car until you actually arrive at your holiday destination; it is then likely to be a problem conducting the entire transaction in a foreign language – from finding out what cars are available, choosing the vehicle you want, deciding how long you want to hire it, agreeing the price and understanding the scope and level of any insurance you are also buying in order to cover yourself under the law and to protect against theft and accidental damage; many of the dangers of potentially expensive misunderstandings and other details being lost in translation may be avoided if you do your research before you travel – with the internet now obviously making it far simpler to book in advance; indeed, the Guardian newspaper advised its readers (March 2015) that it “is always cheaper” to book a rental car as far ahead as possible rather than waiting until you have already arrived at your destination abroad.
Another area where some advance planning and preparation is likely to earn significant dividends is insurance cover for the vehicle – and hire car excess insurance in particular; buy this simple, standalone piece of protection from a UK based car hire excess insurance specialist – and you are in a strong position to fight off inevitable attempts by the car rental company to sell you a similar but inferior product at a grossly inflated price when you are standing at the last minute at the hire car check-out desk; thinking ahead and buying excess insurance before you go might also help you better to understand just why you may need it.
Since the insurance package that comes with your hire car is likely to have a very hefty excess – between £500 and £1,000 or more – car hire excess insurance protects your pocket from being hit by such an expense simply by reimbursing you the excess you might be required to pay; not surprisingly, many hire car customers therefore choose this form of protection and many buy it directly from the car rental company when they check-out the vehicle; buying it in advance from an independent specialist provider, however, is almost certain to get you more comprehensive cover against such risks – at a fraction of the price.
If there is any possibility of your hiring a car whilst you are abroad, of course, you are likely to have remembered the need to take not only your passport but your driving licence too – along with the credit card which the rental company uses to collect the deposit; recent changes in UK driving licence legislation, however, mean that there is a further bureaucratic hurdle for anyone hiring a car abroad; since the paper counterpart – which contained a record of any previous motoring convictions – has been phased out with effect from the 8th of June, customers need to provide an alternative form of proof to foreign rental companies; this means remembering to obtain a code from the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) before you go and present it when you pick up your hire car – the code is only valid for 72 hours, so it might call for some fine timing on your part.
In response to profit margins which appear to be being squeezed all the time, car rental companies are on the lookout for other ways of generating revenue through the sale of a number of extras to their customers; as already mentioned, the chief revenue earner – from those who forget to make alternative arrangements beforehand – is the sale of excess insurance; but there are others; the hire of child seats, for instance, takes advantage of the fact that these might not only be essential items of safety for young passengers but also a legal requirement; yet there is nothing preventing you from taking along with you on your foreign trip the ones you use at home, or from renting them from a local supplier which is independent of the rental company’s money-making scheme. Even more convenient and portable is your own familiar satnav device to take with you rather than hiring at the high daily rate the hire car company is likely to charge.
Hiring a car is probably not as simple and straight forward as it might be – but take on board some of these tips and you may be able to avoid some of the more obvious traps and pitfalls.