From how far in advance you should book a hire car to what to do before (and after) you return it, you can save time and money with our four top car hire tips…
1 Book in advance
As with many things, you can make big savings by booking your rental car ahead, particularly in peak summer season.
Try to book at least three months in advance, which will not only save you money but also give you more time to plan your break.
If you can, bring your own GPS device rather than rent one. If you don’t have one (or tend to use your phone anyway), it may be worth borrowing one or buying your own rather than renting at the desk.
The same goes for child seats. Some airlines allow child seats as checked luggage so, if you’ve brought yours, you can make a further saving.
2 What to do at the rental desk
The first thing to do is ask about the rental company’s fuel policy. Some will allow you to pay upfront for a full tank of fuel (but may not refund you for any you don’t use) while others will simply ask you to return it with the same amount of fuel you picked it up with.
Try to use a rental company that offers a ‘full-to-full’ fuel policy – you’ll pick it up and return it full, so you only pay for the fuel you use.
You’ll probably be offered some extras at the rental desk, like a car hire excess waiver, which is designed to protect you from any excess charges if you have an accident or the hire car is stolen.
Buying it at this late stage, when you may feel under pressure to purchase on the spot, could be more costly than if you had bought it upfront.
Consider buying your Car Hire Excess Insurance before you travel, to avoid a last-minute expensive charge.
With Zurich you can get up to £6,000 excess cover, no matter who you rent with. Our single trip policies start at £3.49 per day, with annual policies starting from £47.99.
And here’s something else helpful: unlike a lot of car hire companies’, Zurich’s policies cover more vulnerable parts of the vehicle including the windscreen, tyres and roof.
3 Before you drive away
You don’t want to be charged for anything that had nothing to do with you, so make sure you inspect the car before moving off.
Take your own digital photographs of any scratches or dents inside and outside the vehicle and ensure any damage is recorded and signed on all copies of the rental agreement.
If you’re going abroad, it’s always a good idea to check the driving restrictions before you head off and ensure you understand the local driving regulations and road signs.
Always drive cautiously as you won’t be familiar with the local driving style or driving on the opposite side of the road!
4 Returning the vehicle
When you hand back the vehicle, make sure an employee checks the car with you and they provide you with a signed receipt stating that no extra charges are required.
If you can’t sign the car back in, take a new set of photographs as evidence that it’s been returned without any new damage.
Ensure you have sufficient funds on your credit card in case you do damage the vehicle.
Although Car Hire Excess Insurance is intended to reimburse the excess fees you incur, you’ll still need to pay for the excess charges when you return the vehicle. Most companies won’t accept debit cards because they have no pre-authorisation to restrict funds to cover damage.
If you do have to refuel the vehicle before returning, remember to keep the receipt as proof and if you find any unexpected charges taken from your credit card when you arrive back home, always ensure you receive supporting documents from the rental company.
Find out more about Zurich Car Hire Excess Insurance.
This policy is administered by Halo Insurance Services Limited and underwritten by Zurich Insurance plc.
Zurich Insurance plc
A public limited company incorporated in Ireland. Registration No. 13460. Registered Office: Zurich House, Ballsbridge Park, Dublin 4, Ireland. UK Branch registered in England and Wales Registration No. BR7985. UK Branch Head Office: The Zurich Centre, 3000 Parkway, Whiteley, Fareham, Hampshire PO15 7JZ. Zurich Insurance plc is authorised by the Central Bank of Ireland and authorised and subject to limited regulation by the Financial Conduct Authority. Details about the extent of our authorisation by the Financial Conduct Authority are available from us on request. Our FCA Firm Reference Number is 203093.
Halo Insurance Services Limited
Registered office: Suite 1, 56 Gloucester Road, London, SW7 4UB and is registered in England number 6929208. Halo Insurance Services Limited is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority, Register No. 504629, for the sale and administration of general insurance products in the United Kingdom and throughout the European Economic Area (EEA).