Having a set of wheels on holiday is a bit like having a set of wings…you are free to take off and explore to your heart’s content, with only the price of petrol to consider. With that being said, there are a few things to think about before hitting the open road. We’ve put together a list of practical tips to make sure your car hire experience isn’t too bumpy a ride.
Book ahead online
The most expensive way to hire a car is to step off the plane, walk straight into the car hire office and see what they have to offer. Save yourself a huge chunk of change and use a comparison site, such as travel supermarket.com, to search for the best deals. Try entering various pick up points. For example, if you’re hiring a car in Barcelona, check the prices of both an airport pick up, and a city centre pickup, often one of them will be considerably cheaper than the other.
Do you have a credit card? You’ll need one
Every car hire company across Europe (and to our knowledge, this applies to the rest of the world too) requires the customer to have a credit card which will act as a kind of insurance policy on their vehicle if you happen to damage it. Expect around €500 to be put on hold on your card, which is refunded assuming all is ship shape upon return of the vehicle.
Shop around for insurance
The car hire company will offer its own in house insurance to cover the vehicle while it’s in your possession, but more often than not, you’ll find a cheaper alternative by shopping around online. Again, using a comparison site is the way to go here; you can often find car hire excess insurance for as little as €3 per day. Be sure to read the policy wording carefully to make sure you get the coverage you need.
Check the fuel policy
In general, there are two main types of fuel policy. The first being the full/full option. You get a full tank and you return it with a full tank. If your fuel policy is full/full, make sure to ask where the nearest petrol station is before you get behind the wheel, that way you can fill up just before you drop the car back off, keeping the needle where it needs to be.
Then there’s the full/empty option. You will prepay for a full tank of fuel upfront (at an inflated price), and return the car empty. This option has its obvious drawbacks; it can be a waste of money if you’re only renting for a couple of days or doing relatively low mileage, as there is no refund for unused fuel. Be sure to check the fuel policy works for you before committing to a car.
Thoroughly inspect the vehicle before driving away.
At the office, you’ll be presented with a little diagram of a car and told to do a ‘walk around’ and indicate any preexisting marks, scratches or dents that are visible. Be thorough and try to have an assistant present while you do it, or it could be you funding the repairs of somebody else’s bad driving. On top of this, always snap photos of every angle of the car, or better yet, take a video. Having solid photographic evidence on your phone adds extra peace of mind, especially if you’ve hired a car that’s been around the block a few times.
Hiring a car and hitting the road in a foreign land is an adventure. Follow these tips for a seamless, stress free experience and enjoy your holiday.