5 tips to minimize car rental problems
Maybe you're feeling smug after reading about those people who went to Spain on holiday with massive problems hiring a car. After all, you're hiring a car right here in the UK for a classic summer road trip. Well, don't get your smug face on yet, because car hire firms manage to antagonize clients the world over, including here. You can take a number of measures to protect yourself, however, like these 5:
1. Take out a separate insurance policy. Yes, the car hire firm is going to try to get you to agree to an extra £10 or so per day for their collision damage waiver (CDW) coverage. And if you're renting a car for a day or two and probably won't rent again for the foreseeable future, then it might be a good idea for peace of mind. But CDW doesn't always protect you against damage to tyres, windscreen, and roof. In most cases you'll be on the hook for the first £200 with the coverage anyway, but without the coverage it could be up to £2,000. If you hire cars several times a year, companies like Insurance4carhire.co.uk have policies that will take care of what the car hire company won't for about £50 per year.
2. Pay with a credit card. If you pay more than £100 hiring a car and use your credit card, then section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act will help you claim any disputed charges.
3. Know the company's fuel policy. Some want you to bring a car back with the tank full (Hertz), and will charge dearly for even the smallest amount they add to top up. With these firms, fill up at the nearest petrol station right before you turn it in. On the other hand, some firms want you to bring it back with the tank empty (Arguscarhire.com for rentals over 4 days). They count on your not knowing this and bringing it back full, giving them a nice, "free" tankful of gas, just like the last bloke. There are many variations on this, and they're all meant to squeeze as much from your credit card as possible.
4. Avoid conflicting damage reports. A common consumer complaint is being billed for a scratch or ding that was there when the car was picked up. Check the car when you pick it up, and if you see anything, make sure it's been noted on the condition report. Have it inspected immediately when you get back. If that's not possible, you may want to take pictures and post them that day on a photo site like Flickr that gives everything a date stamp. Just in case.
5. Read the fine print. Seriously. Here's a gem buried in Section 26 of the Terms & Conditions page of Car-hire-uk.com:
26. If cancellation protection is opted for, we will protect you from any cancellation charges payable subject to a £15.00 admin fee, if you are unable to honour your booking prior to 12 hours before start of rental. If this option is not selected the hirer will be liable for a 100% cancellation fee of rental. No refund is given for rentals ended early.
If you buy cancellation coverage, then they'll let you cancel for a mere £15.00 administrative fee. If you don't buy cancellation coverage, the cancellation fee is 100% of the rental fee. In other words, you get bugger-all. Yup. This actually happens.
Let us know any "lived to tell about it" stories you have about dodgy car hire experiences.