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Car hire abroad: 10 tips to drive down the cost and ensure you’re covered

Written by: Paloma Kubiak
If you're heading abroad and plan to hire a car, follow these top tips from the UK's Chartered Insurance Institute.

1) Book in advance to save. Paying to hire a car in advance of your holiday can often save you money.

2) Check the insurance provided. Check if you have to pay locally for insurance and breakdown services as the cheap price you first spotted may not be all it seems. Be aware that prices sometimes state they include “full insurance” but there’s actually an excess – the portion of any insurance claim you must pay yourself – of anything up to £2,000.

3) Watch those wheels. Damage to wheels, glass parts and undercarriage are usually excluded from standard insurance. If you damage the car and it’s not covered by the insurance, ask to see a breakdown of charges and a repair invoice, so you know you’re not being overcharged.

4) Check the fuel policy. Find out what the fuel policy is before booking. Do you need to return the car full or empty?

5) You may be asked for a code. When hiring a car abroad, the hire company may ask for a hire code from the DVLA to check whether you have any penalty points on your licence. You can get a code from the DVLA’s website and it is valid for 21 days. You must remember to take your driving licence with you as well as the hire company will not release the vehicle without this, regardless of the code.

6) Get collision damage waiver. When you hire a car, the rental agreement should include cover if you have an accident and damage property or injure other people. However, check your rental agreement, as it may not cover any damage caused to the hire vehicle itself – and even if it does certain types of damage may be excluded. It may be worth paying for collision damage waiver (CDW) so if you have an accident, you don’t have to pay for the whole cost of repairing damage to the rental car (although you may still have to pay an amount towards any repair costs, called an excess). You may also have to pay separately to insure your windscreen and tyres.

7) Consider getting personal accident cover. Another thing to think about is whether you need personal accident cover. This should be available as an extra from the car rental firm but it’s usually cheaper to make sure you’re covered for driving a hire car by your travel insurance.

8) Drive down the insurance excess. Most car rental firms impose an excess which can often be several hundred pounds. An excess is the amount you have to pay in the event of a claim. However, there are some insurers which specialise in providing cover for the insurance excess which allows you to claim the money back if you’re charged. The good thing about arranging cover yourself is that your policy will usually cover parts of the car (such as windows, tyres, the underbody and roof) that are specifically excluded by car hire companies.

9) Check what you’re driving. Check the car for pre-existing damage and ensure the car rental firm marks this down. Take photos when collecting and returning the car – and don’t delete them after the trip. This is especially worth doing if you return the car before the rental firm is open and you just do a key drop. You don’t want to receive a bill for damage you haven’t caused.

10) Bring your own Sat Nav. Consider taking your own Sat Nav and child seat to avoid paying extra for these. If you do decide to get them from the hire firm, make sure you pay in the local currency rather than sterling as a poor exchange rate may be applied.

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