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How to stay in control of your car hire budget

Written by: Paloma Kubiak
Booking and paying for car hire online isn’t the end of the journey. When you’re at the rental desk you’ll be offered a number of extras. But here are tips to help you stay in control of your budget.

The simplest way to save money on car hire is to book it in advance. But whether you’ve been organised or you’ve left it to the last minute, there are ways to keep your budget in check.

This is particularly important as the pound/euro exchange rate recently hit a nine-month low which means less holiday spending money.

When you reach the rental desk, you’ll be faced with lots of extras to choose from, and it can be difficult to know exactly what you need.

Isabel Williams, head of consumer insight at, said: “Your car hire budget can run away with you if don’t get clued up on the optional extras. If you do your research in advance, you won’t feel rushed in to paying for something you don’t need, and you might be able to take things with you to help cut costs.” provides the following tips to help you make the most cost-effective choices at the rental desk:

  1. Avoid adding another driver

Sharing the driving may be easier, but it’s not always cheaper. Rental companies usually charge around £10 per day per additional driver – even more if they’re under 25-years-old.

  1. Take your own extras

Whether you need a baby seat or a sat nav, it’s usually cheaper to take your own. Rental companies charge per item per day, so these can get quite expensive, especially if you’re going on a longer trip.

Most airlines will allow you to carry baby equipment for free – so if you can, take your car seat with you. There are also apps that let you download maps for free, to use on your phone or tablet with no need for data.

  1. Know your insurance

The insurance products on offer for hire cars can be confusing, and with the price calculated per day, extra insurance can significantly increase the overall cost of a rental.

Most car hire packages should come with basic cover as standard, and you’re not legally required to have extra insurance on top. Think about what you’re comfortable with in advance and compare prices online before you travel.

If you do decide to buy more cover at the rental desk, make sure you check that you’ve been given the total cost for your trip, and be sure your travel insurance or credit card doesn’t already have you covered.

  1. Plan for tolls

If you’re in a country with a toll system, the counter staff may offer you some kind of toll package. If you’re passing through plenty of tolls on your trip – often the case with visits to mainland Europe and the USA – this can work out cheaper than forking out every time.

If you’re not going to see many tolls along the way, you might decide to pay-as-you go instead.

Williams added that if you haven’t booked your car hire yet, there’s even more you can do to get the best deal.

“Find out which fuel policy will be best for your trip, where to get the cheapest pick-up and how to make mileage limits work for you”, she said.

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