If you are an independent traveller or you would like to be, one of the issues that jumps up to bite you is car hire. OK you are not going to expect it to be cheap. Nobody is going to gift you a car but that doesn’t excuse the morass of extra charges and complications that you are invariably presented with when you try to book. The press are happy to slate Ryanair on an almost daily basis for their lack of transparency but in my experience that airline has got nothing on car hire firms when it comes to causing confusion.
When I first started to rent cars overseas I soon became frustrated with the fact that it appeared to be impossible to collect a pre-paid vehicle without the need to hand over yet more money. It soon became apparent to me that the sites on which I was making my bookings were less than transparent and believe me nothing much has changed. The main problem is the fact that every site, be it the hire companies’ own or the consolidator’s, displays charges in a different way and the elements of the hire that are included in the headline price varies.
Before booking anything it is essential to get out your calculator. The price you first see may or may not include collision damage waver, an additional driver, winter tyres or a fee for leaving the country. Decide first what elements you need to include and then run through the entire booking system on each site but stop short of confirming your purchase. Then take a close look at everything you have added to your booking and check out the things that are not even mentioned but which you may need. If there are services missing from the quote but you feel you may need them then a phone call is in order to check out the prices and then do take a long hard look at your excess. This can vary dramatically as can the charges for protecting it.
You should now be in a position to compare the prices you have been offered and you will often discover that what looked like the best deal at the outset is not the winner overall. Even now you should pause for thought and check out the cost of the extras that you must pay when you collect the car. If you need a satellite navigation system, a roof rack or a child’s car seat you will probably have to pay for these at the desk when you arrive and they don’t come cheap. Trust me it is cheaper to buy a sat nav before you leave than to rent one and the same is probably true of the kid’s seat too.
You should eventually arrive at a point when an accurate comparison is possible and you can then make your booking. Be careful when you arrive at your destination because the rental company will inevitably try to sell you yet more extras, most of which you will not need. Before you say yes check your travel insurance policy because it may already cover you for some of the eventualities the car companies will try to scare you with. Hold your ground on upgrades to. You will often be asked if you want a larger car for a small additional charge. If you don’t need a larger car refuse the offer and you may find you get the better vehicle for free. Such offers are frequently made because the hirer does not have a smaller vehicle available and so they will have to hand over the bigger one even if you say no.
Article by Sally Stacey