BEING stung with hidden costs by your car hire firm is a holiday horror that no one wants to come home to.
Yesterday, five of Europe’s biggest hire companies including Europecar and Sixt promised to be more upfront about their fees after years of swindling customers.
Getty – Contributor Make sure you read the terms and conditions before signing any paperwork
The Competitions and Markets Authority (CMA) gave the firms a rap on the knuckles after a Europe-wide investigation found they weren’t being clear and honest enough about the true cost of their services.
So it’s no wonder that 63 per cent of Brits worry about being ripped-off by firms on their holiday, according to Which?.
We’ve had a look at some of the tactics car hire companies use to bump up your bills and how to make sure you don’t end up paying more than you need to.
Being hit by hidden fees
The price of a bargain policy may look irresistible but car hire firms are notorious for excluding compulsory fees from the advertised rate.
From cleaning fees to young driver charges, you may find that by the time you get to the checkout your bill has doubled.
Some firms will even make you pay extra for admin costs to process theft or damage reports.
How to find the cheapest car hire dealHERE’S how to make sure you get the best deal on your car hire when you go on holiday:
Comparison sites – Using sites like Skyscanner, TravelSupermarket or Kayak can help you compare prices from different companies. You can also filter the options based on things like fuel policies. That way you can choose the cheapest option to save cash. Watch out for any extra costs added after you’ve left the comparison site though as it could see you getting a worse deal.
Book in advance – Whatever you do, don’t leave it until the day you travel to book your deal. You’ll end up paying over the odds compared to if you’d booked it in advance.
Get your own insurance policy – Don’t be conviced to buy a super collision damage waiver (SCDW) at the desk. Take out your own standalone policy with a specialist provider to save you some serious money.
Book through foreign websites for the same company – Many of the big firms offer alternative rates to customers in different countries. There isn’t anything stopping you from booking through one of its foreign websites. Type in the firm’s web address but replace .co.uk with the other coutry’s extension, such as Italy’s which is .it. You may even be able to beat prices quoted by comparison sites.
Get unlimited mileage – If you’re planning on a long road trip, avoid being hit by extra mileage charges by paying a bit more upfront for a policy that is unlimited. It could save you hundreds.
Previously, we revealed how as many as 28 “extras” could be slapped on customers during the booking process, or at collection or drop-off.
Always read the terms and conditions thoroughly before signing your name on the dotted line to make sure that there aren’t any nasty surprised when you get home.
Insurance add-ons that you don’t even need
Insurance is generally included in the basic cost of hiring a car but you might still be liable to pay huge excess fees if anything does go wrong.
Many car hire companies will offer you what’s known as a super collision damage waiver (SCDW) which limits how much they can charge you if you crash.
But a standalone policy from a specialist insurer will do the same job and cost you less.
Getty – Contributor Take photos of any damage on the car before you set off
Last summer, consumer group Which? found that firms charged over £170 more for an SCDW than a standalone policy from a specialist provider for cover during a week long holiday in Spain.
Plus, an SCDW only protects you for the car’s bodywork and excludes things like damage made to tyres, wheels, windows, mirrors, engine, flat battery and towing charges.
The Sun’s Stewart Jackson was slapped with bill for 425 euros for damage to the rear light on his hire car even though he was paying 12 euros a day for the car firm’s SCDW.
Excessive fuel prices
Fuel policies vary between car hire firms but all of them can be a rip-off if you don’t follow the rules to a tee.
Some hire companies offer a pre-paid “full to empty” policy which is where you pre-pay for a full tank of fuel.
Car insurance traps to watch out forLast year consumers in the UK spent £475 million on unforeseen car hire costs. Here’s how to avoid the simply, yet expensive insurance traps:
Read the terms and conditions. As of this year, car rental companies must show hidden charges upfront.
When you pick up the vehicle, inspect it and note any damage and flag it up with the car hire company before you leave. Taking pictures or video on your phone will provide valuable proof.
If you’ve signed up with a specialist excess insurance company: you’ll need a large enough credit limit on your credit card to cover the deposit, typically £500-£2,00, plus any spending you’re planning on doing on it, so make sure you don’t exceed the limit.
Make sure you inspect the car with the car hire employee when you return it and confirm they are happy before you leave.
You’ll end up paying over the odds for this service because the car hire companies charge a huge premium for fuel compared to the local fuel stations.
Drivers aren’t refunded for fuel left in the tank when they return the car either which means you could end up risking driving the car back almost empty.
If you opt for a “full to full” policy, make sure you hold on to your receipt because some companies charge a refuelling fee if you can’t prove that you filled up at a station within 10km of the drop off point.
It’s important that you do return the car with a full tank because some firms will charge a premium to top it up, and in some cases you can be fined up to £44.
Charges for damages that were there before
Always take photos of the car before you take the keys.
You could be charged for any scratch, nick or dent that was there before you set off if you can’t prove that it wasn’t you that made them.
Some firms have even been known to charge customers inflated costs for repairs to cars that might never have been made.
How to find the cheapest car hire insurance?BASIC cover is usually included in the cost when you book a rental car, so you don’t have to pay the full cost of replacing a stolen or damaged vehicle.But unless you want to be liable to pay a contribution of up to £2,000 towards repair and theft costs, regardless of who is at fault, you should reduce this liability by buying excess insurance.
Instead of opting for car rental firms’ own excess insurance when you pick up the car, prepare in advance and sign up to a specialist excess insurer before you travel.
Before you sign up, compare the policies on offer and costs online.
Also make sure you opt for an insurance that suits the level of car you’ve hired.
A lower cost often means a lower policy limit, meaning you might not be able to claim back as much as the rental company charged you for the scratch or accident.
An average car normally needs a policy limit of £6,000-£7,000, according to Boland.
But if you’re hiring an expensive car, this needs to be higher or “you risk being left out of pocket”.
We’ve reported before how Spanish-based Goldcar was slammed for charging Brits thousands of pounds for pre-existing damage.
A Europcar whistleblower told The Telegraph in 2017 how staff could earn £4 per vehicle for finding damages on cars, making up to £1,000 a month in peak season.
Now, car hire companies have to provide you with proof of any damage and how the repair costs were worked out before charging customers.
Fees for going the extra mile
Some rental car deals come with the caveat that you are limited to driving only a certain number of miles a day.
You will then be charge rip-off rates for every mile you drive over the maximum.
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For example, Europcar charges 29p a mile over the limit, while Avis adds another 39p per mile to your bill.
Before taking out the policy, make sure the amount of miles is enough for you whilst on holiday.
If it isn’t then you should consider taking out more expensive policy with more miles to save you money in the long-run.
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