Car hire can be a pain in the neck, but it’s also incredibly useful, especially if you’re in an unfamiliar spot, going on holiday or just need a car for the day. But there’s a minefield of things that you need to think about – insurance, existing insurance, roadside assistance and tax, to name but a few.
- A lot of the “big name” car hire companies own a lot of the slightly smaller car hire companies. Avis, for example, owns Budget. Oftentimes, the price differs massively between companies despite the fact that they’re all owned by the same company. Always, always, always do a comparison search before you go ahead and reserve the hire. If you can’t do that, or you have to make the hire at the airport kiosk, you’ll pay far more than you should.
- Before you go ahead and say yes to the hire car insurance, check with your own car insurer to see whether or not your existing policy covers you for any accidents or incidents that may occur in another vehicle. Most car insurance policies that are fully comprehensive will cover you for hire cars. So there’s no need to take out an additional policy – you’ll just be covered twice. If you don’t know whether or not you’re covered, just give your insurer a ring before you get to the kiosk. If not, your credit card or bank account might offer insurance that you’re not even aware of, so make sure that you check!
- It’s oftentimes much cheaper to hire a car directly from an individual, rather than a company, using services like Zipcar or through direct peer-to-peer sharing and selling sites like Gumtree. These tend to give you greater flexibility, as you can hire for shorter periods of time or even by the hour, which is really handy if you just need to drive to and from a hotel, for example, but don’t want to pick up a cab. The only downside with these kinds of hires is that you usually have to return the car to the pick-up location, which means that you’ll need alternate transport to return home. Generally, hiring from an individual or sharing service is much easier if you’re in an area with lots of public transport.
- Make sure that the rate quoted is the rate that you have to pay. All too often, the rate advertised isn’t actually the final rate that you’ll pay – make sure that it includes everything, like roadside assistance, all of the relevant insurance (if you need it), VAT and tax. You don’t want to end up with a big ol’ bill at the end of the hire, so make sure you get the information up front.