There is nothing more enjoyable than hiring a rental vehicle and exploring a new country under your own steam and at your own pace. A self-drive holiday is a flexible way to travel discovering sights along the way, and with many countries having safe, scenic and efficient road networks it is a popular choice among holiday makers.
So what exactly do you need to know before you book a rental vehicle and what is the best way to ensure you get value for money?
Things To Consider Before Booking A Rental Vehicle
1. Choose the correct vehicle
Choose the vehicle according to your needs and the number of passengers. If you are driving around a city for a few days with 2 passengers then a compact or intermediate model will be sufficient. If however you are on a 2 week fly drive trip then you will have more luggage to store. In this case a larger, more powerful vehicle will be more suitable for your comfort, such as a full size model.
Remember to factor in the cost of fuel if you opt for a standard or fullsize SUV, however appealing they may appear. If you do decide to upgrade from your original choice of vehicle, arrange this in advance as it will cost less than if you decide to upgrade when you pick up the vehicle.
Check the hire car website for a seating and luggage capacity guide and choose a vehicle that can accommodate passengers and ensure ample space for luggage so that it is out of sight. Intermediate, standard and fullsize vehicle usually have a luggage cover in the boot.
3. Book early
The earlier you can book your vehicle hire the better as most Companies provide customers with an early booking discount which can be as much as 10%. Be sure to book before you arrive at your destination to avoid queueing at the rental desk and being told that no vehicles are available or being charged inflated prices.
Make sure you have copies of all relevant documents to show evidence of your booking.
4. Driver age
The minimum age for hire is between 21 and 25 years of age depending on the car group. Drivers between this age and sometimes drivers over the age of 65 years will incur an additional daily charge which can be around £15 a day.
5. Driver Identification
To hire a vehicle drivers must present a full current driving license which has been held for a minimum of a year. An International Driving Permit is usually required if the license is not in English. It is imperative to notify the rental Company of any motor offences, driving endorsements or disqualifications.
6. Fuel Options
On pick-up, your vehicle will usually come with a full tank of fuel, and you then have several options to pay for the fuel that you use during your rental. These include “prepay for a full tank”, “return with a full tank” and “refill on return by the hire company”. Be well aware of which option you have signed for before leaving the depot.
7. Insurance And Waiver Options
Rental rates will usually include third party cover as standard. This insurance is required by law and protects you and any authorized drivers against claims from any other person in the event of death, personal injury or damage to property caused by the vehicle during your rental.
I cannot stress strongly enough how important it is for you to check what is included in your hire agreement as some Companies do not incorporate the insurance you will need for your protection and peace of mind.
You can further reduce your liability with optional insurance products available for purchase either in advance or at the pick up location desk. These are :
Loss Damage Waiver (LDW) / Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) is optional damage insurance cover whereby the rental company waivers their right to make the renter pay for damages to the vehicle. This will still come with a hefty excess charge, for example in Australia the excess is $4,400.
Inclusive Plus prices will reduce the excess to zero and despite the extra daily charge is worth taking as an option.
8. Driving Areas
Rental agreements will outline which roads the rental vehicle can be driven on and which if any, are restricted. If you drive on a restricted road and have an accident, your insurance coverage will be declared void, so be sensible.
Driving restrictions usually apply to any rental vehicle being driven across country borders, leaving the mainland and taken to another island. The rules are there to be adhered to.
9. Make Sure You Have Space On Your Credit Card For A Deposit
The hire company will usually require a holding deposit which will typically be a larger sum if your debit card is used as opposed to a credit card.
However it can take a few days for the deposit to be returned, so factor in this amount to be on your card. (Using your credit card will provide consumer protection.)
10. Additional Drivers
Unless you have extra cover, additional drivers may be charged as an extra amount, although it is wise to have more than one designated driver as driving long distances can be tiring. The details of all additional drivers must be registered on the rental agreement.
Ways To Cut Costs Of Vehicle Hire
If you follow the golden rule of booking your rental vehicle early then you will already be saving money. However, for savvy travellers who are looking to make more savings, here are some tips to help you save even more money.
1. Pick up only when you need the vehicle
If you are staying in a city location and intend to see local sights for a few days, use local transport or walk. Then pick up your vehicle to drive out to sights further afield or when you start travelling to your next destination. Don’t pay for vehicle hire, just so the vehicle can sit in a hotel parking lot because most accommodations charge for parking. This could save you a few days hire cost.
2. Do not pay for GPS
Satellite navigation is often classed as an “add-on” to your agreement and will be charged for according to the number of days of your hire agreement. We paid £40 for a weeks rental in Cape Town as my husband assumed it was free when offered by staff at the rental desk!
Nowadays you can download Google Maps app onto your phone for free or print out directions before leaving home if you know your route. In the past I have used a foreign map to guide us not only into Montreal but to the actual hotel when all I can be relied on saying in french is Bonjour!
3. Bring your own child seat from home
Check with your airline whether you are able to bring a child seat free as part of your hold luggage allowance, to save having the extra hire cost at the rental desk.
4. Make sure the driver is over 25 years
If possible, have the designated driver as someone who is over 25 years of age to save on additional charges for young drivers, which could amount to £15 per day.
5. Pick up from downtown
Rental Companies will most often or not add on a surcharge for airport pick-ups, so if the downtown location is easy to get to, consider making your way from the airport on arrival by shuttle and pick up from the local branch instead to save money.
6. Choose a full-full fuel policy
The best money saving option for fuel is for you to return the vehicle with a full tank. This way, you pay for your fuel at the going rate of the local garages and not the inflated price charged by the dealer. This ensures you only pay for the fuel you use and will hence, save you money.
7. Ignore Rental Desk Sales Talk
While not saving you money as such, it will also ensure that you do not end up paying for extras that you don’t want or need. Do not be fooled into paying for excess insurance you have already paid for, or the so called “free” sat nav.
8. Buy Zero Excess Cover Beforehand
It is cheaper to arrange this extra cover beforehand rather than wait until you get to the rental depot. If you havn’t arranged this, the staff will try and encourage you to take out the extra insurance at an inflated price, so be warned.
9. One Way Fees
Be sure to check whether any additional charges are levied on one-way drop offs as these can increase your rental charge considerably. For example, if you hire a vehicle in Perth, Australia to drive up the coast and want to drop off the vehicle in Broome then you will be charged a one way fee of up to AUS$1,100.00, plus the rental period must be for 7 days or more.
If possible try and avoid these additional fees by dropping the vehicle at the location of pick up, planning your route accordingly.
If you are covering large distances on your trip you want to make sure that unlimited kilometres are included in your rental agreement. Otherwise you will be charged extra on each kilometre you drive over a set level, which is often 100 kms per day in remote locations. Often, unlimited mileage is included in the “inclusive price” packages you add as an upgrade.
Before you drive away
- Always inspect the inside and outside of your vehicle thoroughly for any scrapes, dents and breakages before signing an agreement. Make sure that a member of staff also signs off on the damage to avoid any dispute when you return the vehicle.
- Check whether the vehicle uses petrol or diesel fuel. Using the wrong type of fuel and driving the vehicle can damage the engine and your collision damage waiver will be affected or withdrawn.
On Returning the vehicle
- Return the vehicle at the time specified as otherwise you may incur late charges.
- If you have opted for the “return with a full tank” option ensure you fill up before returning the vehicle or you will be charged for the fuel at inflated prices.
- Always recheck the inside and outside of the vehicle for any damage and ensure that you leave with a copy of the paperwork which you have checked before it was signed. Be sure to also keep a copy of the credit card slip if you have paid a security deposit. This way, no further charges can be added at a later date when you will probably have returned home.
HOW TO SEARCH FOR CHEAP DEALS
One of the quickest and easiest ways to find a great deal and help save you money on your transport is to use an online booking service.
One of the biggest booking providers is RentalCars, which allows you to search all the major international car hire brands (and lots of smaller local companies) to find a huge choice of cars at the very best prices. To compare prices and find your ideal car hire deal at over 49,000 locations worldwide just use the easy search form.
The website is extremely easy to use with
- No credit card fees
- No amendment fees
- 24/7 phone support
- A multilingual call centre open 7 days a week.
It is also worthwhile checking individual providers direct as they may have special promotions available.
In the UK, Trailfinders is a great source providing quotes for fully inclusive, zero excess cover from Avis and is a provider we have used numerous times for car and motorhome hire.
Hopefully these tips and advice will arm you with all the facts you require in order to book hire vehicles for your next adventure!
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