Choosing the right hire car might make the difference of making or breaking your next holiday or business trip. With so much potentially at stake, therefore, here are a few top tips on getting that choice right:
Do you need one?
- perhaps the first, rather obvious question, is whether you need a hire car at all;
- with your own car forever at your beck and call at home, it might be tempting to expect that you always need one wherever your travels might be taking you;
- but if you are going to be spending a week in Manhattan, for example, where the price of car rental is high, parking is expensive and taxis are comparatively cheap and more convenient, why encumber yourself with a hire car;
What type of car do you need?
- where you are going, how long you will be there and what you are going to be doing there are all factors likely to influence the type of hire car you choose;
- if you are on a city break where a car is likely to be useful, a smaller vehicle for nipping about town might be your choice, rather than a more powerful, roomier but fuel-heavier car you might need for touring or when longer road journeys are necessary;
- it is all a question of horses for courses, as the saying goes;
- choosing the appropriate type of hire car is not only going to affect the cost of rental, but also what you may need to pay for the vehicle’s insurance;
- sometimes, it might be difficult to work out exactly how much the insurance is costing you, since it is included in the overall package of car rental – particularly if you are renting in the UK or Europe;
- if such a package is included, make sure that you understand just what it covers – common excluded may be damage to certain parts of the vehicle, or even the theft of the car – and if you need arrange cover yourself, be aware that there is a bewildering array of different types of insurance you may need;
- similarly, you are likely to find that the excess you may have to pay on any such insurance is rarely made clear at the time of booking;
- this is something you might want to ask the rental company about at the beginning, therefore, because the excess might be a significant £1,000 or so and you are likely to want to arrange car hire excess insurance from a UK-based specialist provider before you set out on your travels;
- you might also want to check the rental company’s fuel policy;
- typically, this is going to be one of two different arrangements – picking up and returning the car with a full tank of fuel or returning it empty;
- if it is the former, make sure to refuel before you return the car – or you risk paying an inflated price for fuel if the rental company has to refill it for you – and if it is the latter, you may end up paying for any unused fuel still left in the tank when you return it;
- as the motoring organisation, the AA, cautions, a randomly chosen desk at the airport is unlikely to be the best place to choose your hire car;
- not only is this likely to be one of the most expensive places from which to hire your car, but by this stage in your travels you are unlikely to have the pick of the particular make and model of vehicle you want to rent and be left only with those that the company has available;
- to give yourself the widest possible choice – at a more competitive rate – therefore, you might want to book your hire car as early as possible when planning your trip;
- once you have chosen your hire car, remember that there are the obvious documents to take, such as your driving licence and the paperwork for any excess insurance you might already have bought;
- since the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) has now abandoned use of the paper counterpart to your driving licence, also remember to print off a copy of your driving record or obtain a check code to allow the car rental company’s access to any past motoring convictions you might have;
- remember that some European countries have particular rules about the safety equipment you must carry in any car you are driving – such as warning triangles, high-visibility tabards and even breathalyser kits;
- make sure that any car you hire has the necessary equipment on board before you drive it away.
If you are planning to hire a car the next time you go away, therefore, it is worth giving the matter plenty of thought in advance, so that you may avoid some of the more obvious – and expensive – pitfalls.