GUIDE: Hiring a car in Europe – how to get the best deal and not be fleeced | The Crusader | Finance



Rental companies charge around £15 a day for an excess waiver policy, compared to which offers cover from £2.99 a day in Europe (or £39.99 for annual cover), and can be bought before leaving home, avoiding rental desk stress.

The insurer found that travellers who rent cars are still baffled by the pricing structures, the jargon and the optional waivers offered. Some 72 per cent said they found contracts confusing and 17 per cent experienced having unexpected charges added when picking up the hire car when they thought they had paid for everything in advance.

Complaints and enquiries about car hire in the EU rose by almost 30 per cent last year, according to the UK European Consumer Centre (UK ECC).

The main reasons were post-hire damage charges, especially after unsupervised drop-offs, insurance disputes concerning unrequested, overpriced or excess waivers, and unfair fuel rules where customers pay for a full tank when returning their vehicle no matter how much has been used.

Most complaints came from Spain, Italy, Iceland and Malta.

So when you are hiring a car, make sure you:

Do pre and post-rental vehicle inspections (with photos where possible) and ensure both parties sign these documents at the time and retain a copy.

Shop around for the best rate (if booked online, you have no right to cancel and claim a refund). Prices may also vary according to the time of year.

Read all paperwork before signing, including terms and conditions.

Check what is and isn’t covered on the insurance.

Confirm the company’s fuel tank policy. There may be penalties for returning the car with insufficient fuel.

Check any extra charges you may be liable for: you would usually initial these at the car hire desk.

Allow enough time to drop the car off.

Research the country’s highway code and local road legislation.

Request evidence of disputed charges.

When collecting the hire car, insist on walking around the car with a company representative to note any damage, bumps, scratches, fuel level, etc. Take a copy of the company’s notes for your own records and make sure it is accurate.

Remember that you are always liable for any damage present on the vehicle that was not present prior to hiring.

When returning the car, insist on another inspection with a company representative and get confirmation of lack of damage in writing to prevent further costs being incurred.

It’s also worth remembering:

Consumers are advised when buying goods costing more than £100 and less than £30,000 to use a credit card, as section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974 may place equal liability with the seller on the credit card company.

A ‘contract’ may be breached if the car hire company does not do what its terms and conditions say.

A car rental company must follow the code of conduct of any trade association it belongs to (check what membership applies before you sign).

Under the EU Services Directive 2009, your place of residence/nationality should not affect the price you pay.

Check terms and conditions before booking your hire car – that way you’ll know who has the right to charge you for the car rental.

A European Car Rental Conciliation Service (ECRS) has been established by some of the big car hire companies for customers who have booked cars direct, NOT through a rental broker or travel agent. It has been partly created by the British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association (BVRLA).

REMEMBER: consumers who find themselves in dispute with an EU trader, can contact the UK European Consumer Centre for advice on 01268 886690 weekdays between 9am and 5pm. For more car hire tips and advice, see


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