Tuesday 21 March 2017

8 important questions to ask when booking car hire

We've often used a family members car when we've visited the UK, but as we usually fly into Heathrow or more often Birmingham, it's one heck of a trip getting to South Wales or Bath to collect the vehicle and with family and friends living all over the UK, it's been easier on our last few trips to book car hire.

We've used one of the larger search engines to find the best deals, but there have been a few hiccups and often the place where we've had to collect the car from has involved a train, bus trip or walk to reach it. Service has often been slow and poor and not fun when you've just got off a long haul flight, lugging a 30kg suitcase and hand luggage.

On both the last two occasions, when we returned the vehicles there was some minor damage to the paint work, scuff marks and stone chips.

We took out Collision Waiver Damage, CWD, which almost doubled the initial costs advertised on the website with the booking company.

CWD means that any accident, theft or damage to the vehicle is covered fully, but it also means you lose your deposit to the actual car hire company and then you have to provide receipts which you forward to the booking company for a full refund.

Having your car hire and insurance with different companies worked well for us the first time and the £400 deposit was returned to our credit card before the payment was due.

However on the last trip, the deposit was £1200 and was retained by the car hire company, for 2 stone chips and a scuff mark that could've easily T cut out had I had the car cleaned before returning it. Receipts were forwarded as before, but this time I waited 3 months before the deposit was refunded, meaning I had to pay the credit card bill off in full. I only got my deposit returned after I threatened the booking company with the ombudsman. The delay was due to the car hire company not providing evidence of the cost of repairs, meaning I had to wait for them to refund the difference between the repairs and the deposit then the booking company refunding the cost of the repairs.

As a result and the difficulties in sorting things like this out from another country, I've decided to investigate booking direct, with everything in one place. The car hire and the insurance together is almost double the price of booking with one of the low cost companies, but the excess is very high and to reduce it to £0 the cost of hire, the cost almost doubles again.

It's not always transparent at the time of booking the T&C's of car hire and these are important questions to answer before renting a car.

  1. Do you return the car empty or full?
  2. Is the mileage limited?
  3. What is the cost for an additional driver?
  4. Is there an additional charge for drop off at another location?
  5. Is CWD included? Is it with the car hire company or an independent?
  6. Breakdown?
  7. What is the excess? How do you recover your costs from CWD?
  8. Windscreen and wheel rim protection?

I also think there should be some wear and tear allowance to vehicles, yes I'm responsible for scuffs to body work and damage to the paint, but stone chips are a bit difficult to avoid.

So I've gone back to using search engines and found a different one to book through this time. However I still have to collect the car from the place where I had the problems on my last visit. I've decided I'd rather keep the costs down, as I need car hire for 4 weeks and again in June for approximately 12 weeks.

Who do you use for car hire? Have you experienced similar problems?

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