Tuesday 27 March 2018

How to avoid car hire pitfalls

When I travel to the UK I hire a car. I tend to use the same car hire search engine, rentalcars.com mainly because it offers me air miles when I book through them, additional insurance at a competitive price which I can add at time of booking and guarantees if there is a problem when I return the car at the end of the hire that my deposit will be refunded to me in full. I've also found that even when I shop around, I really can't beat the prices that they offer and occasionally they have additional offers such as additional driver at no extra cost or free upgrades.

I've been more than satisfied using this company, however, I've been caught out a couple of times with the actual car hire company itself and here are some of the experiences I've had that can save you time and money if you know what you're doing.

Before you actually book, check the following:

Check the location on google maps of the car hire before booking and whether they run a shuttle service. After a 7+ hour flight from Dubai, I had to on one occasion travel quite some distance with a 30kg case to collect my vehicle as 'conveniently located near Birmingham Airport' was NOT the case.

It's worth paying a little extra for unlimited mileage. Most car hire is limited to 95 miles a day, they are not always clear about how much additional mileage costs, but average 25p inc vat per mile. The longer the period you book for the less likely you are to have limited mileage, so call or email and check first.

Additional drivers must be present with their licence at time of collection and it's not possible to add them just for a few days, so when my husband flies over to join me, it's often financial viable to return the car in my name and rebook for the duration of his stay. Additional drivers cost around £10 extra a day.

If hiring with a British driving licence you need to register online and obtain a licence check code in advance by visiting the DVLA which is only valid for 21 days.

Most car hire companies charge extra or won't allow bookings online if you are under 25 or over 75.

You will need a credit card in the drivers name to collect the car hire. Average amount blocked on your card as a deposit is £400, which will be retained regardless of how small any damage is to your vehicle. I have had £1,200 held on one occasion.

The basic insurance does not cover windscreen, tyre or wheel damage, nor does it provide breakdown and recovery services in the majority of cases. It's worth paying for full protection. This is also available to purchase when you collect your hire car but in my experience it's more costly.

If you get a parking or speeding fine, there is up to £95 charge for processing these.

On collecting your car hire:

From experience most car hire companies will complete the paperwork with you, give you the keys, explain the fuel policy and tell you where your car is located. Often they will mark existing damage on the paperwork, but before you even get in the car, check the vehicle yourself, because when you return the car hire, the company will do a thorough inspection and will attempt to charge you for any minor bit of damage that wasn't recorded.
Mark the damage on the sheet and return to the car hire for them to agree and sign.

Don't let them talk you into doing you a favour by upgrading your car hire for a small fee, it's often due to the fact that the car size you've hired is not available due to being returned late, explain politely that they can use the late return fee to pay for your upgrade, they'll soon find you your vehicle.

Take up the offer of paying for the fuel in the tank and returning the vehicle empty, it's often cheaper. Petrol stations near airports are difficult to get to and add stress trying to fill up before returning the car.

Check the sills of the vehicle for stone chips.
Open the boot and check for damage where cases are put in and out the vehicle.
Make note of the general tidiness and cleanest of the interior and exterior.
Check for damage to wheels.
Check the mileage and the fuel levels match up.
Take photos.

On returning your car hire:

Queues for collecting car hire are often long so when you're returning yours, let them know rather than stand in line. Return the car at the agreed time or you'll be charged for late returns.

If there is damage to the vehicle that has occurred under your possession, make sure you take photo's, in case it is disputed. The full deposit WILL be taken regardless of the amount of damage caused. If you've taken Full Protection this will be refunded in 72 hours. If not then you will have to dispute the difference with the car hire company directly.

Always take a photo of the paper you and the car hire company sign when you hand the car back over.

If you are a smoker, don't ever smoke anywhere near the vehicle when you return it. The last car hire I returned, on seeing me smoking, declared they would have to charge me a £95 valeting fee to clean the car. I asked for another guy to come and check the car, he said there was no evidence of cigarette ash in the back seats or footwell or along the door trim. The first guy was just trying his luck.

Additional things to note/or in other words my ranting:

Nearly every time I collect car hire there is damage to it, in one case I had a wing mirror taped onto the vehicle and I've NEVER collected a vehicle that has been clean inside and/or outside, including on one occasion a carrier bag full of rubbish which I collected and returned to the car hire desk and wet mud in the foot wells. I'm assuming that the deposit has been retained and valeting fees charged and I'm incensed as to where this money is used as it certainly hasn't been used by the car hire companies to repair the damage or clean the vehicles.

I've not been paid nor am I affiliated with rentalcars.com but I've received excellent service from them and can highly recommend them. The issues I've had have been with the car hire companies directly and rental cars.com, when asked, have resolved any issues immediately.


  1. Car hire companies abroad seem to block so much more than £400 for the insurance and it's quite outrageous I think! Thanks for sharing with #TriumphantTales.

    1. i just get so annoyed with how they retain the deposit for minor damage that they then don't get repaired

  2. Very thorough and sound advice here, thank you! 👍 #TriumphantTales

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