More often than not, the staff at the car hire desk will try and sell you additional insurance and extras you just don’t need. However, being prepared for what you may encounter at the rental desk could save you a fortune.

So the next time you're at the car hire desk: stop, think and remember these five tips to prevent yourself from becoming needlessly out of pocket.

Bargains Are Rarely To Be Found At The Car Hire Desk

Book your holiday hire car before you travel, wherever possible. If you leave hiring your car to the very last minute your scope for choice narrows. The rental car companies know this and could charge you a premium as result.

Parked car in scenic mountain view

Image by Jocelyn Kinghorn

Also, booking your holiday car hire early gives you the time to review your options and search out the best deal. In addition, you should consider searching for a hire car with a 'full-full' fuel policy, as this will ensure you only pay for the petrol you use.

Always Check The Small Print

After getting off the plane, you will probably be in a rush to get to your hotel as soon as possible. However, there is a considerable risk if you rush the reading and signing of your rental agreement.

Examples of what you should be paying close attention to in your rental agreement include checking if you're liable for any mandatory excesses and what (if any) exclusions apply. Typical exclusions to rental company excess waivers include damage done to the tyres, windscreen and clutch.

Other important things to look out for in the small print include a limit to the number of miles you can drive and the type of fuel policy. As the 'This is Money' website reports, car hire companies in Spain are exploiting 'full-empty' fuel policies to force tourists into paying for fuel they don't use.

Beware Of Upgrades And Extras

Discounts on upgrades are sometimes offered by rental companies, and whilst they may seem like a great deal, they are still designed to seduce you into spending more money. If you were happy with the car you booked online, there should be no reason to change – don't get seduced by offers that seem too good to be true…

The majority of hire car companies make the bulk of their profit by selling you add-ons. This means it is in their – not your – best interest to sell you extras. Figure out what you need before you travel, then you can bring extras such as a sat nav or a child seat with you and decline paying for such extras at the car hire desk.

Inspect The Vehicle Before Leaving

Lots of renters have been stung in the past because they have failed to check their hire car for pre-existing damage. Unfortunately, if you don’t inspect for damage and fail to document it, you could leave yourself open to erroneous charges the second you leave the forecourt.

As such, you should take photos of both the inside and the outside of your hire car before leaving. Make sure you make a note of all the damage (such as scratches and dents) you find on the rental agreement. Before you leave, you should also get an employee to sign off on the damage to ensure there isn't any dispute upon returning the vehicle.

Buy Car Hire Excess Insurance Before You Travel

In Europe, you will find that hire cars are usually provided with some form of standard cover. However, before your hire car company covers the cost of damage or loss, you will be required to pay a sizeable excess, which can sometimes cost more than £1,000.

Most hire car companies sell Excess Waiver Insurance (EWI) that reduces the amount of excess you pay. But the EWI sold by car hire companies is often very expensive and in some instances – as reported by the Daily Mail – it has doubled the cost of car hire for holidaymakers.

If you buy car hire excess insurance from before you travel though, you can save up to 70% on the prices offered by car hire companies for their EWI.

Furthermore, if you have bought's excess insurance, you won't need top up insurance that protects the vulnerable areas of a hire car such as the windows, tyres and undercarriage. Although the EWI sold by many car rental companies exclude these areas, an policy does not, so don't be convinced otherwise.

For more information on this subject, read our 'Holiday Car Hire Guide: How To Avoid Overpaying For Excess Insurance At The Car Hire Desk'. Or to get a quote for excess insurance cover that could save you a fortune, click here now.

Disclaimer: All prices contained in this article were correct on the original date of publication. Prices may change over time, so for current prices, please get a quote.