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Wednesday, 16 February 2011 14:17

Smart car rental customers use smart phones

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When you hire a car, you could be exposed to a number of additional charges when you drop your vehicle off. You will normally be exposed to the costs of the car hire excess limit of around £1,000 (€1,200) on your car hire insurance for any damage to the vehicle so it’s worth making sure that you have car hire excess insurance to protect against these charges. However damage to the vehicle is not the only thing that you could get charged for as there could be any number of additional charges in your rental agreement that could start to add up if you’re not aware of them.

Different rental companies have different policies and may levy additional charges for a number of different things, these include the amount of fuel in the vehicle when it’s returned, the cleanliness of the vehicle, returning it late or returning it to a different location. It’s important to make sure you’re aware of the terms in your individual rental agreement and take steps to make sure you minimise any additional charges. Customers should be particularly vigilant if returning a vehicle out of hours or when there is no-one around from the rental company to inspect the vehicle and to sign off your rental agreement. When this is the case, smart customers should use a smart phone to document the state of the vehicle when it’s dropped off.

Here are some top tips to help avoid incurring additional car rental charges 

  1. Check the rental company’s fuel policy and ensure that you have fuelled the vehicle to the appropriate level before you drop it off.
  2. Ensure your car is clean, if necessary put it through a car-wash.
  3. Do not leave any rubbish in the car. Check all cubby holes, ashtrays and storage compartments for rubbish and dispose of them prior to dropping the car off.
  4. Switch the settings on your phone’s camera to capture time and date. If your phone has it, also set your camera settings to capture location (sometimes referred to as “geo tagging” or “GPS Co-ordinates”.)
  5. Take pictures of your car, include the following areas;
    • Fuel gauge
    • Mileometer / Odometer
    • Interior of the car (to show cleanliness)
    • From the outside. Obtain photos of the front, back and both sides of the vehicle.
    • Take close-up shots of each wheel to show the condition of the wheels and the tyres.
  6. If there is any damage to the vehicle, take photos to show the extent of the damage when the vehicle was dropped off. Include any damage to the inside of the vehicle as well as the outside.
  7. Keep the photos for at least 6 months after dropping off your vehicle. Normally rental companies will notify you straight away if they intend to make additional charges but occasionally customers report a delay in the rental company notifying them so it’s worth keeping hold of the photos for a few months even if you haven’t heard from your rental company just in case.

By following these tips you will have documentary evidence of the state of the rental vehicle when you dropped it off. As the photos will include a time and date stamp as well as a GPS location you will be able to prove when and where the photos were taken. By including detailed photographs of any damage that you have caused, you will help to protect yourself against the risk of inflated repair assessments to the vehicle.

Of course, a canny hirer will also take similar photographs when they collect their vehicle to show any pre-existing damage and also to show the general condition of the vehicle (including cleanliness). Equivalent photos from collection and drop-off help to establish whether the vehicle is returned in the same condition as it was in when it was collected.

A final point to note is that GPS services on mobile phones (cell phones) normally use mobile internet services and therefore may result data service charges. These differ depending on what network provider you use, the call plan that you are on and the country in which you use the service. Please check what charges you will incur for using this service with your network provider before you travel.

Last modified on Wednesday, 16 October 2013 12:52
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