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In the last few years, consumer advice columns have been awash with complaints about car hire. To help you avoid unneeded stress, we've collected six of the most commonly suffered car hire issues and offered solutions based on the advice of consumer experts.
Issue: Customers being led by price rather than reputation
A large number of customers have complained about receiving a substandard vehicle and service when hiring a car at a cheap price through comparison sites. When it comes to picking their car up, many holidaymakers are complaining of being bombarded with aggressive selling techniques to try and force them into purchasing extras such as excess insurance and fuel. The problem is worsened by the fact that some comparison sites don't reveal the name of the rental company before you click the button to buy.
Solution: Be wary of prices on car hire comparison sites that are too good to be true
"Because customers who use these sites largely buy on price, not quality, car rental brokers must offer attractive headline prices. The only way to do this is to use inferior franchises that will cut rates to the bone," says Gill Charlton in her Telegraph travel column. Before adding, "These companies turn a profit only if they sell extra insurances and inflate the cost of a tank of fuel."
It's an old adage, but if the price is too good to be true, it's probably because it is. What appears to be a cheap price on a comparison site might not actually turn out to be the reality when it comes to picking the car up. Therefore, it pays to be cautious when hiring a car at the cheapest price available.
Issue: holidaymakers not paying for excess insurance because it's too expensive
In an article published by the Daily Mail, it was revealed that nearly two thirds of Britons are deciding to forego purchasing an excess insurance waiver (EWI) because it's too expensive. This is because the excess insurance sold by car hire companies is doubling the cost of car hire for holidaymakers in some cases.
However by choosing to forego paying for excess insurance, those holidaymakers are opening themselves up to the risk of paying large excess fees. In research conducted by the Post Office and cited in the Daily Mail article, excess charges in Ireland were costing holidaymakers up to £1,186 if the hire car suffered damage or loss whilst in their possession.
Solution: buy your excess insurance before you leave
There is an easy solution to this because you can buy an excess insurance policy before leaving home for a fraction of the cost of EWI," said Andrew Brown of the Post Office in this article published on the Mail Online.
From iCarhireinsurance.com you can purchase excess insurance from as little £2.99 a day or just £39.99 for an annual policy. Furthermore, unlike some car hire companies, excess insurance from iCarhireinsurance.com includes cover for the roof, tyres and undercarriage, without you having to pay extra. To search for a quote, click here.
Issue: holidaymakers being sold extra excess insurance they don't need
This article, published on the financial website This is Money, has revealed that some holidaymakers are being refused access to their booked hire car unless they pay for extra insurance.
Travellers are booking a car at one price that includes all the extras they need such as excess insurance and agree to pay that price when they pick up their car. However upon arrival they are being told that if they pay for the extra insurance, they have to pay a security deposit of £1,000 to protect themselves against damage and loss before they can drive their hire car away.
Solution: buy your excess insurance from iCarhireinsurance.com
As European car hire outlets continue to struggle to make a profit, hard sell tactics are becoming increasingly commonplace. If you are elderly or in a family you are even more likely to be targeted as the long queue and hot, tiring conditions are seen to make you more vulnerable.
However, because excess insurance is designed to reimburse you after you have paid the excess to the rental company, many car hire companies will request a security deposit. Some hire companies will ring fence the excess amount on your credit card, some will take the amount from your card and refund it once you've returned the car safely. If the car is returned with damage and you are subsequently charged for this, with excess insurance in place, you will be reimbursed the full amount.
Issue: holidaymakers being charged for unacceptable fuel charges
Fred Mawer wrote about his own experience of being hit with unacceptable fuel charges in this article published on the Daily Mail online. When renting a car from Malaga airport, Fred secured a cheap car hire deal, providing that he paid upfront for a full tank of fuel. Fred was also told that there would be no refund for unused fuel and that he should attempt to return the car with the tank as empty as possible.
This is called a 'full-empty' policy, and some car hire companies are using it to drive up the price of seemingly cheap rentals. Not only is it near on impossible to return a car with an empty fuel tank, but many car hire companies charge well above the local rate for fuel. In addition, if you return your hire car with fuel in the tank, theoretically that fuel can be used by the hire company when charging the next customer on a 'full-empty' policy for their tank of fuel.
Solution: book your hire car with a 'full-full' policy where possible
When you hire a car with a 'full-full' policy you only pay for the fuel you use and not for the fuel you don’t use. When booking with a 'full-full' you pick up your car with a full tank, return it with a full tank and don't pay the rental company for your fuel. You will probably pay more for your hire car on a 'full-full' policy, but you will most likely save money by not paying the rental companies inflated fuel prices.
Issue: being charged for damage after returning the car
The terms and conditions of most rental agreements specify that excess charges will be taken from their card if there is damage done to the vehicle whilst in their care. However, according to this article on the BBC, an increasing number of holidaymakers are complaining of wrongful charges of this nature.
In many cases, these excess charges are taken when the car has been returned when there is no member of staff around to inspect the car. And once excess charges have been taken, the hire companies make it extremely difficult to contest them by putting up a wall of silence.
Solution: take photographs of your hire car before leaving and when you return
In this article, Miles Brignall suggests that you thoroughly inspect your hire car inside and out before you leave and when you return.
This includes recording all damage, marks and scratches on your rental agreement and taking photographs as evidence. Once you have marked the damage on your rental agreement, don't leave before you get a member of staff to sign it. If, like many of the holidaymakers who have fallen foul of dubious excess charges, you return your hire car at night when there is nobody about, it is even more important that you take photographs.
"If you are returning a car out of hours when no one is around it is a good idea to photograph the vehicle in detail in case such disputes arise, otherwise it's a question of your word against theirs. And they are the ones with your bank details," says Anna Tims, in this money saving article for the Guardian website.
Issue: ski holiday winterisation adding hundreds of pounds to the price of a hire car
We've already explored how extra charges can add hundreds of pounds to the price of your hire car, but if you're set to embark upon a skiing holiday, you also need to be wary of winterisation charges.
In this article for the Mail Online, Sally Hamilton describes her experience of picking up a rental car and being bombarded with the typical sales patter in relation to extras such as insurance. However, because she was going on a skiing holiday, she was also subjected to the hard sell for snow tyres and chains.
Although she declined, in some instances snow tyres and chains are a legal requirement and you can be fined if your car is not equipped with them. In many instances, though, hire companies only sell these products as extras over the desk, and do not include this essential equipment in the overall price of the hire.
Solution: do your research and shop around.
Make sure you research beforehand whether it is a legal requirement to equip your car with winter tyres and chains at your ski holiday destination. For example, if your car is not equipped with winter tyres in Austria between the beginning of November and mid-April you could get fined €5,000 (£4,100) and get your car impounded.
Sally Hamilton uses this iCarhireinsurance.com research into the hidden cost howlers of renting a car for skiers, to highlight how much over the desk prices can vary for essential winterisation extras. For this reason, it pays to shop around for the best deals from different car hire companies in relation to your destination.
If you feel the information on this blog will help you to avoid car hire issues in the future, please take the time to share it on your favourite social network.