Hiring a car this summer? Car hire is one of the most complained about motoring subjects.
Additional charges, unforeseen insurance costs and poor customer service can make renting a car a bit of a nightmare for some.
Make sure your not ripped off at the rental desk this summer by following our tips below:
Don’t restrict yourself to renting cars in the airport
You might get a better deal by using a rental firm that isn't in the airport terminal building.
Shop around, locations outside the airport and city centres may be a less expensive option and providers often run free shuttle services to get you to and from the airport to make the process as easy as possible.
Don't get stung by one-way fees
If you’re dropping your car off in a different place to where you picked it up, it’s worth comparing car hire companies before you book as many rental firms charge a one-way fee you might not spot in the terms and conditions.
Some don't charge any extra if you don't return the car to the same location you collected it, and some are up front about the additional cost associated.
However, others will hide one-way fees in the small print.
Be mindful about brimming
Most hire firms will provide the car with a full tank of fuel and request that it's returned with the tank brimmed. Knowing this, many airports have on-site or local fuel stations.
However, fuel prices can be at a premium with retailers knowing that rental-car drivers will be looking for the nearest pump to avoid any penalty fees for handing a vehicle back without a full quota of petrol or diesel.
Do your research before you travel and locate a fuel station within five miles of the airport that might be off the direct route to the drop off.
If you've let the fuel level drop fairly low at this point, you'll save a fair chunk of cash by paying less per litre away from the airport.
Take action to avoid surprise hire car insurance charges
Many rental companies offer their own insurance policies and they can provide cover that you really don't need.
Don't be enticed by upgrades unless it says it's free in the documentation
If you're offered an upgrade, make sure you get it in writing that no additional charge will be added to your agreed rental fee
Be thorough when checking your car for damage
If you've paid for a zero excess waiver, damage isn't going to be an issue. But if you haven't, you will need to put in the time to protect yourself from additional charges.
At pick-up, always check the car for bumps, dents and scratches, both inside and out.
The rental company staff will give you a form showing all the damage to the car but you should always check it yourself and report anything that’s not listed on the diagram.
Take pictures of any damage you see as evidence, too.
And if you arrive at the rental desk at night, request for the car to be moved to a well-lit area so you can inspect any damage before you even step inside it.
Do you really need a toll pass?
If you’re driving in a country that uses tolls, have a think about how much motorway driving you’re going to be doing.
If you’re doing a lot, you may want to look into a toll pass which you can usually buy from the rental counter.
This could save you time and money over the course of your hire period.
If you're only likely to use toll roads to get to your destination and back to an airport at the end of your trip and not in between, it might be more cost effective to simply pay for it yourself.
Can you live without a sat nav?
A mobile phone app might save you a few quid rather than renting a sat-nav from the hire-car provider
A sat nav is essential in a country you don’t know. But if you hire one from the desk, you’ll be charged for the device by the day, which can make the total cost of your rental pricier.
And don’t forget it’s illegal to use your phone behind the wheel in most countries, so make your route before you set off or ask a passenger to dictate to you.
Don't be late
Make sure you return the car before the designated time in the rental agreement - some providers will charge a day's extra hire if you bring the vehicle back more than half an hour late
Most major hire firms allow a 30-minute grace period to return the keys, however smaller local firms might not be so forgiving.