Car hire is one of the most complained about motoring subjects.
Additional charges, unforeseen insurance costs and poor customer service all related are common car rental grumbles. We wanted to know the best insider tips for holidaymakers to avoid being ripped off at the rental desk and save money in the process.
1. Book your hire car in advance
It's an obvious one, but definitely the best way to save some cash.
The further ahead of your trip you book, the cheaper the price is likely to be - and, just as importantly, the greater the chance of getting the car you want.
2. Don’t restrict yourself to renting cars in the airport
If you’re travelling by plane to your holiday destination it might be tempting to use a rental company that’s inside the terminal building.
However, rental companies outside of the terminal can, in many cases, be a less expensive option.
Getting to these locations shouldn’t be a problem as providers often run free shuttle services to get you to and from the airport to make the process as easy as possible.
If you’re picking up in a town or city, it’s also worth looking into rental companies that are based in the suburbs. These are often cheaper than the ones in the city centre.
3. 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.
4. 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.
5. 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. For instance, some rental companies offer injury cover as part of their policies. However, this is usually included in your travel insurance, so you don't need it.
6. Don't be enticed by upgrades unless it says it's free in the documentation
Everyone loves being offered a free upgrade, but the chances of being offered one for no extra cost are slim.
That's not to say it won't happen, but many of the complaints we receive suggest upgrade fees were never discussed but still charged after the trip.
7. 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.