10 rental car tips

Full-to-empty fuel policy

The no-choice, full-to-empty fuel policy where you pay in advance for a full tank of petrol and return the car as near empty as you dare, is a nice little earner as the customer often pays double the price at the pump and doesn’t get to use all the fuel. It is particularly prevalent in Spain.

Good car hire companies will always give a full-to-full option – thought this may increase the basic rental cost.

Should I have to pay for an upgrade?

Pick-up desks often try to sell you an upgrade to a bigger car. In the United States, in particular, agents will try to persuade you to upgrade saying the trunk (boot) is too small for your luggage. Refuse all attempts to get you to accept an upgrade and make sure an upgrade charge isn’t sneaked on to the paperwork you sign, as it can double the cost of your rental in the US. No reputable rental company should ask you to pay for an upgrade if it can’t provide the vehicle model you have booked.

Before you book

1. Book as far ahead as possible for the best deal.

2. Check the levels of Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) and theft protection excesses. If they are high it is definitely worth taking out zero-excess cover. Compare the cost of the broker’s own top-up waiver with an independent excess reimbursement policy.

3. If you buy an excess reimbursement policy from a broker make sure it is in the same name as the lead driver on the rental voucher otherwise it may not pay out.

4. The cost of adding extra drivers, and hiring child seats can be high and varies hugely so shop around.

5. Check the Driving section of the AA’s website (theaa.com) for advice on local driving regulations.

6. Make sure you have enough capacity on your credit card to stand a hefty deposit. Debit cards are not accepted because they have no pre-authorisation facility to ring-fence funds to cover damage.

7. Always enter the correct start time for the rental. If your flight is delayed by more than one hour you must let the rental office know otherwise your reservation may be cancelled, as cars are only held for two hours at busy times.

8. Make sure the credit card to be used is in the name of the lead driver on the rental voucher, otherwise you will have to pay again.

9. Suppliers sometimes claim the card has been declined if you have refused their insurance. Have a second card handy to put paid to this scam.

10. If you reject the local CDW top-up cover, the agent may try to sell you the Roadside Assistance cover covering vehicle recovery in case of breakdown, getting locked out, flat battery and misfueling. A UK excess reimbursement policy should cover this but not all do.

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