Of late, the newspapers have been full of horror stories about car hire companies fleecing their clients for hundreds, sometimes thousands of pounds, seemingly for no reason whatsoever.
But here is one key thing that you can – and should do – the next time you hire a car.
Take out separate insurance with one of the internet-based companies that offers full cover for collision damage and local excess fees, then all your hire car heartache will go away.
Stay with me on this one because, although it might sound like an advert for the insurance industry, it’s not. And the best part is, it could save you hundreds of pounds in the long run.
I use Protectyourbubble.com, but there are lots of other companies that offer virtually identical cover. You can buy cover for individual events or for a year.
Twelve months in Europe costs me £42.48 and covers me for £5000 of excess, £5000 of windscreen and tyres, £10,000 of personal accident and so on – but it’s the zero excess, the tyres and the windscreen cover that’s crucial because this is where the hire companies try and, more often than not, succeed in taking your money.
How so? Because when you go to collect your car at the rental desk, you will often be aggressively encouraged to take out extra insurance that covers you for “everything".
And in a lot of cases, you will then be informed that if any damage occurs to the car while you’re hiring it and you haven’t taken out the extra cover, then a hefty excess charge will be incurred. Sometimes this will be for hundreds of pounds, sometimes thousands.
And at that point you will be informed that to take out extra cover to make the excess go away, it will cost you X number of euros per day. Sometimes this will be as little as 10, sometimes as much as 30 Euros... per day.
But you’re on holiday, yes, and you don’t want to walk into a nightmare scenario where you get hit with a bill for £2000 to cover the excess just because some lunatic rubbed his Renault 5 into the side of you outside the local supermarket.
So through gritted teeth you say yes to the additional insurance – and end up agreeing to pay a lot more than you thought to hire the car, just for the peace of mind. And that’s the mind game that the hire car companies play to relieve you of your hard earned holiday money.
Had you taken out a separate insurance policy that covers the excess (and the tyres, the windscreen, the whole shebang) for a mere £40, however, you could confidently have said “no thanks” to the extortionate local insurance charge, comfortable in the knowledge that you were a) already covered for “everything” and b) hadn’t just been fleeced courtesy of the intimidating tactics employed by many local hire-car companies.
And the other thing to bear in mind is that, by taking out your own insurance from within the comfort of your own home, and before you travel, you will also avoid the horror stories of being charged for dents and scratches that were already there, or for hub caps that never went missing, or for tyres that got mysteriously damaged after you handed the car back.
Which is another area in which certain companies have been accused of not playing by the rules of late, especially in Italy (allegedly).