Travel & Holidays > Guides

How to avoid holiday car rental rip-offs

Hannah Summersfield

Hannah Summersfield
Aug 2, 2016

This week in his column for The Sun, Kelvin Mackenzie took on car rental companies as he called for a change in the law to protect holiday motorists.

Following an overwhelming response to Kelvin’s column, here are some of the experiences and tips YOU sent in…


Look out for added extras

Car hire companies often offer us added extras, from SatNavs to child seats. But beware, these trimmings often come at an extortionate rate.

When holiday maker Chris Jordan agreed to additions to his rental, he found his bill was topped up to nearly double! In Chris’ case, he walked away and found a much cheaper deal with a local company.

Remember, even if you do turn down these extras, be sure to check your bill when you get home because you may still have been charged, as Janat Wood found out after a holiday in Houston.

“We made it very clear we needed nothing other than the usual necessities,” she said.

“When we received our credit card bill a few weeks later there was the debit, a couple of hundred pounds higher including the add-ons we did not want.”


Get your own insurance

A particularly popular added extra rental companies try to flog is their extra insurance, which again often costs well over the odds and sometimes more than the car hire itself.

Patrick Embleton hired a car for his travels around Ireland and was soon ‘bamboozled’ into taking comprehensive insurance by the rental agent, as well as a larger car.

“What started off as the equivalent of a £100 hire cost went up dramatically,” he said. ”I ended paying £140 just for the larger car hire plus a further £210 for insurance

One way to get around these excessive insurance charges is to purchase your own car hire excess before you travel, either as a one off or annual policy.

However, make sure to still keep your credit card handy as you’ll often be expected to pay for any damage upfront, and then claim this back on your policy when you get home. Make sure to also keep hold of any receipts or paperwork.

Arthur Edwards MBE discovered this when he rented a car for his holiday in Menorca.

“I booked third party fully comprehensive Insurance,” he said.

“The car firm still told me that I still had to pay the daily excess premium, and should I damage the car they would deduct the cost from my card, and I would have to claim from the 3rd party insurer.”

Top Tip: Review companies’ excess insurance policies online before you go and look at buying a separate excess insurance policy. Plus, be sure to take your policy document with you when you collect your car, in order to deter the rental agents from forcing their own insurance on you.


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Ensure any problems are noted on the paperwork

Changes of car model or damage must be noted, as incorrect paperwork could land you with further charges.

 Monica Pegg found this out when she and her husband hired a car at Geneva airport.

“We arrived at 10.30pm and the car park was gloomy, the car was parked in a bay, with cars either side, with the left front corner against a crash barrier,” she said.

“My husband signed some paperwork, which apparently said that the car was 100% ok.  When we returned the car a few days later we were informed that we had scratched the car.”

The couple insisted they had not caused the damage, but unfortunately were unable to prove this and were left with a bill totalling €615!


Refuelling surcharges

Many holiday makers, such as Victoria Badger, find themselves stung by fuel surcharges as companies demand an upfront payment for a tank of petrol and then refund you based on your usage, often at inflated rates. 

Victoria was charged €150 for a full tank of fuel after selecting a "flexible" fuel option, with the promise this would be refunded when the car was returned.

“We used the vehicle and took it back with quarter of a tank used approx €20 worth,” she said.

“We were refunded less then €70 of the €150 we had paid in advance.”

Top tip: Look out for car hire firms that allow you to return the vehicle with the same amount of fuel it had when you picked it up.


Late Collection Charges

Always read the small print of your car hire policy to check for any hidden charges or exclusions, including late collection or return charges.

From flight delays to traffic jams, late collection or returning of a vehicle could leave faced with stumping up a late payment fee, as Enriques Bonail discovered to his €40 loss.

For more information on the Car rental scams you should know about click here.

If you’ve had a bad experience with a car rental company don’t let them drive you round the bend, send your complaint to A Spokesman Said.

Plus, share your reviews with other customers through the A Spokesman Said review tool here.


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