Exploration and discovery are yours when you hire a car on holiday. But without a little planning, you can end up paying way over the odds. Protect yourself by getting to grips with the seven worst car hire rip-offs.
Rip-off #1: Sky-high excess costs
When you hire a car, insurance is included. But you may well find it comes with incredibly high excess charges – the amount you have to pay to cover the cost of an accident before the policy kicks in. This amount can be up to €2,000, in some cases – potentially leaving you well out of pocket if something goes wrong. One way to get around the charge is to buy an excess waiver policy, which reduces the charge to zero or a small sum. But don’t wait until you get to the desk! Buy your waiver at home before you travel and you could pay around a mere €2.99 a day, compared with up to €20 if you don’t plan ahead.
Rip-off #2: The ‘full-empty’ fuel policy
Being hit with a petrol bill before you have even got in the driving seat isn’t the best start to a holiday. But many car hire companies employ a so-called “full-empty policy”, which means you pay upfront for a tank of petrol and can return it empty. But there are two drawbacks to such a policy. First, you are likely to be charged an inflated price for the petrol. And, second, you may not use all the fuel you have paid for if you are on a short trip or don’t end up driving much. In some cases, you will be offered the right to a refund on unused fuel, but there is still usually a service charge attached. Look for car hire firms that allow you simply to return the vehicle with the same amount of fuel it had when you picked it up – it’s generally known as a fair fuel policy.
Rip-off #3: Paying for extras you could bring yourself
Want to use sat-nav when driving abroad or think you will need a baby seat? Fine – but don’t fall into the trap of hiring them through your car rental company. It will be cheaper to bring your own. If you are travelling abroad, charter airlines don’t charge extra for you to bring pushchairs and car seats, while many sat-navs cover both the UK and Europe.
If your sat-nav doesn’t extend beyond the UK, consider purchasing the additional software. Alternatively, you can use Google Maps in offline mode. Simply download the map of the area you are travelling to and you will have access to a free sat-nav, without the excessive data charges! If all else fails – there is always the option of a good old-fashioned paper map.
Rip-off #4: The ‘upgrade’ option
When you arrive at the rental desk to pick up your pre-booked car, you may be told the company has run out of vehicles in the category you chose and be offered an upgrade – at a price. Don’t fall for it. You should either be offered a higher-category car for no extra charge or a lesser one with the appropriate refund. Make sure this is the case before you sign your contract and drive away.
Rip-off #5: Buying at the desk
With so much to organise before a holiday, it’s easy to put off hiring a car until you arrive at your destination. But booking a vehicle in advance – and online – will save you a chunk of cash, leaving you more to spend on the good stuff. What’s more, if you book at the destination airport, or other pick-up point such as in a city centre, you risk ending up with an unsuitable vehicle – when demand soars in peak season, for example.
Rip-off #6: Unexpected charges when you get home
You expect to return from holiday with a lighter wallet – but it is infuriating to find extra taken off your credit card for a bill you thought you would squared. The main reasons for car hire firms to charge more than you expected is when they claim you’ve damaged the vehicle in some way or that you returned it without the agreed amount of fuel.
To protect yourself, give the vehicle a full inspection both when you pick it up and when you return it and ask for a receipt stating it’s in good order with the required amount of petrol. It also pays to keep all documents, contracts and other evidence (such as photos of the vehicle) if you need to dispute unexpected charges.
Rip-off #7: Hidden charges
Always read the small print of your car hire policy to check for any hidden charges or exclusions. Some car hire companies, for example, charge extra if you have been driving for less than four years, while others charge more for including a second driver. Others – and we are talking about the really unscrupulous operators here – may try and sneak hidden fees, such as their own insurance policies, onto your contract. You will have to sign this before you leave, so ensure that you are clear about every item/fee on it.
And others will levy an “admin” fee for theft or damage to the car – even if you have bought an excess waiver policy.
To put it in a nutshell: being thorough in your research when hiring a car is the way to get the best deal. Book your Cyprus car rental with us now.
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