When we go away, car hire usually features heavily in our planning. What’s not to like about having the freedom of your own car while exploring a new destination? Hiring a car also gives you more luggage space, the opportunities to stop off whenever the mood takes you, and to go at your own pace.
Back in the summer, we flew into Bologna Airport, Italy, and headed straight to the Avis desk to pick up our keys. We had a long drive ahead to get to our accommodation in Tuscany and were pleasantly surprised by the speed in which our booking was dealt with. Even though the lovely folks at Avis UK had kindly given us complimentary car hire, once we added on the extra insurance and the sat nav hire for the week, we still had to pay a hefty bill.
And that’s the problem with car hire abroad. It’s never as simple or straightforward as just grabbing the keys and driving off is it? So this is a round-up of MTM’s top tips to make hiring a car abroad as stress-free as possible.
Watch out, hidden extras!
Comparison sites are all good and well, but the prices that are quoted never include the extras – such as excess waiver charges, additional driver charges, baby/child seat charges, roof rack charges – the list goes on. Always be aware that what first appears to be a reasonable price, is in fact the starting price.
And you will get a pressurised sales pitch, as well as scaremongering to why you should get extra insurance if you’re at a desk in person.
You can stand your ground and refuse. But be warned, in Italy, we were persuaded into getting accidental damage insurance and, while annoyed at first, we actually had a small smash during our stay and saved ourselves a €1,000 excess bill. So accidents can happen…
BUT, that doesn’t mean you have to pay over the odds. My advice, purchase care rental excess insurance in the UK before you travel – it’s so much cheaper and will give you peace of mind.
Take photos or a video
Once you get to your hire car, make sure you check over the vehicle thoroughly. We have now got into the habit of taking photos on our phones of scratches, bumps and dents. And, if you notice anything that isn’t shown on the paperwork, make sure you point it out to the agent before leaving. You don’t want to be liable for any damage that wasn’t your fault. Once you sign the documents, it’s legally binding.
Bring your own car seats
With hold luggage and extra baggage costs from airlines, families could be tempted not to bring their own car seats. But if have a baby, bring your own. Not only will it give your peace of mind regarding the seat’s safety, but car seats and boosters are very expensive to hire. Plus, companies will not attach the seats in the car themselves for liability reasons – we once spent over 30 minutes figuring out how to fix a car seat in properly without any help or instructions.
For older kids – consider buying a travel booster seat. We always take our Trunki BoostaApak for Monkey which is easy to fit and doubles up as a backpack.
Know the country’s driving laws
Before we headed off on our road trip in France, I only discovered we needed a European Car Kit at the last-minute after doing some research. It’s a legal requirement to carry items such as headlamp converters and a hazard warning triangle. Check what compulsory equipment is needed and what documents are required.
Keep all the paperwork
As much as it’s tempting to throw all the documentation away as soon as you hand back the car, keep it for a while as well as checking your credit card/bank statements. You don’t want to be overcharged for anything extra – and keeping the paperwork ensures you have proof of your original agreement should you need to argue a case.
Do you have any car hire tips for anyone travelling abroad?
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