Whatever your holiday budget or the travel allowance for your next business trip, the opportunity for saving money is likely to be more than welcome. As the following seven tips and suggestions may show, the opportunities for saving money on the cost of your car hire may be especially attractive:
1. Booking the Car
By booking your hire car as early as possible you are likely to enjoy not only lower prices, but also a greater range of cars from which to choose.
Car rental companies act somewhat in the same way as the airlines with which you may be arranging your flights – discounts are granted to those making a reservation as long as possible in advance.
By making the reservation in advance, you are also likely to have a greater choice of vehicles – especially in the busiest seasons – and again save money by hiring the most suitable vehicle to meet your needs rather than having to upgrade.
Booking early earns a special mention in the Telegraph newspaper’s guide (May 2014) to saving money on the cost of your hire car.
2. Shopping Around
Of course it is important to do your research and shop around for the most suitable deals on hire cars – just as you might for any other goods or services you are intending to buy.
These days, it may be made all so much easier via the internet, but this is a medium that might be treated with a degree of caution.
The government’s Competition and Markets Authority, for example, has recently reported ways in which competition may be impeded by ties between certain websites and the suppliers they support.
The report released on the 24th of September 2014 concentrated mainly on the use of comparison websites by the motor insurance industry, but the principles of potentially hidden barriers to free competition might equally apply to marketing methods used by car rental companies.
The headline rate for your car rental in the UK or Europe is likely to include what is described as comprehensive insurance protecting you against the risk of theft, loss or damage to the vehicle.
In the United States, on the other hand, there is likely to be no such insurance but rather a waiver agreement by which the car rental company waives its right to charge you the customer for damage – the so called Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) may also be described as offering comprehensive protection.
Insurance or waiver, however, there may be restrictions on the extent of the cover provided – a CDW may be limited only to damage caused as the result of a collision, whilst European cover may specifically exclude damage to such parts of the vehicle as the underside, roof, windows, wheels and tires.
Both are also likely to come with an excess – commonly called a deductible in North America – which may easily exceed a thousand pounds.
Although car rental companies more or less anywhere in the world are likely to offer further insurance or CDW excess insurance to cover your potential liability for paying such a large excess, the scope of that cover may still be restricted and is almost certain to come at a significant daily charge.
As an alternative, therefore, you may save money by arranging your excess insurance in advance through a UK-based specialist hire car insurance provider – such as Bettersafe – whose cover for hire car drivers in the Americas not only includes truly comprehensive CDW insurance and excess reimbursement but also Supplemental Liability Insurance (SLI) to give you added protection against third party claims.
Before signing any rental or insurance agreement with the car rental company it may repay you to scrutinise the contents of the document very carefully.
You may be only too eager to take delivery of the hire car in order to continue your journey, but several minutes spent making sure that you fully understand what is and what is not covered may save even greater financial cost further down the line.
A similar approach may be made to your inspection of the car inside and out, whilst taking a careful note of any existing damage or absence of equipment – details of which need to be formally agreed through the signature of the rental company’s agent.
You might even go so far as taking photographs of all four sides of the vehicle and the interior if necessary.
To the chagrin of an increasing number of hire car drivers many rental companies are adopting punitive re-fuelling policies.
When you pick it up, the car has a full tank of petrol which you are paying for of course but without any choice over the price per gallon – and rental companies may be charging considerably more than local petrol stations.
To make matters worse still, you may be required to return the vehicle with an empty tank, or – since this is likely to be well-nigh impossible – to return the vehicle without any refund for the cost of fuel still in the car.
Establishing from the outset the rental company’s particular fuel policy may again be a significant way of saving money.
Unless you return the hire car at the time stated in the agreement you may find yourself paying for an extra day’s hire, even if you are less than an hour late.
You may save money by ensuring that you return it on time – or at least fully understand any grace period that might be offered by the company.
You might also want to allow plenty of time for the vehicle inspection on its return and your agreement with the hire car company agent regarding any alleged damage.
Car seats for small children may be essential but might also prove an expensive additional hire cost.
You might therefore consider hiring them independently and separately from local suppliers or even think about taking them with you from home.
The same may be said of GPS or sat nav devices – hired expensively from the car rental company; or taken with you from home by way of one of the many free sat nav apps for your smartphone as reviewed by Which? magazine’s Tech Daily (August 2014).
There are more than a few ways of saving money on the cost of your hire car and just seven tips and suggestions are unlikely to cover them all. There may be many more you might discover for yourself.