Travel SOS: how to hire a car without any hassle

Don't fall foul of common car hire problems.

Car rental written on a blackboard, being held up by someone

Hiring a car when overseas is a good way to get about under your own steam and gives you maximum flexibility, but too often people return a hire car only to be hit by a whopping bill, so what can you do to minimise the likelihood of any issues arising?

Q. Jack

I am travelling overseas and need to rent a car. Are there any terms or conditions that I should be aware of before I sign on the dotted line?

A. Car hire companies vary greatly when it comes to policies and insurance cover. You can minimise any problems that may arise by making sure that you have done the following:

  • Before travelling contact the car hire company to ask what are the licensing requirements. in most English-speaking countries you will be able to drive without an International licence, but it's better to check. Also, you may wish to ask about any upper age limit the company may have.
  • Inspect the car when you receive it and make note of any pre-existing scratches or dents. It doesn't matter how small or insignificant they seem. Get your car hire company to sign this sheet of paper and make a copy of it for you. Taking some photos on your mobile phone or camera can also protect you as you will have photographic evidence should any issues arise.
  • Before you pay the extra premium to reduce your insurance excess check you travel insurance, as the excess is often covered. Also, most car hire companies will hold an amount equivalent to the excess from your credit card, and can take some time to refund it, so make sure you have scope within your credit limit to accomodate.
  • If you plan to take your car on a ferry, make sure that the terms and conditions allow you to do so.
  • If you are crossing borders or going between countries in Europe, you might like to make sure the terms and conditions allow interstate or inter-country travel. Do you have to return the car to the point of origin? Or can you drop it off at another point on your journey?
  • Make sure you know exactly what sort of damage is covered by your insurance. This can be as simple as a dent in the car park or damage caused by hitting an animal which is crossing the road.
  • If you think you may be using toll roads, ask about the protocol for paying the toll so that you can avoid hefty fines. Each country differs and just asking the question can save you a lot of money.
  • Ensure you have details of emergency contact numbers just in case anything happens while you are driving. Do you know who to contact if you have an accident, breakdown or mechanical issue?
  • Check where the car should be dropped off. if dropping off at an airport, this is likely to be a different location to where you collected the car. Give yourself plenty of time before any flight departure to complete the return procedure.
  • Make sure you know exactly how the rental company wants its car returned and to where it is to be returned. Does it require you to wash it, fill up the tank etc?

If you take care to address these points, you are minimising any risks or costs that may be incurred.



    To make a comment, please register or login
    21st Jan 2017
    Went to the UK in 2013 for a 12 week trip.

    If you are going to pre-pay for your rental car here in Australia, you can do so. BUT when you get to your destination, make sure you have a 'Credit' credit card, not a Pre-Paid one. Most hire car companies won't allow you to use a Pre-Paid card for the charges/excess hold, even though you may have used the Pre-Paid card for the original transaction.

    Also advise the car hire company that you have the excess for car hire covered in your Comprehensive International Travel Insurance policy - most policies have around $4000 coverage. Show the policy to the hire car company when you pick up your car. DON'T be bullied into taking their policy.

    There are some charges you may not be able to get around - registration recovery, etc.

    DON'T hire a GPS/Sat Nav - purchase one here in Australia with the capacity of having international maps added to them. Navman, for one, have this capacity, but it's ultimately your choice which brand you choose. When you are just about to leave, purchase the maps (I did mine of Western Europe, which includes the UK & Ireland), install it onto your machine, then when you get there, you can plug in your destination and you're ready to go. If by any chance you don't have a GPS, you can purchase them from Tesco (some stores) for around 70GBP.
    21st Jan 2017
    Same in Australia - do not buy the company excess cover. Is a rip off. I use a 3rd party insurer which offers better cover at less than 20% of the cost.
    21st Jan 2017
    Don't assume that all overseas car hire staff speak English! My wife and I had an interesting experience a few years ago when hiring a car in Hokkaido (North Japan) even though we booked through a major international car hirer. Not one word of English spoken - and we did not speak Japanese. They had a "cheat-sheet" Japanese to English which we had to read and tick off each item. But the major challenge was the supplied sat-nav which was convertible to English-speaking and we had to work out each time the car was restarted! Great fun, and a beautiful country!! Be aware of the tolls though!
    21st Jan 2017
    Hire car in UK. what ever you do DO NOT HIRE A CAR ON THE NET FROM CARE HIRE UK. If you have any doubt go to the internet You will see the scams they do to hirers and everyone gives them -minus value for service and customer service. Once your money come out of you account, even the deposit YOU WILL NOT GET IT BACK. I have been caught and so have the other hundred + people like wise.
    Apart from that, buy a GPS is Australia with the maps that you need installed. Purchase car insurance from an independent insurer at about 2-5 GBP per day as against 20-30GBP per day from the car people. These firms are on the net and I have used them while driving in the UK.
    Have fun driving in the UK and enjoy the fast lanes on the Autobans in Europe
    21st Jan 2017
    Sounds like too much trouble. I wouldn't bother
    21st Jan 2017
    Hired a car in the US for 4 days in 2015. Was quoted $130 per day but the bill came to over a grand. Adding extra drivers to the insurance is around $30 per person per day. We added two just to make sure and never used them, but were never advised of the cost (should have asked). GPS was a squillion. Queued for an hour and a half even though we had pre booked. Several taxes were added that we were not aware of. Once bitten twice shy. Will know next time.
    21st Jan 2017
    Make sure you are covered for windscreen breakage and tyres as these are NOT in standard car insurance. We discovered this after 2 blowouts! (one in Italy and one in Spain).
    22nd Jan 2017
    When hiring a car as well as checking for damage make sure things such as wipers, demisters,air con work before driving away. If you find out the next day most car hire companies will arrange to send out someone to fix it and there could be a long wait.
    If dropping the car off at a different place to where you hired ensure you receive a copy of the credit card charge before you leave. Some of them will charge extra and it is very difficult to get your money back once you are home. Don't hire a GPS If you have a smartphone download an app such as "here" some of the GPS unit maps are out of date.

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