Renting a car is often the most practical and convenient way of getting around whilst travelling in another EU member state. When booking car hire consumers are eager to save money, however it is important to also be on guard to avoid extra costs and unexpected surprises. Car rental is one of the top areas of complaint received by ECC Ireland with many complaints relating to charges for damages or problems with a rental car, insurance coverage and fuel policies. We’ve put together some handy car rental tips to help make the journey a bit smoother.
At the moment there is no industry specific legislation in the car rental sector. Consumers are protected by other instruments with more general scope such as:
Dos and don’ts of car renting
Make sure you know how much you will be liable for in the event of accident. Ensure also that you inspect the vehicle carefully with a car rental company employee present both during the pick-up and return stages. Before leaving, request a written statement that the car was returned in good working order.
- When looking for the best bargain, bear in mind that very often prices quoted online only contain the basics. Make sure you check what is included in the final quote and what is not. Pay special attention to airport and other location related surcharges as well as the insurance coverage.
- Always check the cost of extras that you may need during your rental: child seat, additional driver, extra insurance etc.
- Pay special attention to the fuel policy and make sure it is explained to you clearly before you confirm the booking:
- COLLECT FULL RETURN EMPTY POLICY implies that no refunds will be paid for unused fuel even if the whole tank was paid for upfront. As it is impossible to return the car empty, especially during short rentals, an alternative policy should be available on request.
- COLLECT FULL RETURN FULL POLICY means that the vehicle should be provided with a full tank of fuel. Unless the consumer was clearly notified within the Terms & Conditions when booking the car, fuel should not be prepaid. It should be a consumer’s responsibility to refuel the car with the correct fuel type before it is returned. If the vehicle is not returned with a full tank, the consumer should bear the cost of refuelling.
- Check age restrictions,
- Check the cancellation policy.
- When renting abroad, familiarise yourself with the rules of the road.
- Normally a staff member should check the condition of the car upon collection. At this time all damage noted will be indicated on a special check-list or diagram, and you will receive a copy this document. If a staff member is not available to inspect the rental car, it is very important that you inspect it yourself, if any damage is present, make a written note of this and have it signed by an employee of the car rental company before you leave the premises.
- Always request information on the policies in place in the event the car breaks down or, you are involved in an accident. Understand what is and is not covered under the insurance policy, also what excess may be charged to your credit card in the event of a claim.
- Ensure you clarify what type of fuel can be used in the rental car.
When using the car
- If the car breaks down, call the car rental company and follow the instructions provided. Do not repair the vehicle yourself without prior authorisation.
- In case of an accident, you should always note down the names and addresses of everyone involved. If anybody is injured, or when there is a dispute over who is responsible, you should notify the police. Contact the car rental company immediately.
Returning the rental car
- Try to return the car during the working hours of the car rental company and have it inspected by a competent employee. The condition of the vehicle should be confirmed in writing and signed by the representative of the company and the consumer.
- If you are returning the car outside the working hours of the car hire company, you should park it in the designated area. You can take pictures of the vehicle as confirmation that it was returned in good condition.
- Cars returned outside working hours are inspected for damage on the following day and therefore the excess can still be charged to a consumer’s credit card.
- If the car rental company charges your credit card for ‘extras’ after returning the car, you should contact the car hire company in writing, seeking an explanation, and supporting documentation e.g. if the charge is for ‘damage’, ask to see the invoice from the repairers. If the company does not respond, contact your credit card provider outlining your complaint. The credit card company will contact the car hire company, seeking clarification.
Charge for damage to a hired car for which consumer was not responsible
A consumer rented a car in France and just before leaving the car hire compound at the end of the rental period, an employee from another car hire company crashed into the consumer’s hire car while it was parked. The consumer was not in the car at the time of the crash. The car was checked by all parties but days later the consumer discovered that he had been charged €310 for the damage. After almost a year exchanging correspondence, the issue remained unresolved and the consumer requested assistance from the ECC. Following the intervention of the Irish and French ECCs, the trader refunded €309.77 to the consumer.
Charge for alleged missing item from rental car
A consumer rented a car in Portugal from a Spanish rental company. The rental car was returned prior to 6am and could not be inspected by rental staff. The consumer left the keys in a special box as instructed. Later that day he received an email stating that €100 would be debited from his credit card for an alleged missing compressor. The consumer inspected the check-list and inspection report provided at the start of the rental and noted that this item wasn’t listed in the car in question. Despite this the trader refused to refund him and he contacted ECC Ireland for further assistance. ECC Ireland referred the complaint onto ECC Spain and the trader eventually apologised for the error and refunded the €100 to the consumer card.
Charge for damage to rental vehicles tyre caused by consumer
A German consumer rented a car from Dublin airport. Upon return of this vehicle it was noted that damage had been caused during the rental period to the tyre. As this is not an item included under the insurance policy the consumer was charged for its replacement. When the consumer received an estimate of repairs and he was surprised that a total of €213, 59 EUR was to be charged for a replacement. He wrote to the rental company arguing that this price charged was exceptionally high even by Irish standards. The rental company responded stating that this was the price charged for the replacement of the tyre and replacement of the sidewall which had also been damaged by the consumer. The consumer contacted ECC Germany and the complaint was shared with ECC Ireland. Following ECC Ireland’s intervention, although the rental company argued that the price was justified, as gesture of goodwill they agreed to refund €50 which the consumer accepted.
Charge for damage to a hired car for which consumer was not responsible
Consumer rented a car in Italy for a skiing holiday. The car was fully fuelled at the time of collection, and the consumer request information on the type of fuel to be used should he need to refuel. He was advised as the car was travelling to a mountain resort it required winter diesel. The consumer drove to his ski resort and left the car parked for the duration of his stay. When it was time to return to the airport the car would not start, and as the consumer had just 4 hours until his flight was due he had a local garage carry out a repair paid them €170 directly. The garage issued the consumer with a report stating that the car had developed a fault due to incorrect fuel. The Consumer complained to the trader once the vehicle was returned but they later refused to refund the consumer claiming he had not followed their policy in the event of breakdown. The consumer contacted ECC Netherlands and the filed was shared with ECC Ireland as the traders head office in based in Ireland. Following the intervention of ECC Ireland the consumer received a full refund.
Find more tips on renting a car here:Return to top