Hiring a car when you are abroad gives you great freedom to go where you want when you want. It can also save you from having to drag heavy luggage on crowded public transport. But hiring a car in another country can be difficult. Issues with car hire, especially about damage charges, insurance coverage, and fuel policies, are one of the most common reasons that consumers contact European Consumer Centers every year. This article has our top tips before you rent a car and what to do if it doesn’t go smoothly for you.

  1. Book early! Particularly if you are travelling during peak tourist seasons or to popular holiday resorts, consider booking your car hire at the same time as you book your holiday. Car rental rates at airports are often higher due to their convenience and high demand. Pre-paying in advance is often cheaper. If you do, make sure that the booking has a cancellation policy, this way you can check the prices closer to the holiday and cancel if there are better offers available.
  2. Do your homework online before you book. It is just as important to book from a reputable broker or hire business as it is to get a good price. Take your time to look up reviews as well as compare prices. The price should include all charges in the total booking price at the time of booking, including additional costs such as specific fuel service charges, airport fees etc. Any optional extras should be listed too.
  3. Read the terms and conditions. They should clearly describe the key rental services in your national language and most importantly they should provide you with essential information about the rental’s main features, such as what mileage is included, the fuel policy, cancellation policy, and deposit requirements. Before signing a car-hire contract, make sure you know exactly what the mandatory insurance contract covers. Along with detailing the fuel policy the contract should also detail what is and is not covered, as well as the excess that may be charged in the event of a damage or other claim.
  4. Inspect the car before you drive away. Both you and the car rental business should inspect the car before you drive away. Test the brakes, air conditioning, lights, and windshield wipers to ensure they function properly. Take photographs of any damage, however minor, before you leave the premises and make sure the damage is recorded by the rental business before you leave. If you drop your car off out-of-hours take photos of its condition, as you may be held responsible for any damage that occurs.
  5. Return the car within the terms of the policy. This means returning the car on time and as per the fuel policy that you signed up to. Do a final thorough check and collect evidence that you are returning the rental car damage free. Make sure that a representative of the car rental business signs an acceptance form or indemnification statement. This proves that the car has been returned in the same condition as you received it. It’s important to keep the paperwork no matter whether there is damage to the car or not.

Unfortunately, you can follow all these tips and abide by all the policies and still run into difficulties. If you do run into problems, the first step to take is to make a complaint to the rental business. Our letter templates can help you with this. You can also find out more about your rights in our car rental information. If you have made a complaint to the business and are unhappy with the outcome, or you get no response then you can escalate your complaint to us using our complaint form.