Hiring a car is one of the easiest things to do on the Internet.

The traveller knows what type of car they want or how much that they want to spend and as long as they get it from the cheapest source, they don’t care who supplies it.

Combined with price comparison websites, it couldn’t get any easier.

Do your research

However, just because it’s easy to do, it doesn’t mean that you don’t need to do research before you book the car. It is easy for con artists to set up a webpage and get it onto a comparison website. This did happen in November/December 2011. A fake company used a name similar to a trusted brand, put up really cheap prices and waited for the cash to flow in. This was definitely a case of ‘too good to be true’.

The basic operation of the car rental websites is generally the same, giving availability and prices. Just like airlines, some offer rewards for regular customers. If you regularly hire a car it may be worth signing up, even if you only get to queue jump at busy airports.

But for more choice a good starting point is an online travel agent site such as Expedia or Lastminute. Here you may find a selection of different car hire companies for you to choose from. When you have found the right deal, you could then try the direct booking website.

That said, it may be cheaper to hire a car with a different company to your flights and hotel, but ensure that you know your cancellation rights should there be a problem. Booking everything through one company does make life easier if there is a snag with your trip.

 
 

Hire car insurance

The starting price for your car rental may be quite cheap, but just like a low cost airline ticket the extras soon start to mount up.

This is what makes price comparison difficult as you have to get right to the end of the booking process to get an accurate costing. It may be tempting to forgo some of these extras, but this may cost you in the long run.

Even if you do go with all the insurance extras, you may still be exposed to bills of £1,000 or more due to the excess.

The common insurances on offer are:

  • Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) – This is also known as Loss Damage Waiver (LDW). The purpose of this waiver is to limit your exposure if the car was damaged, which could be large, especially if the car is written off
  • Theft Waiver – If the car is stolen, you don’t have to pay for the replacement, just part of it
    Personal Effects Coverage (PEC) – provides protection against loss or theft of personal belongings from the rental car
  • Additional Liability Insurance (ALI) – protects the renter and other named drivers against claims made by third parties for bodily injury/death and property damage caused by the use or operation of the rental vehicle
  • Personal Accident Insurance (PAI) – provides accidental death and medical coverage for the renter and additional passengers during the time they are riding or driving with you

When you collect the car you may be offered the chance to reduce the excess with another fee. This can be expensive, maybe £15 a day. There is an alternative; you can pay an annual fee with a UK based insurance company, which will be for a fraction of the cost.

You will still have to pay the excess, but you can then reclaim this using your insurance.

Off road

You may not be covered for damage to the tyres or glass as standard, so you need to know where you stand if you get a puncture. Also you may not be covered if the car is driven off a paved road. In some countries this may be impossible due to the infrastructure.

Always check with your existing insurance to see if you are covered. You may already be protected in some way and there is no point in paying out twice. If you are covered make sure that you bring the relevant paperwork with you, along with emergency telephone numbers.