Hiring a car can be filled with problems. This article aims to help highlight the potential issues and in doing so prevent you falling into common traps.
1. Check several broker websites
There are many car hire websites on the net. But all of these service providers are not the same. In fact, we have tested four reliable car hire services that promised great deals. The best four car hire websites we researched are Ryanair, Holiday Autos, Rental Cars, and Zest Car Rental. Although Zest Car Rental was the smallest service provider of all four, they were named the best car hire site by “Which.”
We tried to book a rental car at Malaga Airport for almost two weeks from 28 July, and Ryanair was the cheapest judging by the prices offered by car hire services. The website helped us find a Fiat Panda for £67.63 through a car hire service provider named Del Paso. Our test results indicate that it is pointless to check both Ryanair and Holiday Autos because they both use the same search engine and provide identical results. The only difference is Ryanair’s price was a few pounds less. In fact, Ryanair offered £67.63 for the identical deal and terms from Del Paso while Holiday Autos wanted £75.69.
The cheapest deal offered by Rental Cars was £87.30 for a Ford KA through Record Go. There was also a note stating that there is a “car hire company fee” of a further £26.45 for the deal. There was no explanation as to what this fee was and why it wasn’t added to the overall price. On the other hand, Zest Car Rental’s lowest price was £144.14 for a Fiat 500 – from Centauro.
2. Look out for the extras
Hiring a rental car can be quite confusing if you don’t compare likes with likes when hiring a car. Most of the bargain deals offered by rental car services are littered with add-ons such as Record Go’s €30 fee. On the other hand, car quality and service quality vary depending on the service provider you choose. For example, when booking the Del Paso hire with Ryanair, customers are required to deposit €1,200 (£1,060) at pick-up. In case the client doesn’t have the amount on his/her credit card, he or she is in trouble because the company doesn’t accept debit cards and prepaid cards.
The company may deduct some or all of that amount when you are returning the car if they spot any damage. That is why you need to have a spare credit card just for use at the car hire desk. Don’t forget your car hire excess insurance for your protection whilst away.
3. Aim for an ‘in terminal’ deal
Car hire companies located in industrial estates off the airports are usually the cheapest. But getting a bus from the terminal can be quite an issue with long queues reported at times. You should instead shop around and keep a keen eye on in-terminal car hire services to find a good deal roughly at the same price.
4. Only book deals that offer free cancellation
Make sure you find a car hire deal that you could cancel at least 24 to 48 hours before collecting the vehicle without paying any fee. In fact, you can get a cheaper deal by booking early in the year and searching again for last-minute bargains a week before you need the rental car. For example, Guardian Money checked car broker sites on Tuesday and Wednesday this week and found that prices have reduced by £10-£20 in 24 hours.
5. Take the ‘full to full’ fuel policy, but watch out for the admin sting
Most of the affordable Spanish car hire services offer a “full to empty” fuel policy where you pay for a full tank of fuel at an inflated price. You do this when picking up the car, and then you can return the vehicle empty. Even though the deal sounds convenient, it comes with extra costs especially if you don’t plan to use the full tank of fuel that you already paid for. Most drivers have opted out of the full-to-empty deals because some rental companies block a significant amount of money on your credit card to cover the cost of fuel. They also charge an admin fee even if you return the vehicle with a full tank – approximately €25-€40.
6. Avoid the second driver unless it’s free
Opting for one driver with the vehicle helps cut costs by a significant amount. The average car rental service will charge at least €6 a day for additional drivers with a minimum fee of €18. For example, Centauro in Spain charges €7.74 a day for a basic car. The deal is quadrupled to €27.81 a day when you need an additional driver.
7. Book a four-door car
Make sure you book a four-door car in case the price difference between a two-door and a four-door vehicle is negligible. Most car rental companies frequently run out of four-door vehicles in their mini and economy packages. If you insist on having a four-door vehicle as per your booking, the company will have to upgrade you to a better category without any additional charges.
8. Take your own child seats
Ryanair charges at least £15-£25 per flight to carry child seats. But a car rental company will charge as much as €95 for a child seat on a two-week rental. Since you can’t be sure of the quality of the child seat, it is better to take your own.