Car Rental Tips and Advice

Author Matt May

Algarve road

Many people leave booking a holiday rental car until the last minute, but it makes sense to look around and read reviews before you part with your money. If you search the internet travel forums you will find hundreds of posts containing vehicle rental "horror stories".

The first, and most important advice is to always read the "Terms and Conditions" before you book. In any business deal, once you have parted with your money, it is always more difficult to negotiate!

Essentially there are a relatively small number of items to identify in your rental "Terms and Conditions" that should guide around the "potholes" and steer you in the right direction when it comes to booking your holiday car hire.

If you don't have time to read the full article, here are the main issues which people tend to experience problems with:

The "hidden" fuel charge

The headline cost of a car rental quote may not detail the "fuel policy. When booking a hire car many people don't consider the additional cost of fuel. Some of the cheaper priced deals may charge for a tank of fuel which has to be used (although this type of deal is less prevalent than it was a few years ago). With this type of deal any unused fuel is not refunded. This type of fuel policy may prove cost-effective if you are planning to drive long distances, but inappropriate if you are not planning to do much driving. As an additional means of generating revenue for the rental company, the fuel is often charged at a "premium rate".

Many "pay for what you use fuel deals" will charge for a full tank of fuel, then refund any unused fuel. However there is often an admin fee charged for performing the refund.

TIP: Read the fuel policy on the "Terms and Conditions" link on the quote before you book.

There is damage to the rental car which wasn't on the vehicle checklist

When you collect your vehicle take a few minutes to check that all scratches, dents and other damage to the vehicle is fully documented on the damage report checklist which the rental company provides for you to sign.

TIP: Consider taking out full CDW cover with additional premium insurance e.g. Questor Insurance which you can buy when you book with us.

Alternatively, consider buying one of the many online car hire insurance products which can be used wherever you travel.

The credit card deposit surprise

Most car rental companies "block" an amount on your credit card when you collect the vehicle. This is refunded when the vehicle is returned unscathed. The blocked amount is often charged irrespective of whether you have taken out CDW protection. Why? Because if damage is caused which is not covered by the CDW policy e.g. damage as a result of drunk or negligent driving, the CDW cover will be void. In these cases the rental companies will charge for any damage to the vehicle.

TIP: Make sure you have a credit card which is accepted by the car rental company - some cards e.g. debit cards and AMEX are rarely accepted.

Some items are excluded from basic CDW policies

People assume that if they take out the CDW excess insurance that all items will be covered. This is not generally the case - items such as glass damage, tyre damage (e.g. punctures), loss of keys and damage to upholstery are not usually included in standard CDW policies.

TIP: Consider taking out the additional insurance offered with the quote or purchase additional cover directly the local rental agent.

We can no longer travel...can we get a refund?

Some companies charge nothing for cancellations, as long as you give reasonable notice. This notice period is usually a week to a few days before you were due to collect the vehicle. Some companies charge an admin or cancellation fee.

TIP: Read the cancellation policy on the "Terms and Conditions" link on the quote before you book.

Why have I been charged an "out of hours" fee?

Most companies at Faro Airport will charge an additional fee (typically € 20-30) if your vehicle is collected late at night, usually after 10PM. The reason is that the rental company has to pay an employee to be at the airport during hours when they would not normally be there, in order to sign the vehicle rental agreement.

TIP: Try to book a flight which arrives early evening at the latest.

Collection and Drop-Off Fees

If you want to collect or return a vehicle at a resort, there will be additional fees. It is always cheaper to collect and return your rental vehicle at the airport.

TIP: Always collect and return your vehicle at Faro Airport.

Travelling to another country?

Many of the car rental companies have cross border charges. For example for taking a car from the Algarve to Spain a fee (from € 25-50) may be charged.

TIP: Check the cross border fee amount before you book as it varies depending on the rental company.

Charges for Additional Drivers

Most companies charge for additional drivers, but always book your rental vehicle in the name of the main driver as the contract may be prepared prior to your arrival. You may be charged for changing the name of the main driver.

TIP: If you plan to have additional drivers search around for deals offering "free additional drivers".

More information

Guardian article about hidden car rental charges