If you haven’t yet booked your hire car yet, check out these handy tips from Co-Founder Michael Cullen – compiled from 18 years on the road for i-escape.
Choose your car hire company carefully
We’ve found Hertz to be consistently reliable and helpful, though of course they’re not always the cheapest. If you’re looking for the best deal, we think that Rhino is the best comparison site and broker.
Check the fuel policy: we think ‘full-to-full’ is best i.e. you collect it full and return it full – which is normally easy since there are filling stations at almost all airports. We don’t like ’empty-to-empty’ since the first thing you have to do is fill up (and returning a car empty is a tricky thing to judge), nor do we tend to like ‘full-to-empty’ since most companies charge over-the-odds for the tank of fuel.
Check if the office is ‘on site’ (within the airport): it can be a bore waiting for the minibus to shuttle you to rental offices a mile or more away, and having to allow extra time on your return for this as well. Popular destinations like Mallorca, Crete and the Canary Islands are the worst offenders.
Check the excess amount, and the cost of reducing it: it’s common practice now to set the excess (the amount you pay in the event of damage or theft) at a whopping £500-2000, and then charge you £5-10/day to reduce it to a more friendly amount. This daily surcharge is rarely shown before the final stage of booking, and sometimes only when you arrive. Of course, you can ignore the surcharge. But we advise buying an annual insurance policy to cover this excess, with a company like insurance4carhire. This normally pays for itself within 7 days’ rental. Insurance4carhire have been around since 2002, are owned by Towergate (Europe’s biggest insurance intermediary), and get good reviews on sites like feefo.com.
Check the cost of a child seat (if relevant): again, most companies charge way over the odds (typically £5-10/day), which can mean that over a fortnight it’s more than the value of the seat itself! Consider bringing your own seat: some baby seats, like the Quinny Zapp, can be mounted on a buggy, thus qualifying as a stroller and not incurring baggage surcharges from the airline. For older kids, buy a portable booster seat such as the inflatable Bubble Bum (brilliant name!) or the Trunki Boostapak which folds up inside a rucksack. Alternatively consider renting a seat from a cheaper source (Malaga airport has an outlet called Tots Store in the baggage reclaim, which is less than half the price).
If using Google Maps on your phone to navigate, beware data roaming charges – especially as these are liable to be reintroduced (or increased) between Britain and the EU following Brexit. You can download known routes before you start the journey using Wi-Fi; this is worth doing at home for your first journey from the airport to the first hotel. Alternatively, you can book a hire car with sat-nav, but (surprise surprise) the rental companies will charge you over the odds for this. Try a free smartphone app such as NavFree – which downloads all the maps to your phone before you go, to avoid roaming/data charges; but be aware that route info is not 100% reliable, being crowd-sourced. Finally, don’t rule out an old-fashioned road atlas or map: they’re cheap and they don’t rely on mobile signal or batteries!
When collecting the car, check for any damage (even minor) and mark it on the agreement. Check the spare wheel is present and inflated. If in any doubt, take photos of the car (including mileage/fuel gauge, if relevant). At the very least, this will indicate you are a stickler! And check your credit card statement when you get home.
Drive safely: don’t expect other drivers to be as careful as you, make sure you know your way around the gear-change, windscreen wipers and indicator. Don’t take it off-road (you won’t be covered for any damage if you do), be sure to put the correct fuel in – and remember which side of the road to use!
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