Car hire costs: How they catch drivers out

Car hire costs

Hiring a car means freedom but watch the costs. (Picture © Europcar)

Car hire costs can more than double at this time of year thanks to extras tacked on at the rental desk, new research suggests. The study found the average £214 basic cost could be inflated to £379 by extras sold to unsuspecting drivers as they collect their cars.

The study by looked at car hire costs for the half term week during February, comparing five mainstream rental companies (Avis, Budget, Europcar, Hertz and Sixt) at seven European airports. Here are how car hire costs can be inflated and, importantly, tips for negotiating them down. 

Car hire costs: Super Collision Damage Waiver
The most expensive extra was a week’s car hire excess insurance, usually called Super Collision Damage Waiver. The companies’ regular insurance (Collision Damage Waiver or CDW) covers drivers for many eventualities but it comes with an excess that you must pay if you claim and typically costs more than £1000. For an average cost of £96, rental companies sell Super Collision Damage Waiver to insure against having to pay any excess.

Car hire costs: Tyre and windscreen excesses
Standard insurance for hire cars generally has a sizeable excess if your car suffers windscreen damage or a puncture, whether it’s your fault or not. The researchers found the average cost was £25.

Car hire costs: Skiing is expensive!
For drivers who have their own skis, having a roof rack fitted to the car in order to carry them costs on average £34 for a week. For extra safety, drivers may want winter tyres. Having a car fitted with these can cost £48. If you’re lucky, some cars at airports used to travel to ski resorts may already have winter tyres fitted. Although not in the report, hiring snow chains for a week costs around £70. In some countries these are a legal requirement. Check here before you travel.

Car hire costs: Where’s the most expensive?
The research investigated renting a car in Geneva, Switzerland, Grenoble in France, Turin, Italy, Austria’s Innsbruck, Barcelona in Spain, Sofia, Bulgaria and Inverness in Scotland. It found that Geneva was the most expensive, costing on average £313 for a week. Extras at the Swiss airport came to £486 on average. Sofia was the cheapest with basic costs averaging £130 a week. The extra costs there amounted to £202.

Car hire costs: The total cost of extras
According to the survey, the average cost of taking the various extras it specified was £379 which would more than double the average weekly rental fee of £214.

Car hire costs: How to reduce them
Arrange the excess insurance in advance, with a separate company to the one you’re hiring the car from, and you’ll pay significantly less than you will at the rental desk. Equally, before you book, check the company’s terms and conditions on its website. These differ from company to company and they’ll give you a good idea of what’s included in the price you pay and what isn’t.

Hiring sat navs from the rental company can be pricey (£70 on average). If you can, take your own with you. Or ask yourself whether a bit of internet planning before you go, along with a detailed road map, wouldn’t do just well.

Equally, renting a child seat costs on average £51. If you take your own, you could save on paying this extra – providing the airline doesn’t charge you for carrying it. For more tips, try here.

One comment on “Car hire costs: How they catch drivers out

  1. Malcolm McNeill 05/05/2015 9:31 PM

    Good article James and close to my heart. I am particularly disappointed with the subject of child car seats, which apart from the heavy costs, as you point out, there is the additional safety factor. Not all car hire companies are the same but you cannot guarantee that the seat is “road worthy” or indeed clean; therefore taking your own, or even buying one there (not such a daft option) seem to be the best solutions.

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