Hiring a car overseas is something thousands of us do every year, whether to explore a bit further afield from a package holiday destination, or to make the drive part of the whole holiday experience. Hiring a car can be expensive, and getting the wrong one can spoil your plans completely. Here are our top tips for getting a great value hire car, and making your foreign driving experience as easy as possible.
Consider the Big Names
One of the best ways of ensuring that you are getting a great car which has been properly maintained is to use one of the big brands like Avis, Hertz, Sixt or Budget when you make your calls. Often the big names are more expensive than using local companies, but this additional expense should be balanced against simplicity and the ease of putting thing right if something goes wrong. Shop around online for the best deals and consider signing up for their emails or preferred customer cards which could secure you further discounts. If you’re flying and picking up a car at the airport, make sure you have booked to collect from the airport too. It sounds obvious, but it’s easy to select the wrong location and opt for a city-centre pick up instead.
Book in Sterling
The best way to guarantee a price for your car and avoid nasty surprises is to book the car from the UK and agree the charge in pounds sterling. If you agree to pay in another currency, fluctuations in exchange rates can hugely affect the overall price. Similarly, booking your car in advance is often far better value than arriving on the day and trying to negotiate a price. Look at various websites and consider a range of different types of vehicles. Depending on the time of your visit, special offers or promotions can mean that a larger car is cheaper than a smaller vehicle.
Waivers and Insurance
Most car hire companies require that the main driver is at least 25, and has a full UK driving licence. You will need your licence with you when you pick up the car. You will also need to consider the topic of insurance. This is where it all gets complicated, and each hire company does things differently. Most hire companies will charge a much higher excess than the one you are used to on your standard car insurance. 1000 euros or more is not uncommon. You can however take out extra insurance to cover the cost of this excess too, often called collision damage waiver or similar. Depending on the price it might be worth doing, if just for peace of mind.
Again it may sound obvious but this insurance is just for the car. It won’t cover the cost of your hospital care if you are involved in an accident, for example. Make sure you have EHIC cover with you if travelling within the EEA, and a good general travel insurance to cover all risks. You generally don’t need to take out additional cover in order to drive overseas as this isn’t seen as a high-risk activity. If you are planning on driving on toll roads this is at your expense and won’t be covered under the rental costs.
If you’ve not driven overseas before, it can be difficult to get to grips with a new car and being on the opposite side of the road all at the same time. Just take your time, and don’t feel bullied by other drivers into taking things more quickly than you are comfortable with. If you’re hiring from a reputable company, you can be sure that your car conforms to local standards, and has the equivalent of the tax and MOT which should ensure no brushes with the law.
If the hire company offers the option of a sat nav, consider ticking the box to select one in your car. Having a sat nav to guide you makes travelling on unfamiliar roads a lot less stressful, and most also give you information about what lanes to be in for junctions and roundabouts too. Once you get the hang of foreign roads you may be able to rely less on the sat nav, but for less experienced drivers they are hugely useful.