With Easter just around the corner, many of us will be packing our bags and heading overseas in search of sea, sand and sunshine.
A lot of holidaymakers will hire a car at their destination, as this offers a quick and convenient way to get around.
But while having your own transport gives you a lot of freedom, you need to tread very carefully, as a host of sneaky charges and unnecessary extras at the rental desk could mean costs soon mount up.
Check out the fuel policy
One of the most common ways you can end up paying more than you need to for your car hire is when it comes to petrol – and especially if your firm operates a “collect full return empty policy.”
With this arrangement, drivers often pay a premium for the fuel provided at the outset, plus they then lose out again at the end as it’s almost impossible to return the vehicle completely empty.
The cheapest option is usually a “full-to-full” policy where you pick up the car full and return it full.
Watch out for the “car hire excess insurance” trap
Another area where it’s easy to get ripped off is when it comes to buying “car hire excess insurance” or “super collision damage waiver.”
Typically given a hard sell at the rental desk, this insurance policy protects you against having to pay the first part of any claim if your vehicle is damaged or stolen.
If you leave this until your reach your destination, you could end up paying as much as £20 per day.
By contrast, if you buy this cover in the UK before you go on holiday from a standalone provider, you should be able to buy it for a fraction of the price – plus you are likely to get more comprehensive cover as well.
Don’t get stung for damage you didn’t cause
When hiring a car, you also need to be very thorough when checking the vehicle for pre-existing damage at the start of your holiday, as if you’re not careful, you could end up being charged for damage that wasn’t your fault once you’ve handed the keys back.
Before driving away, spend time going over the vehicle in detail and make sure any scratches, dents and bumps, no matter how small, are recorded on the rental agreement. Also take photos on your camera or mobile phone.
When you return your car, make sure you leave enough time to go through the same rigorous checks again.
If possible, try and get a member of staff to check the vehicle over too while you are there.
Beware of paying over the odds for extras
Motorists frequently get hit by hefty additional daily charges is when it comes to hiring “extras” such as a sat-nav or car child’s seat.
So, rather than hire these at the rental desk, plan ahead and bring your own equipment from home.
Most airlines allow you to carry baby seats for free, plus you can take a portable sat-nav with you, or even use your mobile phone.
Don’t get conned over currency
Finally, when it comes to paying for your car hire, be very wary if a firm insists that you have to pay in sterling.
If you agree to this, there is a risk you could get charged over the odds if an uncompetitive exchange rate is used.
To avoid this, always try and pay in the local currency; companies are legally required to give customers this option.
Finally, when you get home from your holiday, be sure to check your credit card statements regularly to ensure no unauthorised extras have been charged to your card.