A survey conducted by car hire comparison website StressFreeCarRental.com revealed that more than 80% of UK car hire customers experience unexpected fees when they collect the car.
This means that British holidaymakers hiring a car next summer risk getting stung by extra car rental charges that could see their holiday costs soar.
Driving experts from car hire comparison site StressFreeCarRental.com have revealed the most common hidden fees to keep an eye out for and avoid.
Whilst the price for hiring a car often seems cheap, hidden costs and dubious extras can bump up the price, meaning drivers frequently face paying double the original quote.
There are young drivers fees, special cleaning charges, smoking charges, administration fees and more to be aware of.
A spokesperson for StressFreeCarRental.com said: “Every traveller wants to find a bargain when planning a holiday abroad, but when it comes to renting a car, some costs may not always be what they seem.
“It’s not unusual for customers to be charged for unwanted insurance products, late drop-offs, extra mileage, refuelling and more.
“We advise customers to spend some time doing research and looking at the track record and online reviews of the companies they are thinking about using before hiring a car.
“It’s also a good tip to document the state of the vehicle when it is rented through taking photos on your smartphone, and when returning the vehicle, ensuring that all paperwork is complete and signed off.”
Here is StressFreeCarRental.com’s rundown of what consumers need to look out for this summer to ensure they don’t get ripped off on the road.
Desk staff will alert customers to this when they arrive to pick up a vehicle, with this often being the first time it is mentioned during the booking process.
Companies might push and pressurise you into taking out the firm’s car hire excess waiver cover, sometimes called collision damage waiver, which will pay the excess. This can be at a cost of up to £20 a day, which really adds up over longer trips.
StressFreeCarRental’s advice is to explore buying an excess car insurance policy from an online provider to cover your back and save you money.
If you fail to take out any cover you could be liable for the full excess, which can be thousands of pounds.
When paying or blocking out an excess, it is recommended to use a credit card rather than a debit card as they typically come with more protections.
However, depending on the country there may be additional charges. For example, in Australia and New Zealand some companies charge additional processing fees
If you have no credit card, there are usually debit card car hire options available – but these are typically more expensive.
Young / Senior driver fees
Not all car hire firms charge extra depending on the age of the driver, but those that do will charge different amounts based on certain age ranges.
Prices can vary from €5 – €50 per day depending on if the driver is under 25 or over 60 years of age.
If a rental car is returned needing a wash and clean inside, then this is often good enough. However, some customers may be asked for an extra cleaning fee if the car cannot be rented out again without more expertise cleaning being needed. This can often cost up to £50 if the car is returned with something as simple as having lots of sand in it.
Also, to be safe, customers should be sure not to smoke in any rental vehicle as this too can result in “special cleaning” charges.
Some companies charge admin fees on top of any excess amounts following an accident or damage. These can vary from €20 – €100.
Similarly, most rental companies charge handling fees if any parking/traffic or speeding fines are received – prices again vary quite a lot. These admin fees are charged on top of the cost of the actual fine or damage.
Sometimes you can go through the drop-off process quickly, which can incur costs if it isn’t properly followed. There might be fines if the vehicle is returned to the wrong location as the car will incur parking charges for being in the wrong place.
Also, key box drop-offs can sting holidaymakers as using a key-box to return keys means there is no one present to contest any damages that may be found.
This may seem obvious, but holidaymakers need to make sure they know what type of fuel to put in the vehicle and how to use the tyre-changing tools. Callouts for these issues will often cost over €100.
When hiring a car, the driver is responsible for paying for any toll roads used. Many toll roads have barriers or booths where it’s possible to physically pay the toll, so these should be no problem.
But electronic tolls register the vehicle’s registration plate when driving through a checkpoint, so it is possible to go through them without realising. This can then later come back as a surprise charge.
‘Collect full, return empty’
This tricky situation involves staff at airport desks telling drivers they must pay for a full tank of petrol before they can pick up the car. This often means customers are charged much more than it would have cost to fill up at a local petrol station, and it is difficult to return a car with an almost empty tank.
It is recommended to go with a ‘full to full’ fuel policy, this way there will not be an inflated price for the petrol used, and no payment for fuel unused.