Steer carefully with car hire contractsWatch out for unfair terms in car hire contracts

13 January 2010

Car hire confusion

Some car hire companies are using potentially unfair terms in their contracts while others provide little or no information of their terms and conditions on their web sites.

New research by Which? Travel found that Avis and Enterprise failed to provide any terms and conditions of rental on their web sites, leaving customers in the dark as to what they are paying for. 

Alamo, Budget and National provided some rental details but not the full conditions of hire, again leaving customers unsure as to the full extent of the hire contract.

The terms and conditions for Enterprise, Europcar and Hertz contained a clause that Which? Travel viewed as potentially unfair. The clause stated that if customers could not produce the keys in the event of the car being stolen, they could be liable for the full value of the vehicle. 

This means that if the keys are stolen at the same time as the car, or if the vehicle is involved in a car-jacking, the customer could still be liable for the full cost of the car.

Difficult to compare real car hire costs

Which? Travel also found it difficult to compare the real cost of hiring a car between different hire firms, as not all companies included the full cost of waivers and insurance on their web sites.

Which? Travel Head of Research, Rochelle Turner says: ‘Hiring a car for your holiday may seem like a great idea, but our research shows that it can be a minefield.

'Trying to work out the real price you’ll end up paying, the insurance you need to buy and what is or isn’t included can be so confusing that most of us just sign the contract, pay for the car and hope for the best.

'But it is really important that you read and understand everything before you sign on the dotted line. Failing to do so could leave you with a hefty excess, or seriously out of pocket if the car is stolen.'

Which? Travel car hire investigation

For the investigation, Which? Travel analysed the online booking process for each of the main car hire companies in the UK – Alamo, Avis, Budget, Enterprise, Europcar, Hertz, National and Sixt – and checked if the full terms and conditions were available before booking. 

The investigation also looked to see if each company provided details of all the waivers and additional insurances at the booking stage to enable customers to calculate the full cost.

Learn more about your travel rights today by visiting our consumer rights website.