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11 ways to cut your car hire costs

Find out how to avoid paying extra on your rental car

As the pound weakens against the euro, British holidaymakers are facing escalating costs  – and hiring a car can be one of the biggest expenses.

But your holiday rental doesn’t have to blow your budget. We outline 11 ways to save on your car hire these summer holidays.

1. Use your own smartphone sat nav

Although you might be looking forward to a break from the computer, consider bringing your tablet or smartphone to use as a sat nav. Otherwise, hire companies will charge around £10 per day.

If you bring your own device, make sure you know how much it’s likely to cost to use data overseas. Roaming charges have now been scrapped in the EU, but it’s worth double-checking your provider’s terms and conditions. To avoid using data, you can also download an offline map or navigation app before you leave.

Find out more: EU roaming and international calls explained

2. Bring a booster seat with you

If you’re taking young children on the trip, hiring a booster seat could cost you up to £65 a week. So why not bring along your own? Most airlines allow you to travel with your booster seat for free, although others may charge a small fee – for example, Ryanair charges £20 per booster seat for a return flight.

3. Book in advance and online

The general rule with car hire companies is that the earlier you book, the cheaper it will be. This is especially true in peak holiday times, when demand is high. Some companies also offer online-only or early-bird deals, so that booking in advance can often get you the best deal.

4. Reconsider the ‘super collision damage waiver’

The super collision damage waiver exempts you from paying any excess fees if the car is damaged. As an example, this add-on can cost between £100 to £180 for a week in Spain.

Alternatively, you could consider buying excess reimbursement insurance from an online insurer – which generally costs around £20.

Under excess reimbursement insurance, if the car suffers damage, you’ll have to pay your excess first and then claim it back from the insurer later – so just in case, you should have funds available. In many cases, the rental company will block the amount of the excess on your credit card before you go as a precaution.

Find out more: Car hire insurance – the ins and outs of insuring your rental

5. Take photos of the car before you set off

Scratches or blemishes are fairly common on rental cars. To avoid getting hit with a bill for someone else’s carelessness, it’s wise to take photos of all four sides of the car before you drive away.

If you notice any damage, point it out to the rental desk and make sure they’ve noted it down. That way, when you return the car, you can prove it’s still in the same condition.

Find out more: Care hire complaints – know your rights

6. Check out the ECRCS scheme

If you’re crossing European borders in your rental car, sorting out hire disputes can sometimes be tricky – and expensive. Many of the major car hire services are members of the European Car Rental Reconciliation Service, which helps clients sort out unresolved cross-border disputes with vehicle rentals.

Find out more: Best and worst car hire companies

7. Know your miles limit

Hiring a car on holiday gives you the freedom to explore. But daily mileage limits imposed by the hire company may put a dampener on your adventures.

If you go over the maximum number of miles per day allowed in the contract, you could face a charge of around 30p extra per mile. When booking the car, make sure the mileage limits will let you go anywhere you need – and leave room for unexpected detours.

8. Work out your fuel payment plan

If you’re not doing a lot of driving, consider opting for a ‘full to full’ arrangement, so that you only pay for the fuel you use. Keep in mind you’ll have to find a filling station close to the hire car return point – if you don’t return it full, you could face a large service charge.

A ‘supplied full, return empty’ deal suits those who will plan do a lot of driving on their holiday. But be aware that some firms won’t provide a refund for unused fuel, so try to get the most out of your tank.

9. Choose the most fuel efficient car

The price of gas can eat into your holiday budget, especially if you choose a gas-guzzler. Do your research to find a car that is fuel efficient and suited to your trip. Don’t forget that different driving conditions will also impact fuel consumption – stop-start traffic through a major city will burn through your tank faster than highway driving.

Find out more: Most fuel-efficient small cars – find the right model for you

10. Make sure your own car is covered

If you drive your own car in the EU, your existing insurance policy will extend to cover the minimum legal standard of the country you’re visiting. This is usually third-party insurance, which means you’ll only be covered for injury to other people or damage to property.

Some insurers offers a limited period of full cover for free and may sometimes be willing to extend this if you contact them before you travel.

If you break down abroad, your UK cover may not cover breakdowns overseas – you’ll need to buy an extension or a standalone policy.

11. Protect your property with theft insurance

Cars are attractive targets for thieves, as many people leave cameras, phones or other tech in their back seats or glove compartments. If you’re travelling with valuables, think about buying theft insurance if it’s not already included in the comprehensive insurance.

Find out more: Travel insurance explained – learn how insurance protects you

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