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Renting a car? Don’t assume you’ll be covered for breakdowns

Brokers can't guarantee breakdown cover abroad

Car Breakdown

Breakdown cover might seem like an essential when you rent a car abroad, but some hire companies are asking customers to pay extra for the service.

Which? looked at the issue after members reported being asked to pay more for breakdown cover when they picked up their car abroad. 

And we found that car hire brokers in the UK could not guarantee that breakdown cover would be included with their rentals abroad.

Car hire brokers

Brokers work with hundreds of different companies who supply the cars abroad. UK brokers Argus Car Hire, Carhire3000 and Holiday Autos said it depends on the supplier whether breakdown cover is included or not.

Often customers may not know which supplier they will be using until they pick up the car, so will not know if they have cover until they arrive on holiday.

Argus Car Hire said breakdown assistance was ‘normally’ but not always included. Even when it was customers would have to pay extra if the car needed towing unless they bought extra insurance.

Car hire extras

Carhire3000 said ‘most’ of its suppliers included breakdown recovery in the basic charge but some had admin fees.

Holiday Autos said some suppliers sold breakdown cover as one of the ‘local extras’. But the company said if customers declined to buy the cover and then had to pay for breakdown costs, Holiday Autos would reimburse them as long as they had receipts.

We think breakdown cover should be included in the basic price of the rental and this should be clear before you pay for the hire.

Car hire breakdowns

If you are booking through a broker, we advise calling them before paying to check what breakdown cover you have.

It is also possible to get breakdown cover, and insure against having to pay excess fees, by taking out a policy from a specialist insurer. But bear in mind that these do not always cover everything, may limit the cost they will reimburse, and may ask you to supply documents in a tight timescale.

Don’t rely on belonging to a breakdown service, because the AA, RAC and Saga all told us their personal breakdown cover didn’t cover cars hired in Europe.

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