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Best car hire insurance £140 a week cheaper than rip off rental-desk rates

Online policy for just £23 per week is more comprehensive than overpriced Avis, Europcar and Enterprise cover.

The insurance sold by major car hire companies offers inferior cover at seven times the price of specialist online insurers, Which? Travel has found.

Which? insurance experts rated the excess reimbursement policies of 20 third-party providers, against the most comprehensive excess waivers sold by major car hire companies in Spain, such as Avis, Budget and Goldcar, and found that Chew Insurance (£23 per week) with a policy score of 76% and Questor Insurance (£24 per week) with a policy score of 73%, were the best. 

On average, third-party insurance costs just £23 per week. By contrast the car hire providers’ own insurance received a policy score ranging from 46% to 68% and was priced at an eye-watering £165 per week, on average.

The least comprehensive policies were from Avis and Budget (£168) with a dismal policy score of 46%. Europcar’s ‘Premium Protection’ policy was better, with a policy score of 68%, but it costs a whopping £205 per week.

Don’t get ripped off. See our full table of the best car hire insurance

What car hire insurance do I need?

Hire cars in Europe come with basic insurance included in the price, so you don’t have to pay the full cost of replacing a stolen or damaged vehicle. But you do have to pay an excess of up to £2,500.

To reduce this excess, often to £0, car hire companies offer you an excess waiver, which means you would pay nothing in the event of a claim. But these waivers are expensive and full of holes.

For example, Alamo’s standard cover excludes tyres, windscreen and underbody cover. If any of these were damaged, you’d still have to pay. 

Which? recommends using an independent insurer that does include this as standard. The top-rated online insurers also cover curtailment - the costs incurred if your trip is cut short - which has become increasingly important during this period of travel disruption, personal possessions, misfuelling, and the cost of getting towed. 

None of the car rental firms’ expensive policies cover all of this.

The only disadvantage of independent insurance is that you’ll likely be asked for a large deposit. This is returned to you if the hire is incident free. But in the event of an accident, charges will be deducted by the rental company. You would then have to claim these back on your insurance. 

Why are car hire companies' insurance policies so expensive?

Car hire is very competitive and the major rental companies compete on the headline price on comparison sites. They make their money from the extras that they sell, like insurance. Car hire companies are also keen to recoup some of the losses of Covid and several years of disrupted travel. 

Some unscrupulous car hire companies are so desperate to sell you their extras, that Which? has found they resort to pressure selling tactics.

The lowest price from a car hire company that we found, for a week's insurance in Spain, was from Enterprise at £110 per week. Avis, Alamo, Budget, Goldcar and Europcar's policies were all pricier. 

By comparison, we found that you can buy an entire year's cover from an online insurance company for £47, on average.