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Cars & travel.

Updated: 26 May 2021

How to save on car hire

Expensive car rental driving you round the bend? Here's how to slam the brakes on your spending
Which?Editorial team
Car hire 476725

Never pay over the odds for car hire again. We reveal the best shortcuts so you're not caught out by pricey extras and penalty fees.

Book early and use a trusted broker

Most car rental discounts, including cheaper prepay rates, will be up for grabs early. Where possible, start looking at least two months before you travel. Using a trusted car hire broker will help you compare prices and access special negotiated deals. Be mindful that it’s often a risky business to choose a firm solely on price. Find out who you can trust with our best and worst car hire companies

Check the fuel policy

A full-to-empty fuel policy, sometimes known as ‘pre-purchase’, will bump up the price of your rental. It’s touted as convenient, because you won’t have to find a petrol station before returning the car, but you’ll pay through the nose for a full tank. It’s far smarter to opt for full-to-full (where you pick up and return the vehicle with a full tank). However, even this isn’t without its pitfalls. Forget to refill and you could face a hefty fine – up to €50 with Goldcar.

Find your own insurance

Don’t be talked into panic-buying excess insurance (or super-collision-damage waiver) at the kiosk. If you purchase standalone insurance your hire company will insist on an eye-watering deposit and you’ll still have to pay the excess if you have an accident, but you can claim this back from your insurer later. If you’re partial to a driving holiday, consider annual excess cover – around £40 for Europe or £50 worldwide. Alternatively, Zest offers excess insurance as standard. Our guide on finding the best car hire insurance will help. 

Avoid extras

Adding extras, such as sat nav, at the checkout will send your car hire costs soaring. Instead, download free app Navmii or Here WeGo, which can access maps offline for more than a hundred countries. Cleverly, they use your phone’s built-in GPS to locate you rather than eating up your data. The same applies for car seats. Instead consider bringing your own – both BA and Easyjet allow you to carry one for free – or hire one at the airport for a fraction of the price. Additional drivers are another frustrating expense, unless you’ve done your homework. Also check your contract includes unlimited mileage.

Choose off-airport hire

Picking up your vehicle from the airport is convenient, but car hire companies pay taxes to be there – increasing the price of your rental. Off-site offices are cheaper, and many offer a free shuttle service.

Three steps to save on car hire

In June, a week’s car hire in Mallorca was £611 with Hertz – including zero excess insurance and a sat nav. However, by following these three steps, we brought the price down to £289 for the same vehicle – a 53% saving.

1. Book and pay early

  • Reserve online and pay the full amount before you reach the kiosk 
  • Saving: £44 

2. Ditch the satnav

  • Download free navigation app Navmii instead 
  • Saving: £108 

3. Avoid excess waiver cover 

  • Standalone insurance will save you money 
  • Saving: £170