When you hire a car, it comes with basic insurance included in the price so that you won’t have to pay the full cost of replacing a stolen or damaged vehicle.
But the basic insurance is subject to an ‘excess’ meaning that you could have to pay a contribution of up to £2,500 towards repair or theft costs, regardless of who is at fault. To make sure you don't have to pay through the nose, you need car hire insurance.
You have two options:
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Excess insurance (ERI) from a third party insurer is normally far cheaper, and often more comprehensive than the cover offered by car hire companies. You can buy a daily or annual policy. But which of the many third party ERI policies should you buy? Our table rates the best and worst policies available.
|Insurer||Policy score||1 week premium (Spain)||Premium for annual policy (Europe)||Annual policy trip length||Policy limit per claim||Tyres, windscreen and underbody cover||Misfuelling cover||Key cover|
|76%||£22.54||£60.13||65 days 1||£10,000||Yes||£1,000||£500|
|73%||£23.92||£44.98||62 days 1||£10,000||Yes||£500||£500|
|73%||£41.28||N/A||N/A||Full value||Yes||Not covered||Full value|
|71%||£16.64||£48.99||62 days 1||£7,000||Yes||£500||£500|
|71%||£12.00||£35.74||62 days 1||£7,500||Yes||£500||£500|
|67%||£18.48||£37.99||62 days||£7,500||Yes||Full value||Full value|
Car hire companies sell Super Collision Damage Waiver (SCDW), allowing you to reduce your excess to a very small amount, often zero. This cover has many different names, including Excess Waiver, Super Cover and Excess Protection. But it’s expensive.
Our table below shows quotes we obtained from a selection of major car hire companies. The SCDW covers a week’s rental in Spain. We got quotes for the most comprehensive policy available.
Our research shows it's just not worth buying your insurance from the car hire provider. Not only does SCDW cost £142 more on average than third party cover, but it also offers less comprehensive cover.
All of the top ERI providers cover you for damage to the windscreen, tyres and underbody of the car. Most also cover you if you're locked out, put the wrong fuel in the car, or are forced to cut short your hire. None of the car-hire companies cover all of this.
The only real advantage of paying the car hire company for SCDW is that the company will not require a large pre-authorisation on your credit card. Pre-authorisations can be as high as €2,500 with some of the budget operators.
|Car hire company||Policy score||SCDW cost for a week||Policy limit per claim||Tyres (T), windscreen (W) and underbody (U) cover||Locked out cover||Misfuelling cover||Key cover||Stolen personal effects||Curtailment|
|Europcar - Premium Protection Cover||68%||£205.28||Full value||T,W & U||Yes||Not covered||Optional||Optional||Not covered|
|Enterprise - Excess Protection||51%||£110.53||Full value||Optional||Optional||Not covered||Optional||Optional||Not covered|
|Alamo - Excess Protection||51%||£164.37||Full value||Optional||Optional||Not covered||Optional||Optional||Not covered|
|Goldcar - Mega Relax Cover||51%||£177.23||Full value||T,W & U||Yes||Amount of cover varies||Full value||Not covered||Not covered|
|Budget -Vehicle Cover Plus||46%||£168.00||Full value||T,W & U||Yes||Not covered||Not covered||£2,100||Not covered|
|Avis - Vehicle Cover Plus||46%||£168.00||Full value||T,W & U||Yes||Not covered||Not covered||£2,100||Not covered|
|Using the table: We obtained quotes for a week's car rental from Malaga airport in June 2022. We selected the most comprehensive super collision damage waiver (SCDW) available.|
When you hire a car in Europe, you are not required to buy any additional insurance. Basic insurance is, by law, included in the rental. So you will never be liable for the entire value of the car, even if it's stolen, set on fire, or written off.
But that doesn't stop some car hire companies from pressure selling their policies. Some aim to frighten you into a purchase with lies and bullying. You can see these unscrupulous tactics in our . But pressure selling is illegal.
To withstand the pressure from pushy agents we recommend that you buy your own excess reimbursement policy from one of the third-party insurance providers above, then just say no at the rental desk. Explain that you don't want any extra cover and that you understand the need to pay up to the excess limit if you damage the car (safe in the knowledge that you can claim it back).
Some people like to print out their own ERI policy to show the rental company. But we found that this can open you up to the hard sell - as agents can (very convincingly) pick holes in your policy that don't really exist. It's better to leave your policy at home.
In June 2022 we calculated the policy scores by rating the 16 most important elements of the policy, including tyres, windscreen and underbody cover, flat battery cover, admin charges, car jacking, towing cover, personal accident cover and more.