Car hire tips to save you money
Don’t get taken for a ride when you hire a car overseas. When the guy at the car hire counter asks if you want insurance, do you know the right answer? If not, this simple mistake could cost you $20,000 or more. These essential car hire tips will save you money and explain why photographing your ride is essential (no, it’s not for Instagram).
Check you are insured
Car hire insurance inclusions vary significantly overseas. European hire includes Collision Damage Waiver (CDW), which means you only pay the excess (this is the same as Australia). However, in the United States insurance such as CDW is not included. This means you could be liable for the cost of the entire vehicle in the event of an accident. Australian car hire agencies such as DriveAway Holidays usually include standard insurance such as CDW.
Think twice before paying extra to lower your excess
When you arrive to collect your car, the person at the counter will almost certainly offer the option to pay an additional daily charge to lower the (eyewatering) excess. This charge reduces the amount you pay in the event of an accident. Your travel insurance and/or some credit cards may already cover this so don’t simply assume you should say ‘yes’. Check if you are already covered before you leave home, it could save you hundreds.
Do you really need that International Drivers Permit?
Some countries require an International Driving Permit (IDP) in addition to your regular Australian driver’s license. It is unlikely a car hire company will ask to see it but if you get pulled over in Italy, for example, you could get fined by police if you don’t have an IDP. Check your state’s Australian Automobile Association (AAA) website for which countries require an IDP. If you need one, it can be obtained for between $25 and $50 from your AAA.
Join the loyalty club
It costs extra for some services when hiring a car overseas. One way to avoid these charges is to check if they are covered by the company’s loyalty scheme. For example, Hertz will waive the additional driver fee for loyalty program members in some countries. These programs cost nothing to join and include extra benefits such as 10% off standard rates and complimentary upgrades.
Take photos at pick up and drop off
Even if your hire car isn’t Insta-worthy, you should take photos at pick up and drop off. These can be used to verify existing damage so you don’t get charged for repairing things that weren’t your fault. Scratches and dings will be marked on a paper form showing a drawing of a car. Take the time to go through this carefully. Add any damage which may have been missed by the car rental agent to avoid problems at drop off.
Get help with directions
Hiring a GPS can cost upwards of $20 per day. It can be more economical to buy a cheap unit at your destination (these can be programmed for English). GPS smartphone apps which work online and offline are also available. Many of these are free to download. Paper road maps are can be purchased at service stations and – unlike a smartphone or GPS – don’t require a satellite connection. Consider buying one as a backup, you’ll be glad you did.
Disclosure: Years ago the writer refused the offer of insurance at a car hire counter in America because she thought she was already covered. She still thanks her lucky stars that the car was returned damage free or it would have been a VERY expensive trip.