So the holiday is booked – now you turn your attention to car hire. That’s easy, surely it’s best just to go direct to the website of one of the big names such as Hertz or Europcar? Not necessarily. Here are our Imagine Roussillon tips for getting a good deal.
Use a Comparison Website
Just as you find comparison sites for car insurance and so on, the same exists for car hire. There are various of these, such as kayak.co.uk and www.rentalcars.com These will give you the best headline price for your dates and location. Make sure that you also get hold of details of costs for any extras that you may require, such as sat nav and child seats as these can really add quite a lot to your total.
We all dread that moment where the assistant at the car hire desk tries to scare us into buying extremely expensive collision insurance. The way to avoid this is to buy your own independent car hire excess policy online in advance. icarhireinsurance.com and insurance4carhire.com are examples of such sites. Buying such a policy beforehand can save you a substantial amount of money and if you take out an annual policy it will remain valid if you take another holiday within the year.
Be aware, though, that the staff member at the car hire counter will still try to sell you insurance even when you have your own! They will tell you that you will still be out of pocket or that your own insurance won’t cover breakdowns. Ultimately, you can research all of this in advance so that you arrive prepared. There’s nothing worse than having to face all this nonsense late at night without all the relevant information to hand.
Rent at the Airport?
This is generally a bad idea – at worst you will get no car at all in peak periods. You will always pay considerably more on the day than if you rent in advance, so this is to be avoided.
A favourite trick of some car hire companies is to ask you to return the car with an empty tank (which of course is nearly impossible). They then re-sell the fuel you have kindly paid for to their next customer, making a tidy profit. Look for companies that do not use this technique. travel supermarket.com has an option to let you filter out companies who try to scam you on fuel use.
If you are travelling to southern France, it may sometimes be cheaper to fly into Spain (Girona, Barcelona) and hire a car there. Spanish car hire is often far less costly than in France. But… make sure that the company will let you take the car into France, as some will slap on a compulsory extra insurance. Also check what facilities will be available should you break down – sometimes the French version of a company doesn’t like dealing with its Spanish counterpart!
Car seats – be aware that you will be most likely offered a poor-quality child seat and will have to fit it by yourself. This always happens late at night when the kids are screaming and you really want to get on your way! It’s a good idea to bring booster seats if your children are old enough, or at least practise threading a car seat at home before you leave.
Finally, thoroughly check the vehicle and make sure you mark down any damage (and take photos) on the company’s control sheet before you drive away. They will often tell you that it isn’t necessary but it most definitely is! Many a time we have been told that our hire car is brand new, only to discover lots of scratches and little dents – always check it yourself then go back into the office to ensure they sign off the damage.