Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Hiring a car abroad - good things to know

I consider myself to be somewhat of an expert in foreign motoring after last year's epic family road trip across Europe.  We've driven across Europe and parts of the USA as a family and I like to think that we have learned the ins and outs, not just of motoring rules and cultures abroad, but of the costs of driving abroad.

This year we are making the first plans towards another family road trip in Europe and we have started investigating the costs of either driving to our holiday destination, or taking a fly-drive trip where we hire a car and drive for the last part of the journey.

All packed and ready to go for last year's road trip

In addition to the cost of flights, the cost of car hire is a big contributor to our decision about whether to drive or fly-drive.  While hiring a car on holiday doesn't have to cost the earth there are often a lot of hidden costs to consider such as additional insurance like collision-damage-waiver and the two million different alternatives that each car hire company offers.

Over the past year I've been increasingly hearing about car hire excess insurance as an alternative to the complicated options that many rental firms offer.  It makes sense really; very few of us buy our normal car insurance from the same place that we bought our car and yet when we go on holiday we automatically sign up to the extended insurance options that our rental firm offers even though they can be considerably more expensive than if we bought the insurance elsewhere.  Basically, car hire excess insurance offers you the option to pay a small additional insurance premium to cover the costs that the rental firm's basic (and normally inclusive) insurance doesn't.

One of the more mammoth cars that we have hired while on holiday abroad

OK, so how do I know what my holiday rental includes and doesn't?  Well it is important to read the small print even if you are booking your holiday car online.  Looking back on my policies for the past couple of years of holidays I can see that in most cases, if we hadn't taken out additional 'collision damage waiver' or 'loss damage waiver' then we could have been responsible for upto £1200 as an excess if the car were to be damaged or stolen (the highest was on a very smart Audi A6 we rented in France and I remember at the time shuddering to think how much it would cost if we dinked it).

For us, like many families who will be driving abroad this summer, it makes good sense to think carefully about the car insurance options for our trip.
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