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10 Car Hire Rip-offs And How To Avoid Them

Renting a car on whilst you're abroad can be a bit of a minefield - there are a tonne of companies and options to choose from, and it's hard to not feel like you are being set up to fail!

However, there are a few rip-offs that are particularly common in the car hire industry, and these can end up costing you a lot of not only money but also time if you're not careful.

What Is Car Rental?

Car rental, or car hire as it is sometimes called, is the process of hiring a vehicle for a short period of time – usually ranging from a few hours to a few weeks. a young woman who is sad in a car rental

This can be useful if you need a car for business purposes whilst you are away on a trip, or if you are going on holiday and need some form of transport to get around.

How does it work?

The process of renting a car is usually quite simple. You contact a rental company and let them know what sort of vehicle you need and when you need it for.

They will then give you a quote, and if you are happy with this you can go ahead and make a booking.

On the day that you are due to pick up the car, you will need to show the rental company your driving licence and proof of ID, as well as a credit or debit card in your name.

You will then be given the keys to the vehicle and away you go!

What are the most common rip-offs?

There are a few different ways that rental companies will try and rip you off, so it's important to be aware of these before you agree to anything.

1. Damage Waiver

One of the most common is what is known as a ‘damage waiver’ and is an optional extra that rental companies will try and sell you when you are picking up the car - it essentially means that if you damage the car whilst it is in your care, the rental company will cover the cost of repairs.

The problem with this is that it is usually incredibly expensive, and it is often not even necessary.

If you have your own car insurance policy, then it is likely that this will cover you for any damage that you do to a rental car.

It is always worth checking with your insurance provider before you agree to take out a damage waiver.

2. Booster Seats

Another common rip-off is booster seats for children. Rental companies will often try and charge you an extra fee for these, even though they are not actually required by law in most countries.

If you do need to use a booster seat for your child, then it is best to bring your own from home as it is likely to be much cheaper than renting one from the car hire company.

3. Fuel Charges

One of the biggest rip-offs that rental companies pull is overcharging for fuel.

They will often give you the option of returning the car with a full tank of petrol, or paying them to fill it up for you.

The problem with this is that they will almost always charge you significantly more than it would cost you to fill up the tank yourself.

It is always best to fill up the tank yourself before you return the car, as this will save you a lot of money in the long run.

4. Late Fees

Another way that rental companies will try and rip you off is by charging late fees for returning the car after your agreed rental period.

These fees can often be quite high, so it is important to make sure that you return the car on time.

If you think there is a chance that you might be late, then it is always best to contact the rental company in advance and let them know.

This way, they may be able to give you an extension on your rental period without charging any extra fees.

5. Insurance Charges

This one is a doozy: Rental companies will often try and sell you insurance when you are picking up the car.

This is usually not necessary, as your own car insurance policy will probably cover you for any damage that you do to a rental car.

It is always worth checking with your insurance provider before you agree to take out any additional insurance from the rental company.

Car Hire Insurance - Do You Need It?

  • You might be wondering, do I need insurance when renting a car? The answer is usually no - your regular car insurance should cover you. However, there are some exceptions to this rule. If you have a particularly high excess on your policy, or if you don't have comprehensive cover, then you might want to consider taking out insurance from the rental company. This is usually quite expensive, so it is always best to check with your own insurer first. Just beware that the rental company can make life difficult for you if you don't insure via them - they might not give you the car, or charge you additional fees to recoup some of the money lost.

Car Hire Excess Explained

  • The excess is the amount of money that you will have to pay if you damage the car whilst it is in your care. Your own car insurance policy will usually have an excess, and this is usually the same for rental car insurance. The excess can be quite high, so it is always best to check how much it is before you agree to anything.

6. GPS Charges

Another common rip-off is charging for the use of a GPS system. Rental companies will often try and sell you this as an optional extra, even though it is not actually necessary in most cases.

If you do need to use a GPS system, then it is best to bring your own from home as it is likely to be much cheaper than renting one from the car hire company.

7. Tolls and Parking Charges

Rental companies will often try and pass on any tolls or parking charges that you incur whilst using their car to you.

This is not actually necessary, as you are only responsible for paying these charges if you were the one who incurred them.

If you are unsure about whether or not you are liable for any charges, then it is best to check with the rental company before you agree to pay them.

8. Cleaning Charges

Another common rip-off is charging for cleaning the car before it is returned.

Rental companies will often try and sell you this as an optional extra, even though it is not actually necessary in most cases.

If you do need to have the car cleaned, then it is best to do it yourself as it is likely to be much cheaper than paying the rental company to do it for you.

9. Mileage Charges

Rental companies will often try and charge you extra for any mileage that you do over the agreed limit.

This is not actually necessary, as you are only responsible for paying for the mileage that you use.

If you are unsure about how much mileage you are allowed, then it is best to check with the rental company before you agree to pay any extra charges.

10. Credit Card Fees

One final way that rental companies will try and rip you off is by charging credit card fees.

Rental companies will often try and sell you this as an optional extra, even though it is not actually necessary in most cases.

If you do need to use a credit card, then it is best to bring your own from home as it is likely to be much cheaper than using the rental company's credit card.

Consumer Rights Car Rental

Now that you know about some of the most common car hire rip-offs, you might be wondering what your consumer rights are when it comes to renting a car.

The good news is that there are a few things that you can do to protect yourself from being ripped off.

The first thing that you should do is make sure that you read the small print before you agree to anything.

Familiarise yourself with any charges that the rental company might try and pass on to you.

If you are unsure about anything, then it is always best to check with the rental company before you agree to anything.

You have the right to cancel any contract within 14 days, so if you do change your mind then you can cancel without any penalties.

You should also make sure that you check the car before you drive it away - it allows you to spot any damage already evident on the car, meaning you can flag it with the rental company and avoid potential charges at a later stage.

It is also a good idea to take photos of the car before you drive it away, just in case there is any damage that you were not able to see at the time.

If you do have any problems with the car during your rental period, then you should contact the rental company as soon as possible.

This way, they will be able to help you solve the problem and they might even be able to offer you a refund.

Just remember that you are entitled to a full refund if the car is not fit for purpose - so don't be afraid to ask for one if you feel like you have been ripped off.

Refuse To Pay Rental Car Damage

One of the best ways to avoid being ripped off by a car rental company is to refuse to pay for any damage that you did not cause.

If the rental company tries to charge you for damage that was already present on the car when you rented it, then you should show them the photos that you took of the car before you drove it away.

If they still try and charge you, then you can always dispute the charges with your credit card company.

You need to have evidence to back up your claim, so make sure that you take plenty of photos of any damage before you drive the car away.

You should also make sure you know your rights when it comes to cancellations and changes to your rental agreement.

If the rental company tries to charge you for something that was not in the original agreement, then you can always dispute the charges.

Just remember that you will need to have a copy of the original agreement to back up your claim.

If you do find yourself in a situation where you feel like you have been ripped off, then it is always best to contact a consumer rights organisation for advice.

They will be able to help you dispute any charges and they might even be able to get your money back for you.

Keep in mind that you need to have evidence to back up your claim, so make sure that you keep all of your receipts and paperwork safe.

FAQ's:

How can I reduce the cost of car rental?

There are a few things that you can do to reduce the cost of car rental. The first thing that you should do is shop around and compare prices from different companies. You can also look for special offers and discounts, such as early booking discounts or loyalty scheme discounts. Another way to save money is to choose a smaller or less popular car, as these will usually be cheaper to rent.

Related: The Top 13 Price Comparison Websites

Why is it so expensive to drop off a rental car at a different location?

The main reason that it is so expensive to drop off a rental car at a different location is because the rental company has to transport the car back to its original location. This can often be quite costly, especially if the location is far away. Another reason for the high cost is that it can be quite disruptive for the rental company, as they will usually have to rearrange their fleet in order to accommodate the returned car.

Do rental car prices change?

Rental car prices can change depending on a number of factors. The time of year is often a big factor, as prices will usually be higher in the summer months than in the winter. Another factor that can affect prices is demand, so if there is a lot of demand for rental cars then the prices are likely to be higher. Lastly, location can also play a role in pricing, as renting a car in a major city is usually more expensive than renting one in a smaller town or village.

Wrapping Up:

Car rental can be a great way to save money on your holiday, but it's important to be aware of the different ways that you can be ripped off by rental companies.

By refusing to pay for damage that you didn't cause and knowing your rights when it comes to cancellations and changes, you can reduce the chances of being scammed by a rental company. 

It's also important to shop around and compare prices from different companies, as this will help you find the best deal possible.

Lastly, remember to keep all of your receipts and paperwork safe in case you need to dispute any charges with the rental company.

By following these simple guidelines, you can ensure that you enjoy a trouble-free holiday and don't get taken for a ride by unscrupulous rental companies.

Have we missed anything? If so, please let us know in the comments below! And finally, don't forget to share this article with your friends and family - they'll be sure to appreciate it.

Happy travels!

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