How to save money on Car Hire


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Hello everyone! We at the Wilderness are just back from holiday again, and I wanted to share some tips from my research on how to save money on car hire when on holiday.

We needed a car as were in the stunning Black Forest in Germany, a part of the world I’d really recommend for it’s beautiful hiking trails. Usually, our biggest moneysaving tip is to use public transport where possible – but where we were staying it was necessary.

On to those car hire tips!

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Save money on car hire with comparison sites (with a caveat)

The first tip is as with many financial products, comparison sites can really be your friend in allowing you to access a wide amount of car hire options quickly.

There are a numbers out there – I can personally attest to having good experiences with Holiday Autos – a nice bonus with booking via them is that you also get free cancellation.

This can be beneficial in a couple of ways – obviously you get your money back if your plans change, but as car hire prices actually came down this year, I was able to cancel by booking and rebook at a lower price.

Other good options include Expedia, and Kayak.

Should I go with the cheapest car hire found on a comparison site?

However, whilst we’d advocate using comparison sites, we do not recommend always going with the cheapest option. The comparison sites simply pair you up with a mainstream car hire provider, and you absolutely want to check who this is.

The reason for this is that certain providers have some really awful practices, pushing extras on to you or taking a very aggressive approach on extra charges/minor damage issues. Beyond causing stress, these can leave you out of pocket more than a slightly more expensive provider.

So go with someone reputable and known – there’s an excellent Which guide to satisfaction with car hire providers, and you’ll see a number of names that are frequently found at the cheapest end of car hire have very poor ratings.

(Another reason we like Holiday Autos is they show details of the end hire companies ratings).

A screenshot of saving money on car hire with holiday autos

What else should I consider with car hire comparison?

In terminal or offsite?

Make sure you consider if the car pick up is in terminal or offsite.

Offsite means you’ll often need to get a shuttle bus to a campus to collect a car – you’ll usually get a cheaper deal if you select this, but it can take quite a bit of time to pick up so consider if it’s worth it to you.

Fuel policy

It’s very rare for a fuel policy not to be full-to-full (you collect the car full and you return it full) but just double check it. You don’t want to leave your refuelling in the hands of the car-hire provider as they’ll charge you a premium for it – when returning the car it’s worth doing a bit of research to ensure you’re passing a petrol station en route.

Manual or Automatic?

An automatic can be more comfortable when driving abroad but if you can drive a manual, it’s often significantly better value. (I also often find I book a manual hire car but get given an automatic, but you can’t rely on this).

Save money on car hire by considering extras carefully

When you’ve selected your car, you’ll usually be asked if you need some extras. Have a think about these and if you really need them.

For instance, one common one is a GPS device, but they’re usually fairly expensive. If you mobile contract includes data roaming, it may be worth using Google Maps to navigate instead and bringing a battery pack for your phone.

(In practice, I have found that even when I haven’t paid for GPS, a lot of the more modern cars actually have it already built in, so I’d be paying for nothing!)

Save money on car hire by arranging excess insurance in advance

Car Hire companies will often try and sell you add-on insurance in case of a collision. The reason for this is that whilst your hire car should come with basic insurance as standard, the default insurance excess (the amount you have to contribute in case of an accident) is usually quite high, in the region of £1000.

Excess insurance covers you against paying all of this amount. When you’re at the desk signing your rental agreement, car hire companies will often try and encourage you into getting theirs, playing on the fact you may be worried about the uncertainties of driving in a foreign country.

However, what the car hire companies offer you in their own excess insurance is often poor value for money. We recommend arranging your own excess insurance in advance to cover you for the period.

I’ve personally used Eversure, but some other names to look at in the space that come up with good scores from Which include Chew Insurance and Questor Insurance.

(Note: Some car hire companies have been known to attempt to convince people getting your own policy won’t be considered valid so you should get theirs as well – this simply isn’t true).

Save money on car hire with loyalty schemes

If you’re just hiring a car occasionally the car comparison sites are likely your best friends, but if hiring a car frequently you may get better value booking directly with one of the car hire majors and registering for their loyalty scheme.

It’s worth signing up even for the basic tier as they’ll usually give a slightly better price for members anyhow, but perks often include free days rentals or complimentary upgrades after your first few hires.

We did a few review of Europcar’s loyalty scheme here, but other big names Sixt, Avis and Hertz also have loyalty schemes on offer.

Save money by checking for tie-in offers on credit cards or bank accounts

Some credit card programmes such as American Express (check out our review of the best reward credit cards here), or accounts linked to debit cards with a cashback programme like Virgin Money Back often feature the major car hire providers in their offers.

Worth checking as sometimes this “extra” cashback can also result in the booking simply being the cheapest option.

Waterfall in the Black Forest, travelled to after saving money on car hire

Got any other tips to save money on hire cars?

If you’ve got any other tips to save money on hire cars we’d love to hear from you! Just drop us a note in the comments below.

Looking to save money on your holiday?

We’ve got a great guide here on my tips for getting a great value holiday that may be of interest!

And that’s it!

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