13 Insider Tips for Car Rental Savings
Getting a cheap car rental is not just about finding the lowest basic rate: Depending on your preferences, needs, and usage, you could end up paying far more than you need to for your car hire. Read our guide for a baker’s dozen of tips on securing the cheapest car hire package to suit you:
Use a comparison site
The best way to ensure that you are getting exactly what you need is to use a comparison website to search for a rental car for your specific location and dates. You will be presented with a range of options, which you can compare based on what you need.
Nova Car Hire uses a network of hundreds of different suppliers in 26,000 locations worldwide, so you have access to a wide selection of providers. Don’t just compare the basic rate: Look for additional charges for child seats, extra drivers, mileage, insurance, fuel etc. The best-value package is not always the one with the lowest base rate.
Nobody wants their inbox filling up with junk, but car hire companies and brokers like Nova Car Hire send out regular newsletters offering savings in different locations. Bonuses include sweeteners such as a free additional driver, a reduced deposit, or a discount on the car hire rate.
You can save literally hundreds of euros if you book your car rental in advance. Savings are not as substantial during peak season, but if you are renting a car off peak, you could end up paying just a few euro per day if you reserve weeks beforehand. Start looking as soon as you know your travel dates.
Choose your car class carefully
Rental rates largely depend on the size and engine capacity of the car, so go for the smallest car that fits your needs. The smallest car is not always the cheapest, however, as demand may dictate that an estate car may be cheaper than a standard hatchback, for example, in an urban driving situation.
When you receive a quote from Nova Car Hire, you will be presented with a series of choices. Before you pick your vehicle, look in the Fuel section of What’s Included? Many companies operate a Full to Full policy, which means that the car is supplied with a full tank of fuel and you will pay a refuelling charge plus the cost of the missing fuel if you return the car without a full tank. Others operate a Full to Empty policy, and you may not receive a refund for unused fuel. The most economical option for you is Same to Same, so you only pay for the fuel you use.
Check mileage policy
Many, but not all, car hire companies offer unlimited mileage. If you plan on covering a lot of distance on your trip, make sure your rental covers unrestricted mileage, or you could pay dearly.
With limited mileage car rental, companies charge a basic rate for each rental day and add a fee for each additional mile/km that you drive over the set allowance.
Decide if you need an additional driver
Prices vary hugely for additional drivers, with rates being charged per day. For certain locations, some car hire companies will actually offer a free extra driver, so compare before you choose. If you are not going to cover huge distances, you may only need one driver anyway.
Child/infant/booster seats are compulsory in Europe, and car hire companies charge wildly different rates to supply them, so compare before you book (cheapcarhire2 image). Some airports have outlets where you can rent car seats for less. These include Malaga’s Tots Store. You also have the option of bringing your own.
A reasonable car hire quote can quickly become very unreasonable indeed if you have to add on €10 per day for sat-nav. Instead of hiring a GPS device with your rental car, consider downloading a free app like NavFree. Or you could just bring your own sat-nav, particularly if you’ve already visited the country and downloaded the maps.
Take out annual car hire excess insurance
As a rough rule of thumb, if you book car hire more than once a year, you’re better off getting an annual excess insurance policy with a company such as insurance4carhire.com.
Typically, if you’re going away for more than two weeks, an annual policy will also be cheaper in this instance, though sometimes this will depend on the company.
Note: One thing you must bear in mind if you don’t take out the car rental company’s excess insurance is that they will almost always freeze a certain amount on your credit card as a deposit against any possible damage. The amount varies according to the company and the class of car you rent, but it can range from €100 to several thousand euro, so make sure your credit card limit will cover the amount.
Avoid unnecessary charges
Car hire companies will charge you for any mistakes you make, so the logical step is to avoid any problems before they occur. Don’t put diesel into a petrol car, for example. Make sure you abide by local laws so that you don’t invalidate your insurance. Take photos of the car before you drive off, and note even the most minor damage in the form provided by the car rental company, so that you have back-up should there be any dispute later.
If the car is returned in an excessively dirty state, the company will charge for cleaning. This is particularly worth noting if you have small children in the car. Think twice before doling out chocolate or ice cream as drive-time treats…
Return the car on time
Most car hire companies offer no more than 30 minutes’ grace before charging an entire extra day’s rental if the car is returned late. Make sure all paperwork is completed there and then to safeguard against later hassle, and keep the documentation in a safe place.
Check your account when you return home
Make sure no unexpected additional charges have been added to your bill and that any deposit has been returned. This is where the photos and paperwork you’ve stored come in handy should there be any discrepancies.