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Sally Wilson

Sally is a key member of the MoneyMaxim editorial team. She is a frequent hire-car user and often goes on holiday with her family. With an interest in getting great value for money, Sally shares her hints and tips for travelling and insurance.

Do the Summer's Car Hire Scare Stories Reflect the Industry Fairly?

After a raft of horror stories from the Car Hire Industry - are they fair and what can you do to make sure you are protected?

Car Hire Horror Stories

Car Hire Horror Stories - this summer the press seems to be full of them. Are they a fair reflection of the industry? Should you consider avoiding car hire? And how can you protect yourself against sharp practice?

Inflated Repair Costs

This story hit the headlines in June as Trading Standards officers raided Europcar offices in an apparent aim to substantiate claims that they were billing customers at inflated rates for repair work. In particular it was reported that customers were being given a receipt from a windscreen repair firm suggesting that the cost was much higher than the figure subsequently charged to the firm when a second invoice was raised.

This case will no doubt take a year or two to reach the courts, but it does highlight the fact that car hirers are in a poor position when faced with a repair bill for their car hire. It is not as if a series of competing quotes can be obtained. Frequently the bill is presented and has to be paid in minutes.

From a hirer's point of view the solution is to protect yourself through an excess waiver or excess insurance policy. That way you are protected whether the amount you are charged is inflated or not. We summarise the difference between these policies below:

What is the difference between Excess Waiver and Excess Protection Policies?

PolicyProsCons
Car Hire Firms Excess Waiver

No Claim require - damage repaired without claim
Some Car Hire Firms allow the Car to be hired with taking a Credit Card Pre Authorisation

Expensive - Typically £10 - £25 per day
Often even more cover required to insure Tyres, Wheels, Underbody and Roof
Tend not to cover 'additional benefits' - Lost Key Cover, Late Arrival Cover, which some independent policies do

Independent Excess Protection Policies

Cheap - from around £1.80 a day in Europe, £2.30 Worldwide
Covers a wider set of risks, including Glass, Tyres Roof & Underbody

You need to pay the car hire company for the damage and then make a claim on your insurance policy
You will need to leave a deposit (normally a credit card pre-authorisation) which is often at a similar level to the excess limit

Whether or not your car hire firm is charging by the book or adding an exorbitant profit margin, you are liable for the amount of your excess - so take the sensible option and protect yourself against a potentially holiday wrecking bill.

Compare Car Hire Excess Insurance Policies to make sure you get a great deal.

Charging for repairs that are never carried out

This story appeared in the Daily Mail. The issue is that car hirers are charged for damage to the rental car they are hiring - but then the car hire company continue to hire it out without repairing the damage.

Providing the damage is relatively minor and doesn't impact on subsequent hirers, this does seem reasonable.

Firstly it keeps more cars on the road more of the time - this means less inconvenience to people who turn up to find they have to wait for a car until minor damage has been fixed. And keeping more cars on the road keeps rental costs lower.

Many hire firms now lease cars from car makers (think of a massive scale Personal Credit Plan (PCP) scheme), and either return the cars in good nick, or accept a lower figure for the car if it is returned with damage. Sometimes, particularly if the car is getting towards the end of its lease (which can be as short as 4 months), they will decide to either return the car damaged or have one 'garage session' just before it is returned.

Basically it seems reasonable that if the car is damaged and a charge for it is levied, then it's up to the car hire company to decide what they want to do. We can all sometimes do this with our own car if it's damaged by asking our car insurers to consider paying a "cash in lieu" payment instead of repairing our car.

We would stress that what is totally unacceptable is for the same damage to be charged for twice. Car hire excess insurers do watch out for this and can take legal action if such sharp practice is seen.

Once again having car hire excess insurance is a great way for hirers to protect themselves against bills - repaired or not.

Rising Excess Levels

Another Daily Mail story entitled Summer Car Hire Rip Off saw the rising levels of excess being highlighted.

However for most of us the falling pound has been the reason the excess we are responsible for has risen. Excesses, for the past few years have been uncomfortable levels - and that is the reason standalone excess insurance has become so popular. The idea we could face an unexpected bill of £1000 if someone steals our rental car is an idea that could ruin our memories of an otherwise fantastic break.

Now the Mail did find a luxury car in Portugal with an €8,000 excess -but again these have been around for years- if you are looking to hire a top end Mercedes, Lamborghini or Ferrari car hire firms do ask for a huge excess - probably to encourage you to take care of their rather expensive motor!

The the MoneyMaxim car hire excess insurance service excess insurance can be bought for cars valued up to £120,000 - and excesses covered up to £50,000 - so we can help in the vast majority of cases.

If you are renting a car that would cost over £50,000 check the drop down details for each policy as we detail which policies will cover what there.

So are they Fair?

Without doubt there is no fire without fuel - and in a business which has tens of thousands of offices around the world all with different local standards - there will always be rouge operators.

However in other areas the industry has been cleaning up practices that have in the past irritated users - the full to empty fuel policy that has caught so many of us out in the past has almost totally disappeared.

Personally I would hire without fear this Summer - but would always spend a few pounds on an Excess Insurance policy. Then I can explore the local area, create my own excursions, do what I want to do - all in the knowledge that if anything does happen I am protected.