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Susan Care

Susan works as editorial assistant and researcher on personal finance stories. She also writes on a number of breaking news stories, as well as offering great money saving tips to shopping-savvy consumers.

Watch out for car hire firms charging for a full tank

Car hire companies have different refuelling policies depending on the hire period. Don't get caught out paying for fuel you don't use.

Frank Barrett, travel correspondent for the Mail on Sunday recounts the poor experience of one of his readers, Steve Pellew-Harvey, who felt cheated by his car hire company.

Steve hired a car for seven days from Faro airport through a price comparison website. On collecting the car he saw the front page of the contract stated the fuel policy was pick up full, return with a full tank. However within the small print on the next page there was a different policy for hires of "6-days plus” being full to empty. Luckily he noticed this before the end of his hire period and didn't return the car full but was still irritated by the estimated €30 of fuel left in the car.

You almost have to admire the subtlety of the contract as a way of extracting additional income from their customers. Almost, but then taking into consideration the potential damage caused by souring the relationship with a customer, perhaps we'd all prefer an end to such underhand tactics for short term gain?

Mark Bower, MoneyMaxim's Managing Director said that the practice of different fuel policies on 3 day+ or 6 day+ is prevalent particularly in Spain and Portugal. ‘Our team are often asked to find rental agreements which have ‘full to full' fuel policies, and we are happy to do so, as we know which companies use this policy to their advantage and which don't. Whilst fuel policies are detailed on the companies car hire comparison service a quick call to the MoneyMaxim team can provide welcome reassurance.'

Collision damage waiver excesses (the bit you have to pay if you damage the car) vary considerably across Europe with Portugal, Italy and Ireland notably high, typically averaging over €1000 for a Ford Focus sized car. You can purchase additional insurance from the car hire company but these often leave some areas (windscreen, tyres, underbody and interior) without cover so consider saving money and getting better cover from one of our specialist car hire excess insurance policies.

Until the car hire industry universally adopts a more enlightened approach, the onus is on the customer to check the terms of the hire contract before confirming a booking. And if it's not easy to find the terms, ask yourself if you want to be dealing with a company that makes it difficult for you to find out exactly what you're paying for?