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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.

Sally Wilson is one of our Team of Experts

How to be Prepared at the Car Hire Desk

Are you worried about what happens when you get to the car rental counter?

car hire desk key handover to customer

We get many customers who have concerns about what may happen when they get to the car hire desk. Those worries can be about whether there will be any additional charges, dealing with pushy sales staff or, in fact, whether they are going to have any problems collecting the car at all!

In the vast number of cases, picking up a rental car goes without a hitch but, of course, horror stories travel fast so it is natural that car rental customers want to make sure their car rental collection goes as smoothly as possible. At MoneyMaxim we are always looking to make car hire as straightforward as possible for our customers.

Here we give you some tips to help put you at ease about the whole process.

Have All Your Documents Ready

Read your car hire documents carefully as soon as you have booked. This will give you the greatest opportunity to make sure that all the paperwork is in order before you reach the desk.

Driving Licence

You may be surprised how many people get to the car hire counter and discover their driving licence is out of date. They need to be renewed every ten years so check yours in plenty of time. If you have a driving licence which is not in Roman characters then you may be required to get an International Licence.

Hiring a car in the UK? If you are a UK resident and hiring in the UK you may need to bring additional forms of ID or proof of address.

Some companies may ask for you to 'Share your licence' which allows them to check for any endorsements. This is so easy to do and costs nothing so well worth doing any way so you have the code if needed.

Credit Card

The rental counter will normally ask for a credit card to use to enable them to put a hold on funds to cover either the excess amount , a security deposit, a fuel deposit or a combination of these. You will need to make sure you have enough funds available and that the credit card is valid and in the name of the lead driver on the car rental agreement. If you do not have a credit card then there are car rental companies who are happy to hire to debit card holders.

They will also want to hold these details in case there are any post rental issues such as speeding fines or congestion charge infringements coming to light.

Your Car Hire Details

Print out your car hire documents. You may be able to show them on your phone but if your phone runs out of charge or you have WiFi issues then having a paper copy can save a headache. Ensure you have a contact number for the car hire desk too. It will be on your voucher.

Remember if your flight is delayed or you are running late for any other reason you must let the car hire desk know. Speak directly to the desk or car hire company - not the broker if you have used one as that speeds up the information flow.

If you arrive late and you have not advised the desk then your car may be allocated to someone else as they think you are a no-show. Don't wait until you land and don't presume that because they have your flight number that it will be OK.

The Insurance Questions

One of the concerns we hear from our customers is about what additional products the car hire firm may try and sell at the desk.

Do I Need to Take Out Their Insurance?

Normally you will find that you have the main insurances of Collision Damage Waiver, Theft Protection and Third party (Liability) insurance when you hire a car.

The car hire company may offer you their 'Excess Reduction' option. For most hirers they can choose to decline it but there are circumstances where the company can insist. These include:

  • Younger or more senior drivers
  • If you do not have a credit card
  • If you are hiring a luxury car

If you do not fall into any of these categories and you do not wish to add extra cover but the customer services assistant at the desk is persistent then you can always ask them to show you where on the contract it says you have to buy their additional insurance. We would stress that it rarely gets to this stage and in most cases just saying no will suffice.

Other options such as 'Wheel and Glass Cover' or 'Extended Roadside Assistance' are not compulsory and need not be taken unless you feel they would benefit you.

Car hire Excess Insurance

If you have chosen to take out a separate car hire excess insurance policy then this can give you the reassurance that should you be charged for the excess you are liable for you can claim it back. These excess policies have nothing to do with the car hire firm. They cover you and not the car. You do not have to show them your policy and neither does the rental firm have to 'accept' it

Check Your Bill Before Signing

Before you sign for the car, make sure you understand what is on your bill. Take your time and don't feel rushed - even if there is a queue behind you! If there are additional charges that you weren't expecting then query them before you sign.

There are some charges which may only be payable at the desk. Examples are:

  • Additional Driver fees
  • Young drivers fees (including for additional drivers)
  • Child car seats/ GPS hire
  • Toll Transponder hire
  • Cross Border fees
  • Out of hours fees

If you have booked through a UK company then mandatory charges such as Young driver fees will be charged when you book as long as the rental company are made aware. Once you have signed the document, it would appear that you have read and agreed to the conditions.

Will I be Charged When I Return the Car?

  • When you get back to the desk at the end of your hire, you can expect the car hire company to check the car over for damage. Your excess or security deposit hold will be removed minus any charges for repairs.
  • Fill up your car before you return if you have a full to full fuel policy otherwise you could be charged not just for the missing fuel but also an additional payment because they have had to fill it!
  • Leave enough time to get the car back on time otherwise you will almost certainly have to pay extra for a late return.
  • If you used a toll transponder then toll charges will be taken and some of these can be applied after you are back home as it takes 48 hours for them to show up on the toll system.
  • Parking and road fines can also either be charged at the desk or after your return home depending when they occurred and processing these can also incur an admin fee from the car rental firm. It is a good idea to understand driving rules and parking restrictions where you are hiring before you go to avoid these!

Image courtesy of: Pixabay