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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.
Whether you are driving your own car or hiring a vehicle in the UK, Europe or elsewhere in the world this winter, it's a good idea to plan ahead to keep you and your family safe whilst on your travels. Taking out independent car hire excess insurance when you hire a car can give you extra peace of mind.
You don't have to be driving in the mountains for winter weather conditions to be an issue. Snow and ice can be treacherous on motorways and when driving through city streets, particularly when roads are unfamiliar. Knowing how to handle a car in these circumstances can prevent accidents and being prepared can make all the difference to your driving experience.
Always check weather reports before you set off and, if the advice is not to travel, then delay your journey. Your safety should always come first.
Allow extra time - Car travel, especially long distances, can be stressful in any weather but allowing extra time for unfavourable weather conditions will make for a happier drive. You will need a few minutes to warm up the car and to make sure the windscreen is defrosted before you even set off. Check the levels of anti-freeze in the radiator and windscreen washer. Make sure that all the lights and windscreen wipers are working and you have plenty of fuel. If it is a hire car, check everything before you set off. Expect your travelling time to be longer so set out earlier if necessary and always have an alternative route planned.
Stock up your car with a few essential supplies - Winter driving can mean spending longer in the car than expected so make sure you have everything you might need in an emergency. Food such as cereal bars and chocolate to keep your energy levels up if you do get stuck or breakdown, a shovel, a rug, warm clothes and drinks, especially water. A mobile phone car charger will ensure you can keep in contact. Make sure you have any emergency telephone numbers at hand if you are renting a car, such as the car hire company and the police. Your hire car may not be provided with all the equipment you need in an emergency such as a warning triangle so have a look before you set off. Snow chains can often be hired for an extra fee.
Follow local advice - Road closure signs and other warning notices are there for good reason. Don't ignore them. When you can, use the major routes rather than smaller roads as the authorities will tend to get around to gritting those first. Find out the general rules of the road if you are driving in a foreign country. For example, in Austria winter tyres are compulsory between the months of November and April and it is the driver's responsibility (not the car owner's) to check these are on the car so ensure they are fitted before you drive away with your hire car.
Safety first - Keep your driving slow and steady. Snow and ice on the road is never a time to be rushing. If you find you have someone behind you who is less patient and driving that bit too close for comfort, don't be tempted to speed up. Let them pass - if necessary by finding a safe place to pull over. If you do have an accident, don't panic. In the UK you can contact either your own breakdown company or a local firm if you have no cover. Some of the larger companies will offer immediate cover. Call the police if your car is in a position which may put yourselves or others in danger. When driving a hire car, contact your rental company for guidance.
If you are involved in an incident in your hire car, you are likely to be liable for an excess on any damage. Policies through the MoneyMaxim Car Hire Excess Insurance Comparison Service will mean you are not left with a hefty bill at the end of your trip. Driving on gritted roads can also leave you more susceptible to chipped windscreens and most of these policies will also cover this type of damage.