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5 important points to remember when you hire a car, van or motorhome By Philip Suter

Renting a vehicle is normally very straightforward. You make the arrangements online, by phone or in person, however sometimes there can be unforeseen problems so the following will be of help.


When you book your car (van or motorhome), most people do this on line using a car hire company direct or one of the car hire brokers like Holiday Autos. You should keep a copy of all the details including the price quoted if booking on line. A lot of people also take out cancellation insurance at this point. You might also be persuaded to buy the vehicle hire company's excess insurance. This tends to be quite expensive and for car hire if you are renting several times a year it can make more sense to take out an annual policy. Sites like have a lot of insurance companies advertising excess insurance for car hire, van hire and motorhome hire rental.

You arrive at your destination to collect the vehicle. With cars and motorhomes this will often involve a flight and you could be rather exhausted. Before you collect the vehicle the vehicle hire company will try and sell you excess insurance again. If you have already bought it separately make sure you decline this and don't sign for this. Unfortunately occasionally a company is too anxious to sell at the point of collection and last year in Dublin, Ireland my wife declined the insurance when she rented a car from an Irish car hire company. They ignored her, added it to the credit card bill and refused to refund when it was spotted on the credit card statement "saying she signed for it".

Check the vehicle over for any damage that has not been noted and report it to the check in desk. Sometimes this can be difficult, you are at a strange airport after a long flight, you are tired it is dark and raining and you want to get going. Make the effort and retain the paperwork and if you are really concerned take a photo. Most people have cameras in their mobile phones these days. If emergency equipment is the law of the country - warning triangles, reflective jackets, fire extinguishers etc make sure these are in the vehicle.

When you return the vehicle retain the sign off paperwork and make sure you have filled it up with fuel. It is normally a lot better to do this yourself as otherwise you will be paying the vehicle hire company an administration charge. Keep the receipt as well, the car hire company might want proof that the correct fuel is in the vehicle. Diesel in an unleaded vehicle for example. Vehicles are normally clearly marked, however if your personal car takes unleaded petrol and you rent a diesel and you are in a hurry to get to your plane, you might put the wrong product in by mistake. It is wise to retain that receipt till you have received your credit card statement.

So we come to point four. As soon as you receive your credit car statement check very thoroughly any vehicle rental transactions. Some companies charge an initial deposit on the rental with the balance being paid at time of pick up. If the figures do not add up to the original quote that you should have retained then you need to question this. You will normally be charged extra for child seats, sat navs (on most vehicles apart from top of the range ones) and roof racks, although you can often pre-book and pay for these.

It is still important to check those card transactions and if an amount has been deducted a fuel deposit (as some Irish car hire companies) do, make it has been refunded and that is why you should keep your final fuel receipt. It was at this point that I discovered last year that the incident outlined earlier with the Irish car rental company selling my wife excess insurance even though she had declined it.

Finally we come to point five. We all accumulate a lot of paper and want to re-cycle, however don't be too hasty getting rid of your car hire documentation. Back in the early 1980's I rented a van from a company in High Wycombe, England for a couple of days. This was back in the era before independent insurance companies sold excess insurance, so you just paid the van hire company what they asked for.

There was no problem with the van or the return or any of the problems that could have developed in the earlier points. Suddenly out of the blue, about three months after the hire was a notification saying van registration XYZ had been caught speeding on a certain date in a certain location. I contacted the appropriate authorities and said that yes I had the van that day, however it was in Worcester at the time of the event. We are also talking early 1980's when there were not speed cameras. It turns out that the van hire company had got the registrations on the vehicles mixed up and had given the Police my information opposed to the correct renter..

In 2004 my wife was in Dublin, she had rented a car and the Garda Síochána (Irish Police) made a fixed penalty charge of €80 for a speeding fine. The alleged offence took place in the south part of Dublin on a Saturday evening when the car in question was in north Dublin and had not been used that evening. The car hire company had mixed up the registration and it took several telephone calls and letters to both the car hire company and Garda to sort out the problem.

In conclusion here is a check list to use.

  • Keep a copy of the original booking confirming the price
  • Keep all paperwork when you collect the vehicle
  • Keep the sign off paperwork when you return the vehicle
  • Check your credit card statement to make sure that you have not been charged for any additions that you never agreed to
  • Keep details of rental vehicle's registration in case you are sent a parking fine or speeding fine and the vehicle rental company have provided the authorities with the wrong vehicle or renter information

(November 2011 ©jmlpropertyservices - Philip Suter)

N.B. This information should not be relied on for accuracy and is presented here without the responsibility of jml Property Service and the website it is being displayed at. jml property Services 11-11


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