herald

Saturday 10 December 2016

Consumer Champion: Drive a harder bargain on extras when hiring a car for holidays

Think ahead on car hire.
Think ahead on car hire.

Going abroad on holidays means new experiences, travelling to different places and enjoying all that a foreign country has to offer by way of sights and sounds.

One of the best ways of getting about is to hire a car but many people are nervous about what this entails, and how expensive it can be.

It can be a mistake to automatically go for the lowest price you can find, as you might find this doesn’t include lots of things and you end up shelling out loads at the car hire desk when you realise this.

Expensive

One of the biggest culprits is the excess. In Ireland we’re used to our car insurance policies having an excess of around €250 – this is the first bit of any claim that you have to pay. However, on hire cars the excess is normally anywhere between €600 to €2,000 making even a simple tip or scratch monumentally expensive.

There are policies to cover the excess but you can get hammered on them. For instance, well known companies like Hertz and Avis charge hundreds for this cover at the hire desk, but buying it before you go can save. Carhireexcess.com, for example, sells Excess Cover starting at €2.99 per day in Ireland, so a little planning goes a long way.

I had a look around the market for a typical hire in Spain for a week – a mid-size 5-door car and found lots of variation. The cheapest by far was EasyCar (owned by EasyJet) who quoted €146.79 buying online, with a discount. It operates as a trawler site with local operators, so isn’t tied to one provider. Europcar charged over €370 for the same type car. However, there are different options on excess and type of insurance covered, so it’s worth building these into the quote before you commit as many quotes only charge the basics to lure you to the site.

Other tips when hiring a car which AA Ireland recommends include:

* Know what the different insurances are. Motorists can end up paying extra for Personal Accident Insurance (ranging from €30 to €70), Supplementary Liability Protection (€50-€80), Super Collision Damage Waiver (up to €100), Super Loss Damage Waiver (€80-€130), and Super Personal Accident Insurance (up to €125). These additions significantly drive up the cost of car rental.

* Extras are charged per day. Avis, for example charges €7.44 a day for a child car seat and €12.40 a day for GPS. My advice? Bring your own. Most GPS systems download European maps automatically. If you don’t have one, borrow it.

* Familiarise yourself with the rules of the road of the country you’re driving in. It may be mandatory to carry a hi-vis jacket, torch and hazard sign, for example.

* When picking up the car, ask the rental firm about their procedures should it break down and the emergency number to call, and keep these in the glove                          compartment.

* On getting to the car, check around the car for damage that could be attributed to you later. Make sure these are noted on the hire form.

* Airport pick up /drop off will cost more. However, you might prefer this to paying for a shuttle to an outlying garage.

* What is the fuel policy? Make sure you know whether to return the car empty or full as you will be charged a hefty premium if the company has to fill it for you.    

* You can only book a hire car with a credit card. Debit cards are not accepted. The reason is that the company has an easy way to charge you extras if something is damaged.

* Drivers under 25 (and in many cases over 70) are not covered. You may require specialist insurance outside these limits. Most companies do not accept a provisional license.

* Ensure the car is inspected by a rental company employee on drop off. Have them sign it was returned in good condition.

* You may be charged a fine if you don’t pay motorway tolls or incur road offences. Ask if the car is fitted with a toll tag and if not, how you pay as you go.

 

Carers get something in return

A cause close to my heart is the Carers’ Association whose members do sterling work for people who would otherwise be entirely dependent on the State.

Carers do it because they love the people they look after, but that shouldn’t obviate Government from supporting their efforts. Instead, cuts have made it much more difficult. The Respite Grant for example, was cut by 19pc in 2012. For those finding themselves caring for a loved one, the following benefits now apply:

– Carers Allowance: a maximum of €239-per-week if the carer is over 66 and €204-per-week if under. However, it is strictly means tested.

– Carers Benefit Payment: €205-per-week where an employed person gives up work temporarily to care for someone. It is dependent on PRSI contributions made to date but they can work 15 hours outside the home without affecting the payment which is made for a maximum of two years.

– Carers Respite Grant: a one-off payment of €1,375 paid in June where someone is providing full-time care to a highly dependent person.

– Home Care Package: HSE determined number of ‘hours’ given by an external carer at home. Dependent on medical need and typically 5-21 hours per week.

All benefits are provided via the Department of Social Protection (www.welfare.ie) or see www.carersireland.com for support and information.

Bank struggles under weight of fee complaints from customers

A confused reader contacted me after finding an amount being debited from his account. It turned out to be a Premium Protection Insurance (PPI) policy, widely mis-sold over the years.

He contacted the bank (AIB in this case), although the Central Bank has instructed all banks to get in touch with customers who shouldn’t have these policies.

The reader received a   reply stating the bank had so many complaints that they couldn’t get around to his yet, but he should pursue it.

Failing that, the Financial Regulator will.

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