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FROM DAMAGE EXCESS TO CHILD SEATS ... DON’T LET HOLIDAYS DRIVE YOU ROUND THE BEND

Is it just me or is the weather actually picking up? Either way, we have holidays on our mind as the school term comes to an end. If you’re lucky enough to be heading abroad then getting to see the sights is a must-do.

Car hire is a great way of making sure you don’t miss out, and it’s much handier than relying on local buses or trains.

It can also work out cheaper than booking expensive excursions arranged by hotels on commission.

But it is also one of the biggest complaint areas, according to the European Consumer Centre, where supplementary charges and unexpected additional costs feature heavily in cases they take on behalf of consumers.

REMEMBER

So this week we’re looking at what it costs, what to watch out for, and how to ensure you have a hassle free time and remember the things you saw rather than the bill you got.

We take certain things for granted in our car insurance policies at home: windscreen cover, tyre punctures and a reasonable excess.

This may not be the case with a hire car where you can pay heavily.

The average excess, for instance, can be over €1,000 - that’s the part you pay of any claim before it is settled.

Your Irish car policy may only be €250, so always read the small print.

Most hire companies just want you to take out additional “excess” cover, which costs more - only you can decide if it’s worth it.

But remember - they have your credit card details and won’t hesitate to apply a charge if you incur it.

Indeed, hire companies often won’t accept Debit cards for this reason - they want to know they can charge fees later if you say, incur a parking fine or speeding ticket.

Here are my top tips before choosing a car for your holliers:

l Most contracts cover the car you specify, for specific dates and time (allow leeway for delayed flights etc), and very basic insurance. Everything else can be charged for, so don’t rely on the initial quote. A company which seems to charge more at the outset may indeed have better insurance attached, so don’t automatically pick the cheapest.

l Bear in mind, when arranging for collection from an airport that only the major brands have concessions there - if you book a local, smaller company, their offices may be a few kilometres from the airport, and you have to get there, or arrange transport. You’ll pay a bit less, but is the hassle worth it?

l Check that they are open when your flight arrives, especially if it’s late at night or early in the morning. You may prefer the security of a 24-hour service.

l Ask about the fuel policy. It can be full to full, or full to empty. The latter is more expensive as they can charge a premium on the petrol price. Best fill up before you return the car.

l You will pay much more for an automatic car, so bear that in mind if, like me, you hate the gear stick on the wrong side’.

l Try booking from American or UK websites. They can be better value.

l Booking online in advance will save you money. Avis’ saving is €53.85 and Europcar, €40 for the same vehicle.

The items that will definitely cost you extra are:

l Sat Nav: GPS charges can be anything from €7 - 20 per day. My advice is to download maps and bring your own.

l Child seats. Nothing you can do here, but they are really expensive. Make sure you get good ones, and get the company to fit them properly on arrival.


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