The holidays are approaching and you’ve got the plane tickets and hotel bookings sorted. But now comes the tricky task of booking a rental car. How do you know which hire company to pick and which options to get? This is the part that can quickly turn your holidays from a sweet escape to a much costlier experience. Here are tips and tricks to a hassle-free holiday car rental booking.
[Related: How you can use your card while traveling]
1) Upgrades and options: online booking websites very often try to up sell vehicle categories or throw in options and accessories. Go for the most basic package and decide for the rest only once collecting the car. There is a high chance that you get upgraded to a higher model if the agency is running over-capacity. Therefore, take your chance once at the counter directly.
When it comes to buying options like GPS devices, do keep in mind that most car models now come equipped with built-in guiding systems. Your smartphone probably also has already a decent map application pre-installed. If you have the possibility to bring your own baby seat too, save yourself some cash by leaving these options out.
2) Insurances: it is no secret that car rental companies make a big part of their profit on the multi-layered insurances they are packaging with every car rental. Collision Damage Waiver* (CDW), Super CDW, passenger insurance, tyres and windscreen. They do not lack creativity to come up with new types of coverage to make you believe you are at high financial risk if you do not subscribe to them. Go for the coverage that ensures that you, the passengers and any damages you make to third parties are covered. Check your credit card as man of them have insurance attached.
3) Vehicle inspection: this is probably the trickiest part of the process and the one that could cost you the most if you are not attentive enough. Some rental companies now pre-check the vehicle before you take possession of it. Always insist on performing a visual and physical check of the vehicle with one agent and make him/her note down any damages to the car body that you believe would be worth mentioning. Make use of your camera too. When you do return the car, do not sign anything unless you fully agree with the closing report made by the agent.
4) Deposits and refunds: ask the agent if the deposit is being debited or if it is just an authorization on your card. If debited, you should know exactly how much time it takes to get a refund. Check as well what is being charged post car return: petrol refill, extra kms, fines, toll-way charges. Keep an eye on your bank statement up to one month after returning the car and do not throw any rental documents away until you are sure all is fine.
5) Loyalty programs: Many of the car rental companies have loyalty program – if you have a loyalty card, you can get many perks such as free upgrade, confirmed booking, discounted price etc.
*Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) is a waiver by the car rental company of its right to make the renter pay damages incurred to the car. In case of an accident at fault, the customer pays a fixed amount to the rental company as compensation for repairs to the car. If the customer does not opt for CDW or if it is not included, he/she can be liable for the entire repair costs.
Car hire companies compared
For the purpose of our article, we compare the price of a Fiat 500. We added the similar options and insurance coverage to the quote, for a one week rental in Paris downtown (1-7th of July).
The lowest rate we could get was with Europcar which was ready to let us drive away for just 151 EUR, provided we pre-paid the booking online. Avis was positioned right after at 171 EUR. Hertz was way above the rest with a final rate of 246.24 EUR, and did not allow us to pay online, followed closely by Sixt at 235 EUR and National at 213.43 EUR. All were offering more or less the same kms allowance, which is 250 kms per day.
Change the dates to the 2nd to the 9th and you will see the prices drop significantly for Hertz. Most companies have very complex algorithms to calculate the prices so it is best to also check out comparison sites like Expedia and for the same week 1-7 of July 2015, prices were considerably cheaper.
|Car model||Rental company||Price (In Euro)||Small print|
Get an International driving license
One last step before you hit the road. In some countries you may not be able to rent or drive the car with your UAE driving license and will have to present an international driving license. This type of license can easily be obtained provided you have a valid UAE driving license. You can visit any RTA center in Dubai to fill in an application form.
You will need to bring along:
- Your original passport and a copy
- Your Emirates ID
- Your original UAE driver license and a copy
- Two passport size photos of yourself.
The international driving license will cost you AED 150 and is valid for one year. It can be renewed after that.