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Road trips are one of my favourite types of holiday. They might actually just be my all out favourite to be honest. There’s so much more freedom involved when you rent a car. You can stop wherever and whenever you want. You can even avoid crowded touristy areas by going at unusual times because you have your own vehicle. I’ve done road trips in the UK, Canada, the USA, New Zealand, Australia and Europe. You can read about them in the recommended reading section at the end of this post. ANYWAY, I’m well used to renting a hire car and have picked up a few tips/ tricks to help you with hiring a car.
Tips and Tricks for Hiring a Car
Often, when travelling, people pick up cars from the airport. When you go to a car hire service, you will quickly find that you can choose whether to choose an on or an off-site option. An on-site rental company is obviously the easiest option. Usually you can walk to the desk or office, they give you the key and you find the car in the carpark. When it comes to off-site airport rental companies (which can be cheaper) you may have to take a shuttle to the office or call them to send a pick up. It’s best to use a comparison site to check which location is cheaper to hire a car from. Be aware that hiring from one location and returning to another often incurs a fee and will therefore be more expensive. If you’re arriving in a city (not via air) and plan on renting from the city centre, this can often be cheaper than airport rental companies. Again, it’s best to use a comparison site like Kayak to compare prices of different hire locations.
It helps to try and find a company that lets you cancel up to 24 hours before the date you collect the car. Things can happen at any time and if your flight gets cancelled or even delayed then you will want to get a refund for your car. Europe car hire is a handy service which usually has a decent cancellation policy. It also helps to see if there are any additional fees, should you have to cancel your trip.
Some car firms have a full to empty policy. This essentially means that you have to pay for the full tank when you pick the car up but you can return it when it is empty. This sounds very convenient but it adds extra cost. I always try to avoid this. What usually happens, in my experience, is that you get a half or quarter of a tank and have to return the car with that same amount in it. If you don’t they charge you to fill it up from their supply (which is always more expensive than a normal petrol station). I normally try and find the station closest to the airport on my return journey and just fill up there before dropping the car off. And be SURE to double check what sort of fuel your car takes. Don’t go filling your Diesel car with Petrol!
No, I don’t mean looking out for crazy drivers on the road. Though that is a serious concern at times! Think about it, are you going to be the only driver? If you are the only driver then this will reduce the cost. Some companies are pretty good and will work with you to make sure that you only pay a small fee when you are adding other drivers. Either way I think adding a second driver (where possible) is always a good idea. Also, if you’re planning on doing long drives it’s best to have a second person registered to drive the car if the primary driver gets tired, sick or injured. I don’t always do a lot of driving on the road trips I take with my boyfriend, but both of us are normally registered because he sometimes gets lightheaded and dizzy on long drives, which is when I take over.
Rental companies will always offer you add-ons such as SatNavs or in-car charging devices. However, a lot of the time your car will already have these accessories in-built. Which I think is REALLY sneaky of the hire companies. So make sure to check your car first. A lot of cars now have USB ports for charging and once you have data your phone can be your map (Google Maps). If you’ve no roaming data, sometimes there is an inbuilt screen in the car for music and GPS maps. Always check before renting any accessories from the hire car company. If you’re not sure where to go there are loads of great road-trip route recommendation tools online. For the USA try this fun tool.
It’s a good idea for you to look at the amount of seats and the number of doors that the car has. The car that is shown will probably not be the one that you are going to get. Be aware of this! I’ve seen people go to war about this before. So ALWAYS read the fine print. Firms always have the phrase “the car that you see is not the one that you’ll receive”, but it will be similar. This is the only guarantee that they offer, so when making your booking make sure you book a four-door model if that’s what is important to you. If they don’t have any basic models available then you’ll most likely be upgraded to a bigger four-door model instead. This has happened to me a few times. Also, be realistic about what you want from the car. Do you have 5 giant suitcases? Are you helping someone to move? Pay more and book the bigger car, no one needs the hassle of trying to upgrade at the last minute or trying to fit things into a vehicle that’s too small. Also take into account the terrain! We did a road trip through Death Valley and we really should have booked an off-road style car. Our little saloon car had a few issues with the head and bumpy roads.
There are plenty of other things to say about hiring a car, this post is already over 1,000 words and I don’t want to be glued to my laptop all day. If you have any other amazing hire care tips make sure to leave them in the comments section.
– 10 Expert Road Trip Tips & Tricks
– 5 Ways to Take Care of Your Vehicle on a Road Trip
– Canadian Road Trip: Banff & Jasper National Parks
– South Island New Zealand Road Trip Itinerary & Guide
– The Ultimate UK Road Trip: England, Scotland and Wales