For many British holidaymakers a hire car is an essential part of any foreign break.
It gives freedom to explore your surroundings and set your own schedule rather than relying on public transport.
However, knowing how to get the best price can be tricky – everything from the time you book to how you refuel the car can have an impact on price. So, with that in mind we spoke to the experts at Rentalcars.com to get some tips on finding the best deal.
1. Book your car at the cheapest time
Aim to book your car three to six months in advance of your holiday, as this is when you’ll make the biggest savings. As soon as you’ve booked your flights and accommodation, this should be the next thing you do. Not only will booking in advance save you from last-minute price increases, it will also give you more choice with the types of vehicles available to you.
2. Flexibility with your pick-up and drop-off times is key
The time you choose to pick-up and drop-off your vehicle can affect the price of your rental. Cars tend to be loaned out in 24-hour blocks, so if you’re picking up your car at 10am, it would be advisable to drop it off at 10am when returning it, otherwise drop it off any later and you will automatically fork out another day’s fee.
3. Consider the different fuel options available
‘Full to full’ tends to be the most cost-effective option to choose when renting out a car. The customer collects their car with a full (or almost-full) tank and once they’re ready to return it, they fill it up with the same amount of fuel it had at pick-up. No extra fees or hassle – just stop off at a fuel station on the way back to drop-off the vehicle.
This is usually a more popular choice, however ‘Full to Empty’ or a ‘pre-purchase’ option is also possible. This works by charging a customer for the fuel that is in the tank at pick-up. When you drop the car off, you simply return it with an empty tank. However, it can be a little tricky to get the tank completely empty at the exact point you return it, so you could end up giving back fuel that you have already paid for.
4. Pick your driver
Having one designated driver will often be cheaper than having a few drivers listed under a rental policy. Most car hire companies charge a fee to add an additional driver – usually £10 per day, or more in some cases.
If you’re heading on a group trip, pick a driver who is most happy to be behind the wheel for the duration of the trip – ideally go for the driver aged over 25, as prices can be higher if the driver in younger than 25. If more than one person is keen to drive, find a supplier who doesn’t charge you for adding an additional driver.
5. Explore pick-up desks away from the airport
Picking up your car from the airport is probably the most convenient option, but it’s also the most expensive. In most cases, major cities will have various pick-up counters dotted around, and some will even offer a shuttle ride (sometimes for free) to a pick-up point a little further away.
Do your research, if you can catch a free shuttle bus, or find a pick-up desk next to where you’re staying, it could be better to go with one of these options.
6. Don’t get fixated on the car model
When booking a car, you’ll often see the phrase ‘or similar’ alongside the details of your selected vehicle. This means that although you will see a picture of a specific car next to each option, you may not get that exact make or model.
Your best option is to choose the minimum specification of the vehicle you’re happy to go with and when you get to the desk, you can always ask if it’s possible to change the car, or depending on what’s available, you may even be able to score an upgrade free of charge.
7. Don’t forget about the free cancellation period
Most car hire companies will offer a free cancellation period. This can act as a good safety net if your trip changes as you get closer to the date, or if you do happen to see a better price after you have booked your car. But before you decide to cancel anything, check the terms and conditions of your booking, as the cancellation period does vary between different rental companies.
For more advice on how to avoid hire firms’ tricks to charge you extra read our guide here