Travelling by car is one of the most convenient ways to travel from place A to place B in the country. There is a possibility of using buses, trains, and taxis as a means of transport in most countries, but nothing compares when you can rent your car and become the master of your time. There are countries, such as the USA, where you have literally no choice but to travel by rented car. Whether you decide to rent a car or not, learn the important rules. When renting a car abroad, it is good to know a few basic things that will help you to avoid problems and, most importantly, save you money. Read our tips and tricks for renting a car abroad.
How to rent a car abroad
You can rent a car on-site at local car rentals or book a car online. We usually prefer the second option because it is faster and more convenient. Nowadays, it’s as easy as buying tickets or booking a hotel. If you rent a car online, you will have a much larger choice, and you will most likely save a lot.
It is best to start your car search on large Skyscanner, where you will find offers from both the car rental companies themselves (Hertz, Europcar, Alamo, Budget, etc.) and various rental intermediaries, such as RentalCars or AutoEurope. Of course, in most countries, you will also find small local car rentals, which you will not find in comparison sites or intermediaries. However, be very careful at small car rental companies and read their terms and conditions carefully or try to find reviews on the Internet.
When is the best time to book a car
Be sure not to delay your car rental and book it right after buying your flight tickets. Today, the ticket sellers or even airlines themselves can arrange car rentals. They will offer you car rental as part of a specific package and at a discount. It may be cheaper, but it’s always better to compare the price with a classic car rental company. You don’t have to worry about booking a car in advance, as almost all rental intermediaries, such RentalCars or rental companies themselves, often offer free cancellation about 48 hours before the car is picked up. You can choose to pay only a small deposit and the rest when you pick up the car or the full amount in advance. Of course, paying the full amount will cost you less. If you find a better price for renting a car in the given location later, you can cancel the first reservation of the existing car. Then RentalCars will send your money back in full. We’ve done it this way several times.
What you should check when booking a car online
There are different laws and slightly different road rules in each country. It is good to get acquainted with them before the actual trip to the destination country. When booking a car, be careful what you pay for. Each car rental company has its ways of influencing the customer to pay as much as possible. That’s why it is good to have time and to read everything properly.
Insurance for a rented car
You can arrange the insurance either through a third party directly when booking with an intermediary, e.g., RentalCars or independently with another company/insurance company separately. Insurance with external companies is usually significantly cheaper, but then the paperwork is more complicated in case of problems, and you will have a larger deposit at the rental company. On the contrary, it will be easier if you use insurance directly from the rental company, and you will have a lower, even zero deposit, but the insurance is usually way more expensive.
Basic CDW insurance (Collision Damage Waiver) should always be included in the basic rental price, but this usually only covers the body and main parts of the car, and only up to a certain amount. Therefore, insurance companies and intermediaries offer different levels of insurance with different excess.
The highest full insurance (including windshield, tires, interior and zero excess) can even be more expensive than renting a car. Prices vary greatly by country and rental company.
Car hire excess
The insurance also includes excess. This is the maximum amount that the car rental company will want from you in the event of damage or theft of the car. Amounts can range from hundreds to thousands of euros, which can be reduced with full insurance. If something happens to the vehicle, and you have zero excess from third parties, you will pay the excess to the car rental company and then get it back from the insurance company.
Deposit on a rental car
The deposit is the amount that the rental company will want from you in case of problems. When hiring a car, the company will block the agreed amount on the card or may exceptionally request cash (which happened to us only once, in Algeria). The amount of the deposit may vary but is often equal to the amount of the excess. However, if you have full insurance directly from the car rental, you may have a zero deposit. Car rental is assured that whatever happens to your car will be covered by insurance.
What you will need to rent a car abroad
Most car rental companies require a credit card when booking and picking up the car, and a debit payment card alone is not enough. They consider the client more trustworthy when he has passed the approval of the bank and received a credit card. Some car rental companies also accept debit cards, but this is usually associated with a larger deposit or a higher car hiring price. We recommend that you set up a credit card so that the deposit does not block your money on the debit card that you will use for standard travel expenses. When you return from vacation, you can cancel it. If you don’t have a credit card yet, check the card comparison or ask at your bank. Only avoid the Diners card, as its acceptance is not guaranteed outside the USA.
When picking up the car at the car rental company, you will need a booking voucher received by email, a credit (debit) card, and, of course, a driver’s license. If you are travelling outside the European Union, we recommend that you bring an international driving license with you.
After filling in all the data and signing the documents in the office, the employee will usually take you to the car. He goes around the whole car with you and marks all the damage to the vehicle in the prepared form. Don’t underestimate it, and let them record even the smallest scratches and ideally take a picture of the whole car. Later, when returning the car, no one will charge you for the damage that was on the car before the start of your rental.
Car hiring surcharges
Different types of surcharges are a way to make renting a car abroad unnecessarily expensive. It’s very similar to buying tickets from a low-cost airline. Then you pay extra for almost everything. Here is a list of the most common fees:
GPS in the car
In smartphones times, GPS will cost you a lot in the rental company. Just download Google maps or other maps to your phone and save – check out our list of best travel apps.
Number of drivers
By default, only one driver is included in the price of the car. Of course, someone else can drive the car. However, if something happens to the car, it will not be paid from insurance, even if it is not your fault. So think carefully about whether you really need to buy another driver.
Car rental companies know that this is mandatory equipment in most countries, so they will have to pay for it properly. Nevertheless, their quality is very poor, so many people carry their own child seats by plane as checked baggage. It is often cheaper and some airlines offer free transport of child car seats, so try to find out if this is your case.
Returning the car with a full tank
You should have a declared fuel policy when booking. The most common and probably the best is the so-called “Full to Full,”, i.e. renting and returning a car with a full tank. The second option is “Full to Empty,” which is significantly more expensive, as the car rental company charges significantly more for fuel than it would cost to refuel at the gas station. Even though you only exceptionally manage to return the car with an empty tank.
The age of the driver
Car rental companies and insurance companies have averaged that younger drivers (under 25) and older drivers (over 65) are more prone to accidents. So they usually have more expensive car rental and insurance. If you are under 21, they will not rent you a car somewhere, even if you pay them with gold. It is, therefore, more advantageous to choose a driver who is in the optimal age range.
Car rental fees at the airport
Renting a car directly at the airport is very pleasant, but often more expensive. Always compare the price with a car rental in the city centre. Often, the difference is so great that it may be cheaper to take a taxi at the airport and take it to the car rental company.
One way car rental
It’s great to plan an amazing road trip from one part of the country to the other, but it’s less practical to go back all the way to return the car to the same place. Most car rental companies will offer you the option of returning the car to a location other than where you rented it, but there are usually high fees for this. Study the conditions very carefully and look for “One-way fee.”
Mileage limits and area of rental
Most car rental companies rent cars with unlimited mileage, but sometimes there are exceptions. In that case, you can only drive a certain number of kilometres per day, and everything that is above this limit will be very expensive to pay extra. So just make sure that the price of your chosen car includes “Mileage Unlimited.”
Cross-Border and Boundary rules
If you plan to cross the border with a car, car rental companies will often not allow you to do so, or you must meet special conditions. This is usually not a problem in the European Union but check elsewhere in the world. When we travelled by car from Dubai to Oman, we had to pay special insurance, while crossing the border between Israel and Jordan is not allowed by any car rental company.
Write us in the comments which countries you have already traveled by rented car?
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