Rental Car – Tips and Tricks

As you can imagine I have accumulated some degree of experience when it comes to renting cars in weird and wonderful locations around the world. However I still inevitably walk away from the hire office, in search of parking lot x, clutching my keys and rental car documents with the feeling of ‘I just hope I don’t have an accident, for I am not entirely sure I just understood all that was said to me during the past five minutes’. Sound familiar? I have tried here to put together a few rental car tips and tricks to help the next time you need to hire a car.

Rental Car Gone Wrong?

Rental Car Gone Wrong?

Thankfully my job generally comes with a nice luxury coach (tip for anyone on a tour; the drivers don’t like you calling it ‘bus’) complete with driver, his years of experience and these days, just in case; Sat Nav. However there are times when agencies have sent me off to explore less well-known areas and towns prior to tours, rail strikes have made my favourite means of travel impossible, or plain simply I have been travelling by myself and have hired a car.

Some of ‘my’ tips may seem a little obvious, but all too often I hear tales from clients about rental car experiences gone wrong, so there must be a need. I have included these experiences below to provide hints in no particular order to create the 2CoT’s Guide To Car Rental…

  • Most people hire a car directly from the airport of the country they are flying into. This makes sense. However DO check whether agencies charge an extra pick-up fee from offices at airport terminals. For example, rental car agencies at Paris Charles De Gaulle (my least favourite airport in the world) often charge up to  €40 surcharge for pick-ups from the airport. There may be a cheaper office nearby, or downtown.
  • The early bird catches the worm. Not always possible in my case, but if your holiday is planned in advance, DO book early. If you can, a booking of 30 days or more prior to departure is likely to be much cheaper.

Good Old CDG Airport


  • Insurance; without a doubt the most complicated and fraught with pitfalls part of the whole rental car experience. DO check insurance very very carefully. This can be so tricky. There is so much jargon to understand, so many pages to read through and so much holiday waiting just out there once you get going. A little prep from home might help. Try to familiarise yourself with the policy before you book and certainly before you arrive. Different agencies use different terms to complicate matters. For example CDW (collision damage waiver) and LDW (loss damage waiver) are the same thing.
  • Check whether certain aspects of your car insurance may in fact be covered or, if not, offered for a small annual fee by your home car insurance policy or even credit card. Collision for example may well be covered by your credit card. However, if you do go down this route, BE SURE to check whether the country you are renting in, is not excluded.
  • 2CoT always tries to make you save money and have better experiences. Here is a neat tip I have picked up. Car rental companies actually monitor the arrival/departure time of the rental cars in the fleet very closely. Basically at any given airport they may know that on a Monday around 4 pm they tend to be short on vehicles. Accordingly they put their prices up. However at 10 am they are drowning in rental cars and you can get yours much cheaper. DO therefore try to vary the pickup time (I appreciate you might not want to sit around the airport for hours) in the search.
  • ALWAYS, double check the car for any damage, ideally with the chap from the car hire company BEFORE leaving. Also notice scratches etc. You don’t want to be arguing your case upon delivery with an urgent flight to catch.
2CoT Guide To Rental Car Zen

2CoT Guide To Rental Car Zen


  • You should always include your flight arrival time for two very good reasons; just in case you are due into the airport close to the time the rental car offices shut, they should wait for you (sadly I cannot promise you this) and if you do not collect the car at the time you said you will, they may cancel the booking and when you do try to pick it up, the rate could be a whole lot higher.
  • As much as possible (this can take some scanning through the fine print on-line) check the costs of ‘hidden’ extras that might apply to you prior to booking. Do you need a child seat? Additional driver (this one I have been caught out on many times)? Snow chains? And so on. They often are additional and can vary greatly from rental car company to company.
  • There is of course the obvious one; DO make sure you leave the same amount of fuel in the car as when you found it. If the rental car company has to top it up, you’ll be charged a ridiculous rate.
  • Finally, many clients are under the misconception that car rentals all cost around the same price for the same vehicle for the same period. This can often be far from the truth. It can be worth shopping around if you want to save money. Use rental comparison websites as you would for any other aspect of modern travel.

So, that’s it. I hope this has not put out you off. Actually I am a great fan of renting a car when I travel for the freedom it offers. You just need to do it wisely. The above hopefully is helpful and be aware that there are several rental car comparison websites, just as there are for holidays, flights, hotels and anything to do with travel. One I have used in the past and been happy with is Expedia Rental Car. There are others of course, but this is a start.

Happy renting…


Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: