Want to go on a road trip of a lifetime or simply looking for an affordable way to travel with the family? Hiring a car gives you great freedom to navigate around and get off the typical tourist trail to explore some wonderful hidden gems. But it can be a pricey way to travel too. Along with Skyscanner’s price comparison tool, here are ten top tips to help you avoid paying over the odds for your next holiday hire car:
1. Book early
Be an early bird and save hundreds of dollars next time you hire a car abroad. Don’t step straight off the plane and in to the nearest car rental place, you’ll end up paying way more, sometimes up to $200 a day, than if you’d spent an hour researching and organising car rental in advance. Book early, especially if you plan to hit the road during low-season when demand is low, and you could save up to $6 a day.
2. Get free maps with smartphone apps
Avoid taking too many wrong turns without paying $100 a week for a sat nav from a car rental company. Use your smartphone to load up maps of routes you’re planning to take (using the hotel’s free wifi of course) then track your journey on the road for free. This way you’ll get to your destination and avoid racking up a huge bill for roaming data. There are many apps on the market, including Navfree, which are free and come with pre-loaded maps and route planning tools. Alternatively, if you’ve already got your own sat nav then fling it in the case and off you go!
3. Shop around for excess cover
Rather than paying the excess insurance cover offered by the car hire company when you collect your new set of wheels, it pays to shop around and consider offers from separate providers. This could be the difference between paying $50 and $5 a day for cover. If you’re planning on hiring a car more than once a year, or for more than two weeks, you will also save money by taking out an annual excess insurance policy, but again, do some research to find the best deal.
4. Prepay and Save
Instead of paying at the car rental counters, choose the ‘pay now’ option at time of reservation when using Skyscanner’s car hire search tool for discounted rates. For travellers willing to prepay, you can look forward to discounts of up to 30 per cent! However, do note that this means that there is less flexibility with reservation changes and cancellations involve no-show penalties. The terms and conditions of prepaying on the various companies differ, so be sure to read the fine print carefully.
5. Save on child seats
Keep the little ones safe and comfortable by hiring a car seat. In Europe child seats are compulsory for under-3s and having to pay an extra $6 a day for one from a car rental firm can add up. Take your own seat or rent one from a retailer when you arrive and skip paying for this little extra. Some airports have stores in the terminal offering seat rental at reasonable prices.
6. Give your car the once over
Getting stung with extortionate damage costs for something that’s not your fault is not the way you want to end your road tripping holiday. Check your car for scratches and bumps and make a note of them before you leave the garage to avoid this pitfall. Take photos, check the spare tyre and be sure you know what type of fuel it takes before you hit the road for a hassle-free ride.
7. Rent something sensible
As much as you might dream of driving that convertible off in to the sunset, when you’re looking to save cash it’s important to choose a hire car that’s not beyond your budget. Car hire companies arrange their vehicles into categories, so expect to pay a pretty penny for that Thelma and Louise soft-top, especially during summer months. Free upgrade? Why not! But compare the features you’ll be getting, as some smaller cars are better on fuel consumption and comfort than some mid-range vehicles. The cheapest model will depend on demand in your chosen destination. So an estate car or people carrier might work out cheaper than a mini, saving you money and the headache of squeezing the kids and the kitchen sink in to a two-door.
8. Check out ‘flydrive’ packages
Flydrive packages, where flights and car hire arrangements are bundled together, are becoming the most affordable option for holidaymakers looking for a bargain, particularly in the US. However, you should still compare flydrive deals with regular car hire offers and don’t just assume they are the cheapest option.
9. Check your account when you get back
So you’ve had the perfect holiday and returned the car scratch free. Check your credit card or bank statement when you get home to make sure you’ve received your full deposit back and no extra charges have been added without your knowledge. Keep hold of any paperwork until you’ve been able to confirm this, otherwise you’ll have no way of disputing any surprise charges.
10. Use Skyscanner to compare prices
Love to shop around to find the best flight and hotel prices? Use Skyscanner to find the cheapest deal on car hire as well. A fast and easy way to compare offers from a wide range of rental companies, a quick visit to Skyscanner could save you some hard earned holiday spends and leave you with more dollars for souvenirs and sundown cocktails. Get the Android or iPhone app to get the latest deals.