Britain isn’t one of the cheapest places to hire a car in Europe but the standard of vehicle is very high and the safety this brings is worth the difference in costs. Britain has busy but safe roads, and if you’re expecting commutes you can expect traffic jams, especially during holiday periods. Getting the best deal on a hire car, therefore, can make your experience of driving in Britain so much more enjoyable and stress-free.
Before you Look
Make sure you know what you’re looking for. An idea of how far you’ll be travelling and where to can help you keep the cost of an extended range down. Dropping the car off at one of the hire company’s depots can save money on having it picked up, so get to know whether it’s included in the price and possible with your itinerary.
Have a good idea of what kind of car you want to drive. British cars aren’t massive like American cars and vans are various sizes too. 2 door, 4 door and people carriers are the most commonly available, you should be able to get a good deal on them anywhere.
How much are you willing to spend? Prices can be negotiable so have an upper limit of what you can spend and haggle as much as possible. Remember they want your custom and they know there is a lot of competition, so they can be willing to reduce the price substantially if you play hard to get.
Your health insurance or car insurance might cover what is included in a deal, refresh your memory on what you’re already covered for and try get some money off the car hire instead of getting double coverage.
Cheap coverage can cost a lot more than fairly priced coverage. A “full” insurance program can have a series of loopholes that leave you liable in a number of situations. Pay a bit extra and get extensive coverage, it always works out cheaper if anything should happen.
Before you Book
Insurance is required in Britain to at least the third-party level. Factor this in to your cost calculations. The hire company can offer included insurance but you might be able to find a better deal elsewhere.
Take some Pictures
Cover your back by recording every bit of damage before you sign any paperwork and make sure they sign for the damage too. Do the same when you return the car.
Talk to a Car Hire Broker
Either online or on the phone, a car hire broker or comparison site can compare prices and deals much faster than you might be able to and for a nominal fee save you substantial amounts of cash. There are many available but try to go with the best reviewed and the largest. In a crowded market like the British car hire market, margins are very thin so you can get some surprisingly good deals with a broker.
Be aware, however, that some brokers have struck deals with certain suppliers so can give biased opinions. Seek a second opinion if you can and try not to do anything out of a feeling of loyalty.
Look at Separate Cover
High excesses and hidden charges can make a seemingly cheap deal a bad bet and it’s no problem to get different parts of your cover from different providers. Play hard to get and question every part of the cover you’re looking at.
Does the cover everything on and in the car? Wheels, windscreens, windscreen wipers, exhausts, they can all be conspicuously missing from insurance cover. Reading the fine print can save a lot of money on wear and tear you might be expected to pay for.
Try to Book Early
Often huge discounts are available for early bookings, especially over one month or six months in advance. This is not always possible but is highly preferable.
Do you need to fill it up before returning it or have you paid for all the fuel in the tank and don’t want to donate it back to the company? It’s all good to know beforehand, it’s best to avoid a “return it empty, no refund policy” as it’s hard to calculate how much will be left when you take it back.
If you can, bring your own or use a smartphone (when you’re not driving and the engine’s off of course!) . The cost of hiring one is often extortionate, sometimes more for a week than it would cost you to buy one.
Some deals have limits on how far you can drive the car and every mile over that limit can be extremely expensive. There are usually premiums for drivers under 21 most of the time and certain sizes of engines are limited over 25’s. Likewise, over 70’s can find it difficult to hire as the insurance can be prohibitive, if it is even offered.
Should you find you have been charged for something you weren’t aware of or dispute, you are well protected in law. Talk to your bank after registering a complaint with the company itself.
Play Hard to Get
Be tough, resist hard selling, walk away if the deal is no good, shop around and know your rights. Do all that and you’ll have a great, cheap holiday or work trip in Britain.