What to know when you hire a car abroad

(Image Source: Flickr)

You might not think that it would be too difficult to hire a car when you go abroad, but the truth is it can sometimes be tough to make the right choice, with all of the different hiring conditions and forms of insurance on offer. Leaving the decision to the last minute is also a guaranteed way to get very frustrated and probably end up making the wrong choices.

Just heading for the nearest car rental company after arriving in a new country means you will be unlikely to get the best deal possible, and most people in this position will just take the first option offered to them, which is often a bad idea.

Planning ahead

Planning ahead is always the smart move, as this enables you to determine the total cost including all extras, fixed or optional, and gives you the chance to make comparisons of terms and prices between different suppliers. Forward planning also greatly increases the likelihood that you will be able to save money. In regards to car hire excess insurance, the great majority of hire firms will expect the customer to be responsible for paying the first part in the event of damage claims or accidents, unless you are willing to pay more for special insurance. However arranging your own excess reimbursement insurance for car hire is usually the less expensive option.


There are two ways in which fuel is able to be supplied – supplied full, return full, or supplied full, return ‘empty’. The former option means you only have to pay for what you actually need, but you will risk a large service charge if you do not bring the car back with a tank full of fuel. The latter on the other hand means you pay an upfront fee for a full tank of fuel but can take the hire car back close to empty. If you are planning on a lot of long drives this can be a good idea, but otherwise this is not really great value. Keep receipts of fuel used.


It is a good idea to have a checklist to ensure your hire car arrangement works out the way you want. As part of this checklist you should:

• Carefully inspect the car and ensure any prior damage is referenced within the rental agreement. Video or photos of the condition of the car on the day of collection and its return could be valuable in the event of later disputes.
• Keep hold of toll receipts in case of later doubts.
• Ensure you are aware of all local road rules.
• Check that all controls or switches work and ask for help if you find any of them difficult to understand.
• If theft insurance is not covered by the comprehensive insurance it is a good idea to take it out separately.
• Ensure you have emergency contact numbers in the event of the car breaking down, being involved in an accident or stolen.

Exchange any car you find defective or are uncomfortable with immediately.