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DIY holidays and how to avoid nasty surprises

More of us than ever before are using the web to get the very best car hire deals for our holidays. Comparison sites are a great way of finding these tempting deals. But not everything may be as it seems. According to one priced comparison website, last year British travellers paid the equivalent of over €550m in charges above the agreed rental price for their rental cars abroad. So here are a few useful tips to avoid nasty surprises when hiring a car.

An increasing number of low cost car firms are offering what seem like great deals but it’s worth considering the potential pitfalls and how to avoid them before taking the plunge. Prices can vary considerably and you can often get a better deal from the less well-known local car firms, if you take the right precautions.

First of all, think about who’s travelling. If you have young children or elderly relatives with you just bear in mind that local car hire firms can often give you a better deal but this can come with a little inconvenience. Often you won’t find them in the airport and may need to wait for a courtesy bus to take you there.

If you’re arranging car hire before you go, consider taking out your own damage excess protection, as hire companies will typically want to swipe your credit card and charge you for any damage you may cause. Bear in mind the environment in which you are driving – e.g. on the other side of the road – so unless you are familiar with the rules of the road it’s definitely worth considering this cover to make sure you don’t end up with a hefty bill at the end of your holiday.

Most car hire firms want to sell you their own excess protection insurance, but shop around before you go as you can often get a better deal. If you have arranged your car hire through a comparison site they will often offer you this protection before you go from a reputable firm based in the country from which you are travelling. This can be cheaper and easier to deal with if you do have to claim.

Take your time. While you may be keen to get to your destination, don’t rush through the paper work and sign on the dotted line until you’ve checked over your vehicle fully. If you find any additional bumps and scratches that are not recorded on the inspection or rental agreement, make sure they update and stamp it to reflect the damage you identified before you sign and drive away.

Check the fuel policy of the rental company, too. Some expect you to return the car with a similar fuel level to when you picked it up; others will charge you up-front for a full tank and refund the value of the unused fuel when you return the car. Just make sure you don’t fill up the car if you don’t need to.

A holiday can be a significant expense even without any unexpected surprises so it’s worth taking a few basic precautions.

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