Having the freedom to get around under your own steam adds an extra layer of convenience and excitement to your holiday. When you have access to your own vehicle it means you never have to miss a thing. Go where you want, when you want – with our guide on getting cost-effective car hire. Without further ado, here are some of the best ways to save money traveling the world in a car rental.
Other guides you may find useful:
- Find Out Where You Can Rent a Car From
- Cheap Car Rental Shouldn’t Mean Poor Quality Car Rental
- Book in Advance When You Can
- Use Comparison Sites
- Keep Your Eye on Prices
- Choose the Smallest Vehicle You Can
- Check Which Fuel Policy Options Are Available
- Avoid Using the Airport Pick up Desks
- Be Careful When Purchasing Insurance Policies
- Don’t Forget Your Dvla Code
- Avoid Expensive Car Seat Costs
- Use Your Own Sat Nav
- Finally, the Cheapest Way To Enjoy Your Car Hire on Holiday Is To Drive Safely
Find Out Where You Can Rent a Car From
It is without a doubt much easier to hire a car in some parts of the world than others. In many countries you can simply pick up a car at the airport, or have access to car hire companies in most towns and cities. But, if you are travelling to distant lands in the middle of nowhere, it might not be that easy to find reliable and affordable car hire. What you definitely don’t want to do is just pick up a car from a bloke at the side of the road. Whatever type of vehicle you go for, it must be safe and roadworthy. So do your research before you go. We can help you save money on your car hire, but we can’t help you make the right decision.
Cheap Car Rental Shouldn’t Mean Poor Quality Car Rental
All reputable car rental companies throughout the world have to comply with certain regulations pertaining to the condition of the vehicles they offer for hire. They must be roadworthy, regularly serviced and safe. Just because you get a good deal on the price you pay, it doesn’t mean that you should be presented with a rotten old banger when you arrive to collect your vehicle. Keep your standards high, even if the price you pay isn’t.
Book in Advance When You Can
Being well organised and booking you car hire as soon as you have your travel plans mapped out can lead to good discounts. In some European destinations and the USA, car hire can be as much as 25% cheaper if you book well in advance, than it is if you leave it to the last minute, or book when you get there.
Leaving your car hire until the last minute can also cause practical problems too. There may well be less choice of vehicles to choose from so you might get stuck with something that is too big for you to feel comfortable with, or worse still, too small to fit you all in.
Use Comparison Sites
In the same way that you have searched for great deals on flights and accommodation, you can find great deals for car hire on comparison sites. Skyscanner or Kayak are just some examples of comparison sites that offer good value car rental.
You will be able to choose your own search criteria, including where and when you pick up and drop off the vehicle, the type of car you are looking for and whether or not you need any additional services on top of the basic car hire service.
Top Tip: If you find that all of your searches are coming back more expensive than you were expecting, tweak the day of your collection as some days are cheaper than others.
Keep Your Eye on Prices
Never settle for the first price you see. Keep searching over a number of days, or even weeks and you may well find that you are able to get even more for you money.
You may also be able to set up search alerts that will advise by email when prices fall further or there are better deals to be had.
If you are worried that you will miss out completely, some comparison sites offer free cancellation, meaning you can book your car hire, but change the dates or cancel completely within a certain time, should you find better value car hire elsewhere.
Choose the Smallest Vehicle You Can
Let’s be honest, you are booking a vehicle to take you around while you are away. You are not purchasing your dream car and it is not a status symbol. With this in mind, choose the smallest car that you can manage, and you will instantly save money. You may have a huge 4×4 on the driveway at home, but in reality a hatchback is probably good enough to get you around while you are away.
It’s not just the rental prices that are lower for smaller cars, it the practicalities of hiring them that also help to reduce the overall costs. Smaller cars are more fuel efficient and will therefore allow you to make much needed savings at the pump too.
Check Which Fuel Policy Options Are Available
When you have chosen the right rental car for you, it is time to start thinking about your obligations as a driver. One of the most obvious ones will be finding out about the fuel policy that the hirer expects you to abide by.
Some car hire companies will charge you for a full tank of fuel upfront, and expect you to return it to them with an empty tank. Great if you are going to drive long distances, but if not, you are paying for fuel that you do not use. It is also worth remembering that even if you will need a tank of fuel during your stay, they usually charge a lot more than it would cost you to fill up the tank yourself.
The most cost efficient fuel policy is one that allows you to return the vehicle with the same amount of fuel as it had in when you collected it.
Some comparison sites will let you search by fuel policy so you know from the outset exactly what you are paying and what your obligations are. In fact, online comparison site Enjoy Care Hire will ONLY offer you deals from companies that have a “Fair Fuel Policy” meaning that you will only ever pay for the fuel you use.
Avoid Using the Airport Pick up Desks
If you can manage to get to your resort using public transport, and then collect your vehicle from an off-airport location you could save even more money. Airport rental hire always attracts a premium, and depending on when you arrive, you could be paying for a full days car hire, even though you only use it for a couple of hours.
If you can, arrange to collect your car on your first full day’s stay and choose an off-airport location to collect it from. The same applies to dropping your car back off when you return it.
Skyscanner offers you plenty of options for you to tailor your search criteria, and gives you an easy to understand map showing prices and locations that are cheaper than using the airport.
Be Careful When Purchasing Insurance Policies
This is one of the most contentious issues when it comes to car rental. Basic cover is usually included in the rental price, but nearly all car hire companies will ask you to take out an additional “Excess” policy to protect against charges for damage.
They can use quite frightening tactics to get you to sign up and will often tell you that unless you take their additional excess insurance you will be charged large amounts for even the smallest amount of damage to the car . These policies can cost as much as £25 a day, which makes them horrendously expensive. If you shop around, you should be able to find a similar, stand alone excess insurance policies for as little as £2 a day.
Excess car insurance comparison site Money Maxim offers cost effective insurance that will also cover you should the rental firm go bust. You can purchase the policy online when you book your car hire.
To further complicate the delicate matter of insurance, if you use a standalone policy, you will need a credit card on standby.
Most rental companies will ask for a large security deposit that could run into hundreds of pounds if you do not purchase their own insurance. Many of them will not accept debit cards. Therefore you need a credit car with a hefty available balance on it secure your rental.
If the worst does happen, and you do damage the car during your stay, the hirer will usually deduct damages from your card, and you will need to claim the money back through your standalone insurance provider.
Don’t Forget Your Dvla Code
Car rental companies can legally ask you for proof of the amount of points you hold on your licence. A DVLA code will allow them to access your information instantly.
In reality, many firms don’t ask for this, but it is worth getting it before you go, just in case. To get a code, you’ll need to request one from the Share Driving Licence online service via Gov.uk. You can then give the code to the rental company when you collect your car, and it will last for 21 days.
Avoid Expensive Car Seat Costs
Car rental companies often charge over £5 per day for the use of a child seat. This can add up if you use more than one, and is an additional expense you probably didn’t think about when booking.
It is a legal requirement in most countries for children to use child seats. Many airports will actually rent them to you for the duration of your stay for half the price of a car hire rental company. If you can, of course, taking your own car seat with you will save you even more money.
Why bother paying in excess of £50 per week for additional sat nav hire, when most modern day smart phones are perfectly effective for getting you around.
You can quickly and easily download navigation apps all around the world, and many are even free. If you are worried about being distracted while you drive, bring a suction phone holder with you and pop it in the car when you pick it up. This way you can still find your way around, without paying a fortune for the privilege.
Finally, the Cheapest Way To Enjoy Your Car Hire on Holiday Is To Drive Safely
Wherever you are in the world, make sure you research the rules of the road before you go. Driving on the opposite side of the road, foreign language road signs and even just the way the locals drive can be distracting and potentially dangerous.
Stay calm, go slowly and get a feel for the road. Look after your rental car and it will look after you. Do not go speeding around or treating it badly just because it is not your own.
Get out on the open road and discover your dream destination with cheap hire car rental.
Disclosure: Some of the links above are affiliate links which mean that some of the companies will pay a small commission for sending you their way. This will not cost you any extra and it supports the running of this website.
Amar was born and raised in England and embarked on an 11-country round-the-world gap year after graduation and then became well and truly hooked. The first gap year inspired a second, which ended up being a 23-country down-the-world trip from Canada to Antarctica. Since then, Amar has spent the last 14 years traveling the 7 continents.