Avoid rip-off car-hire charges on holiday

Don’t pay through the nose for car-hire insurance you don’t need or fuel you won’t use, says Ruth Jackson.

You could be in for a nasty surprise when you take it back

Credit: Pawel Kazmierczak / Alamy Stock Photo

If you've hired a car recently, you'll know that the pricing structure has become a lot more complicated in recent years. You pay one price when you book the car, only to be faced with a load more charges when you collect the car and again when you drop it back.

Advertisement - Article continues below

The majority of problems with car-hire bookings concern reservations made by rental brokers who offer ultra-low prices online, says Claire Evans on What Car. What seems like a good deal is then made more expensive as you discover how much you will actually have to pay. This doesn't mean you should just go for an expensive hire deal straightaway, but more that you should be aware of what you can confidently avoid when hiring a car.

You are less likely to encounter surprises if you book direct with a car-hire company or through an established broker such as Holiday Autos, says Evans. Once you've found a deal you are comfortable with, and which doesn't include obviously unnecessary expenses in the fine print, consider taking out your own excess cover. This is one of the big add-ons that you'll be presented with when you go to collect your car, with the warning that otherwise you will have to pay the first portion of the repair or replacement costs if you damage the vehicle. However, these policies can be expensive up to £25 a day in some cases when you can get your own cover for a fraction of that price. Standalone providers such as or CarHireExcess will give you a policy for around £2 a day or annual worldwide cover for around £50.

Advertisement - Article continues below
Advertisement - Article continues below

Car-hire firms hate it when you refuse to take out their excess waiver, so watch out for a few tricks to force your hand. Make sure you pay with a credit card in the driver's name, as the car-hire firm will want to put a hefty deposit on it in case there is any damage. Suppliers will sometimes claim the card has been declined if you've refused their insurance, says Nick Trend in The Daily Telegraph. So have a second card handy to put paid to this scam.

Before you sign anything, ensure you understand everything in the contract, especially items that have been ticked "accepted" or "declined". Also check the fuel policy. Avoid policies that give you a full tank at the start, but which expect you to return it nigh on empty you'll probably be charged over the odds for the initial tank and you won't get a refund for any fuel you don't use. Instead, choose a policy where you agree to return the car with a full tank. Finally, if you have children, don't get stung by rip-off prices charged for child seats. Some airports have separate shops offering child seat hire at a fraction of the cost, or you could hire a seat from a firm that will deliver it to the airport for you try Little Rascals in Portugal or Baby's Away in the US.

Advertisement - Article continues below

If you have problems that you can't resolve with the hire company, you can seek help from a conciliation service, says Evans. For cars hired in the UK, try the British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association, or the European Car Rental Conciliation Service elsewhere.

Pocket money thousands pay for advice they don't use

The government's predictions for how much we will all save with a smart meter are "inflated, out of date and based on a number of questionable assumptions", according to a group of MPs, reports The Guardian. The £11bn plan to put 53 million smart energy meters in 30 million houses by 2020 "risked going over budget, was past its deadline and must be reviewed immediately".

Advertisement - Article continues below

The expected saving on an annual dual-fuel bill from a smart meter has halved from £26 to £11.14. Meanwhile, costs are rising, with spending on installation £1bn over budget and threatening eventually to outstrip the £16.7bn gross benefit the project was supposed to deliver.

Advertisement - Article continues below

As many as 400,000 "orphan" investors are paying rip-off investment fees, says the Financial Conduct Authority, the City regulator. This is due to the fact that they are on an advised investment platform that was recommended to them by a financial adviser that they are no longer in contact with, says Ali Hussain in The Sunday Times. The investors are still using "advised platforms", rather than do-it-yourselfservices, despite the fact that they are no longer receiving the associated advice. People pay up to 0.55% a year for these platforms, more than double the amount charged by DIY platforms.

The number of judicial reviews (where a court reviews a decision made by a public body) faced by HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) is up 184% over the past three years, as people and businesses hit back against attempts to chase missing revenue, saysDavid Byers in The Times. Last year it saw 122 judicial reviews, up from 43 in 2014. These judicial reviews usually relate to claims that the taxman overstepped its authority or acted unfairly, Adam Craggs of law firm RPC tells The Times.

This increase in judicial-review challenges would suggest that taxpayers are not prepared to be treated unfairly and are willing to seek redress from the High Court, says Craggs. Though HMRC says it has been victorious in most of the cases brought against it, the body frequently settles cases before they reach court. Many cases are "the result of simple errors by HMRC and a dogged refusal to correct them".




Beware: mortgage payment holidays could cost you

Taking a break from mortgage or credit-card debt could ultimately cost you more in extra interest than the money you save.
26 May 2020
Small business

New grants for the self-employed

Self-employed workers can now apply for government support if their income has been affected by Covid-19.
22 May 2020
Personal finance

How to fight the Covid-19 fraudsters

Scammers have been quick to exploit people’s fear and uncertainty in the crisis. Here’s how to avoid them.
19 May 2020
Bank accounts

Interest rates are dwindling fast

Banks and building societies are continuing to slash the interest rates on their current and savings accounts.
15 May 2020

Most Popular

Investment strategy

How John Maynard Keynes learned the folly of market timing

In an extract from his book The Sceptical Investor, John Stepek explains how the great economist John Maynard Keynes came a cropper when he first star…
25 May 2020
Investment strategy

Are you a permabear? Three red flags to watch out for

Contrarian investors are often seen as bearish because the market tends to go up over time. But if that bearishness goes too deep, you risk seriously …
26 May 2020
Industrial metals

Governments’ money-printing mania bodes well for base metals

Money is being printed like there is no tomorrow. Much of it will be used to pay for infrastructure projects – and that will be good for metals, says …
27 May 2020