Beware the hidden costs of holiday car hire

Car hire firms can chase you for money long after you thought you had paid for your holiday.

Family of four on holiday with hire car © Alamy

Will a big bill be waiting when they get home?

The summer holidays are over. But you may not have finished paying for them if you hired a car during your trip. Kate Palmer in The Sunday Times tells the story of Peter and Lynne Darker, who found themselves chased for a car-hire payment 15 months after their journey. To make matters worse the charge was for damage and breakdown cover after the tyre exploded on the vehicle on a motorway just 15 minutes after they hired it. This shows that "rental companies can charge for alleged damage to vehicles long after customers have returned home", says Palmer. They can do so because they store your financial details when you hire the car and it is in the terms and conditions that they don't have to seek your permission to take a payment. In a case covered in The Daily Telegraph, a "highly experienced police driver was accused of burning out the clutch and billed £1,235 five months later".

Keep an eye on your card statement

Try to book with a firm that has a UK office so if there is a problem you aren't trying to communicate across a language barrier. You also have additional support when dealing with UK firms. "If you cannot resolve a dispute with a car-rental company in the UK, use the British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association's conciliation service (bvrla.co.uk)," says Nick Trend in The Daily Telegraph.

Finally, avoid hiring a car through InterRent, Goldcar, or their parent company Europcar. In a survey by Which? Travel, an independent consumers' organisation, these firms were ranked the worst. Almost half of those who hired with InterRent, and four in ten Goldcar customers, had a problem, says Guy Hobbs on which.co.uk.

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