Car hire has unfortunately become one of the biggest industries where customers find themselves victims to various scams and rip-offs. Some companies are worse than others but we'll explain the scams to be aware of which will save you time, momey and stress.
We all love a good deal and when we're booking our hire car, it's no different. With many price comparison sites available to us, it's easy to enter our dates and pick the cheapest deal.
However, not all deals are the same. You must check things like what insurance is included, fuel policy and unlimited mileage. It's worth taking a little time to check this and make sure the deal you're going to take is right for you.
Be aware that the great deal you booked, could have been booked by many others for the same time that you arrive. Some of these cheaper car hire companies work off volume, they can offer the cheapest deal as long as they keep churning their customers over.
There's many complaints online of people being forced to wait hours in queue's to pick up their car. As a way to bag more profit and take advantage of you once you've arrived, there's usually an option to pay an extra fee and jump the queue. However, your cheap hire car deal won't be so cheap and already looking like a bad deal.
This is where the battle begins, the agent will ask you if you have insurance. If you do take out your own excess insurance, you may find they try and tell you that it's not valid with them or, tell you lots of scary things about how if you damage the car, you'll have to pay for it yourself and then claim from your excess insurance policy. They will then move on to pushing you to buy their very expensive insurance.
Depending on what you're comfortable with, you may just want to buy the expensive insurance policy and not have to worry about any damage that may be done to the car. Just be aware, you'll be paying well over the odds.
If you're more price conscious, take out a rental car excess policy before you go. Check all the limits and terms before you buy and just be aware that if you damage the car, you'll have to pay the charges up front and then claim back from the policy. If you're told at the counter that the policy isn't valid, that likely isn't actually true.
If you don't take out an insurance policy with your car hire company, they'll ask you for a deposit. I've seen this anywhere from £300 to £1200.
Some companies will block this amount on your card and only debit it, if there's any damage to the car. Others will debit the account and actually take the money. When you return the car, without damage, they will then refund. However, there is a scam that Goldcar use here by debiting your card in your home currency and returning it in local currency. There will be a difference in the amount here and they want to pocket the difference. Watch this video to see exactly how the scam works. If you're a victim of it, contact your card company as they will refund you the difference.
The other scam some companies will try, is that they will tell you that the card has been refused and they can't take the deposit. In which case, they will force you to buy their expensive insurance policy. Either be prepared to call your bank and confirm that the transaction was blocked or have a second card ready. Make sure your credit limits or deposited funds are enough to cover the charge.
To confuse you even more, you'll likely be offered a choice for fuel use. Bring it back full, or bring it back empty. You'll be told that if you bring it back empty, you just buy a tank of fuel at a discounted rate and you can bring the car back empty. The problem with this is, you're not refunded anything for any fuel that you have remaining. Therefore, you may find yourself driving around on empty for the last day or two as you don't want to leave any fuel in the tank!
You'll also generally have no idea how much fuel is if you're in a foreign country so the Car Hire Shout app will tell you. So download it here, it's FREE!
In my experience, it's easier to pick up full and return full. Just make sure you do actually fill up or you'll be charged a service fee (I've seen this to be around £35) and an inflated price per litre.
When you pick up the car, you'll be expected to look the car over yourself and mark off damage on a sheet of paper with x's. If there's damage on the car but it's not marked on the paper, there's a good chance you'll be charged for that damage on return.
Make sure you take your time and carefully check the car and put an "x" on the paper for all damage, no matter how tiny.
Take photos of the car, from all angles, the windscreen, the wheels and the top of the car. Take photos of the interior too so there can be no suggestion of damage on the inside. Use the Car Hire Shout app and upload those photos to verify the date and time, which you can show if there's any dispute when you return the car. It's free!
Lastly, check the fuel gauge and make sure the car is full.
If the car is damaged in your possession and you have excess insurance from a third party, you'll need to make a claim.
Firstly, take photos of the car, damage and include the registration number where possible.
Secondly, make a police report. This can be more difficult in a foreign country but it will be needed for the claim.
Keep your rental agreement, accident report, bills, charges and any other related paperwork.
If your car may have been broken into and any personal items stolen (it happened to me once in Mallorca), you'll need to provide receipts for the items. Be aware, there will be limits on what you can claim from an insurance company for personal items.
Firstly, don't be late! If you return the car later than the time printed on the rental agreement, you'll likely be charged a full day and it won't be the day rate at the deal you got online but their published daily rate which could be much higher.
If there's claims of damage, use the photos (that you hopefully posted on the Car Hire Shout app) to dispute any unfair damage claims. If you disagree with the damage claim, do not sign anything as you'll likely have to fight it when you're home.
If you're accused of damage, take photos of the damage and upload it to the Car Hire Shout app, so future renters won't be charged for the same damage.
Take more photos of the car when you return it, just in case there are any damage claims once you've left the airport and get home. There are many cases that this happens.
Keep all your paperwork for 60 days as there are many stories of damage charges appearing on credit cards, after the car was dropped off and given a clean bill of health.
Take a photo of the fuel gauge to show it's full and if you've got another phone on you, pull up a news website that shows the date and time.
This is the worst scam of all in my opinion. To see the full scale of how low some companies will go, such as RecordGo, watch this video.
Some companies will charge you for fake damage, once you're home where it's harder to fight it. As I mentioned, RecordGo did this with my family, which is what actually prompted me to build Car Hire Shout.
If you receive photos of apparent damage, firstly, look very closely at the photos and compare them. I have seen cases where supposed damage appears to be actually painted on in something like Photoshop or in my own case, it's clear that it was two entirely different cars. Some companies will have no shame in how they go about this scam so take a little time and look closely.
Add these photos to the Car Hire Shout app if you're accused of damage so we can keep track of damage on cars and hopefully force an end to this scam.
Contact your credit card company and dispute the charge, showing them all your paperwork, agreements and the signed off contract detailing that there was no damage. Ask the car hire company for an invoice of repairs and explain you need this to submit to your insurance or credit card company.
Your credi card company will work on your behalf and fight your case for you.
Renting a car isn't the most pleasant experience for most of us and at almost every turn, there's a scam or some way of being ripped-off. Use the Car Hire Shout app to let others know of your experience and together we can clean up this industry.