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19 Oct 2020
Georgina Kent Georgina Kent

A guide to holiday car hire


A family packing their suitcases into their hire car

Planning on hiring a car this year? Our guide tells you all you need to know. 

When it comes to car hire, there are lots of variables to keep in mind. From different hire firms, different cars and different insurance extras. It can be a confusing business to say the least. 

With the global pandemic afoot, more and more Brits are choosing to enjoy a staycation. To help you out, we’ve put together a guide to turn your confusion into clarity. 

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Why hire a car for a staycation? 

Traditionally when you think of car hire, it’s usually teamed with a trip abroad. But there are also plenty of reasons to hire a car at home: 

  • Your car may not be big enough for the luggage you need to take

  • You may need a car to seat more people

  • Your current car might be older, and not so reliable for a long drive

  • Maybe you just fancy a treat of driving a more luxurious car for a week or so.

Live in the UK and hiring a car in the UK? Here’s what you’ll need 

Here’s your to-do list of things you’ll need to hire a car in the UK as a resident: 

  • Driving licence code from the DVLA – call them on 0300 083 0013, the code will be valid for 21 days

  • Your full UK driving licence

  • Proof of address like a bank statement or utility bill

  • A photo ID (your driving license will probably double up as this).

Since COVID-19, most car hire companies are performing a deep clean on their cars between hires. Check the rental company’s website first to see what their policy is. 

What is car hire excess insurance? 

When collecting your hire car, you'll usually be offered a range of optional extras at the rental desk, such as breakdown cover, music systems, theft cover etc. 

It can all be a bit confusing and costly, especially when you just want to get going. 

Car hire excess insurance is one of these extras. But what is it? 

What a lot of people don't realise is that if their hire car is damaged in any way, they’re typically liable to pay the excess. 

In insurance speak, excess is the amount you pay towards any claim. In the case of car hire it’s often in the region of £500 to £2,000. All depending on who you're hiring the car from, of course. 

Car hire excess cover is a policy which allows you to claim back this cost. Much like travel insurance, you can either have a single or annual policy. If you hire cars regularly, an annual policy might be worth looking into. 

It’s an optional extra, so you’re not required to buy it. 

Is insurance included within the hire price? 

What insurance, if any, is included within a hire agreement can vary according to the company and country. 

Be sure to check the level of cover you’re getting, whether that’s fully comprehensive or third-party fire and theft. If the cover doesn’t meet your needs, perhaps consider a temporary policy

It’s always important to check the details of any arrangement thoroughly to make sure you have the right level of cover. 

Read more: Car insurance policy types 

What do I need to hire a car in another country? 

There are a few bits and pieces that you’ll need when you turn up to collect the keys from the rental firm. 

These include your driving licence, any international driving documentation, and your passport. 

You can use your UK driving licence to drive within the EU. But if you’re planning on driving outside of these countries, you may need an International Driving Permit.

How should I pay for my hire car? 

It’s wise to pay by credit card if you can, rather than a debit card. Some car hire firms only accept credit cards anyway. 

This is because in the event of a problem, such as the rental firm going bust, you should be protected by Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act. 

This covers credit (not debit) payments between £100 and £30,000. 

Remember, however, to factor in any surcharges if applicable. 

Also, some hire companies give the option of paying the cost of hiring the vehicle upfront or at the time of pick-up where you’d pay in the local currency. 

Paying in advance is always the cheaper of the two options. 

How to save money when hiring a car 

When it comes to saving money on car hire, there are a number of other things you might want to consider: 

  • Car hire excess insurance: if you’re thinking about getting this, make sure you buy it before you get to the rental company as it’s much cheaper than buying it at the time. It pays to think ahead here.

  • Sat navs: these cost extra to hire, so you might want to take your own, or even download a free navigation app before you go. There are loads to choose from.

    If you’re using your phone as a nav, remember to factor in any roaming fees.

  • Children’s seats: many airlines allow you to take children’s seats free of charge on the plane. And even if your airline does charge a small fee, it’s usually less than what you’ll pay to hire one.

  • Additional drivers: sharing the driving between you and a partner can be a good idea, especially if you’re covering long distances.

    But just be aware that hire companies may charge you extra for adding another driver to the agreement.

  • Pick-up/drop-off location: most people pick up and drop off their hire car from the same location. However, if you decide to drop off the vehicle at a different location you could be charged extra.

Impact of Brexit on driving abroad 

The UK is no longer part of the EU. 

We're now in a transition period until the end of 2020 while the UK and EU carry out negotiations. 

Until then, the current rules for driving abroad won't change. 

For more information on travelling in 2021 and beyond, visit GOV.UK


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