If you’re planning your holiday in Wales this year and thinking of picking up a cheap rental car for your trip, the car rental process in the UK can be minefield of hidden fees. To help you to navigate the process, we’ve compiled a list of things to be aware of that should hopefully help you to avoid potential ‘gotchas’ before you book.
1. Book early to save money
The UK car rental companies all reduced their fleet sizes significantly in 2020, when during the Covid pandemic car rental demand dropped to almost zero. As demand start to return to the market and customers start to book rentals, the reduced availability of rental cars will mean that prices are likely to rise to much higher levels than they did in 2019. Prices for larger vehicles like people carriers are likely to increase the most, as availability was already limited prior to the pandemic.
2. Look out for high security deposits
When you collect a rental car in the UK, the rental desk will usually block a security deposit on your credit card. If you don’t have a credit card, you should be careful to check that the car rental company you’re booking with will accept debit cards as many don’t. Security deposits for rentals in the UK can be as high as £1,800 so be sure to check the details before you book. If you plan to use a debit card, the full amount of the security deposit will be withdrawn from your bank account, so you need to be sure you have sufficient funds available.
At most locations in the UK, rentals are available with reduced security deposits. These are more expensive than high security deposit rentals, but have the advantage of reducing the security deposit to just the cost of a tank of fuel.
3. Understand your excess insurance liability
When you hire a car in the UK, it will be fully insured with an excess amount. The ‘excess’ amount is the most you’d have to pay if the car was damaged or stolen. Many of the car rental companies now offer a more expensive zero excess option at the collection desk, it’s also sometimes possible to upgrade to the zero excess option online when you book your rental.
You also have the option of arranging your own car rental excess policy, the downside of which is that in the event of damage to car, you would have to pay the excess on your credit card and then claim it back through your insurance policy later.
4. Check the nearest airport prices
Even if you’re not arriving at the airport as part of your trip, it’s always worth checking the prices of car rental to collect from the nearest airport, as prices are often cheaper there due to the how incredibly competitive the airport rental business is for the car rental companies.
5. Check the documents you’ll need when you pick up the car
Strange as it may seem, more documentation is required for UK renters than for overseas renters when collecting a hire car in the UK. If you’re a UK license holder and used to hiring a car abroad, this can easily catch you out. If you’re a UK license holder, you’ll usually need a utility bill with your home address, a credit card, your driving license, and a DVLA check code to collect your car.
6. Always choose a ‘Full to Full’ fuel policy
Always avoid fuel policies that involve having to pay for the fuel you use or charge you an admin fee to refuel the car when you drop it off. You’ll often find ridiculously cheap rentals on offer with lots of hidden fees relating to fuel charges hidden away in the terms and conditions. Renting with a full to full policy means that you will pay a deposit for the tank of fuel when you pick up the car, which is refunded when you return it full.
7. Find a rental with free cancellation
With so much uncertainty still in the air in terms of the medium-term likelihood of further Covid travel restrictions, we recommend always choosing a rental with free cancellation and a quick refund. There are plenty of free cancellation options out there to choose from, we also recommend checking how quickly the rental company you’ve selected will refund your money if your plans change.
8. Use a price comparison website
Car rental prices can vary significantly from one website to the next, so it’s definitely worth shopping around. Be wary of any websites that don’t provide complete transparency, especially with regards to security deposit and insurance excess amounts. Also be wary of the different fuel policy options. It can sometimes seem like you’re getting a great deal, until you get into the detail with the terms and conditions.
Forewarned is forearmed as they say, if you take some time to understand the potential pitfalls we’ve outlined here, you can still find a great deal for your car rental and have a great time exploring everything that Wales and the UK has to offer.