Avoiding the Hidden Charges of Car Hire

Something you’ll hear about time and time again when friends regale you with their “Holidays from Hell” stories is how they got ripped off on their car hire. Car rental companies have a bad reputation when it comes to additional charges, with fees for additional mileage, fuel, damage, and more being added seemingly at will after the rental is long finished.

Admittedly the major car rental companies are starting to clean up their act and are at least trying to make these charges more transparent, but it would be much better if you could avoid them altogether, right?

Listen to enough of the horror stories and you’ll start to see general themes developing about the types of charges that can get applied to your rental. This article aims to help you avoid the possibility of incurring these additional charges and, if you do, how to prove you shouldn’t have to pay them (if it’s not your fault that is).

Collecting the Rental Car
When collecting your rental car there are a few things you need to take into account before driving away to ensure that you’re not going to get any nasty surprises later. Firstly don’t forget to give the car a good look around for signs of any obvious damage that’s not on the paperwork. This is a notorious scam of the less reputable car hire firms so check:

o the exterior of the car for minor damage, dents and scratches. Concentrate on the most likely areas; doors and bumpers.

o the interior of the car for tears and stains; don’t forget this includes the boot.

o that brakes, headlights and indicators are functioning properly.

o that windscreen wipers, electric windows, doors and latches, radio and heating are operating correctly.

o the tyre pressures (at the nearest garage), oil and water levels are appropriate.

o that the fuel tank is full if your contract specified it should be.

o that you have the car’s manual with you.

If you find any faults that are not already highlighted on the rental paperwork, report them back to the rental company, preferably before driving away. Should this not be possible, photograph the damage (this is where mobile phones with cameras can come in really handy) so that you’ve at least got a record of it.

Once you’re happy with the car just double check all the paperwork. Make sure the registration plate matches the vehicle and that you’ve got contact numbers in the case of a breakdown or accident.


Most companies rent their cars out with a full tank of fuel and charge you for the difference between what’s left and refilling the tank. Often the price per litre of this charge is higher than the pump price and it’s very difficult to prove how much or little was in the car when you returned it.

Avoid this by filling the car at the nearest garage just before you take it back. Hold onto the receipt just in case and if they try and charge you, you’ve got some pretty good evidence on your side.

Booking Errors

Check the cost of your rental as car hire as an industry is notorious for it’s extras charging. You can get charged at the counter for extras like additional drivers, child seats, insurance upgrades, young driver surcharges, and more.

To avoid this make sure you read the rental terms when booking, and make sure your quotes are like for like. A company that appears cheaper may not always be the lowest cost option.

Hopefully having read this you’ll be able to enjoy your next car rental and be reasonably confident that it won’t come back to haunt you later.