Hiring a Car: A Guide

Navigating Europe by car can be an exhilarating experience, offering the freedom to explore the countryside, bustling cities, and historical landmarks at your own pace. Whether you’re a tourist planning a road trip or a local requiring a temporary vehicle, understanding how hiring a car can help you have a great trip.

This guide aims to walk you through the key aspects of how to rent or hire a car, ensuring a smooth, cost-effective, and enjoyable experience.

What are the age requirements for hiring a car?

Generally, the minimum age is 21 years, but this can vary depending on the rental company and the local laws of the country. In the UK, you can hire if you’re 21 depending on the company. Drivers under 25 may face additional charges and might be restricted from renting certain vehicle types due to insurance policies. Enterprise, a popular rental company requires 25 as the minimum age.

Always check the specific requirements of the rental company before booking. You’ll need a valid driving license, and in some cases, an International Driving Permit (IDP) might be necessary, especially for international travellers.

What does car hire cost?

The cost of car renting in the UK can vary based on several factors such as the type of car, rental duration, and the time of year. On average, hiring a small to medium-sized car can cost anywhere from £15 to £60 per day while larger SUVs can be around £100-£150 per day. In other countries, such as Spain, car hire can start from as low as £10/ day.

For those needing a vehicle for an extended period, weekly or long-term rentals can offer significant savings. Companies often provide discounts for longer rental periods. This is especially useful for tourists exploring the UK over several weeks or locals needing a temporary vehicle. To hire a car for a week, it can range from £100-£500 depending on the type of car. For example, a Hyundai i10 could cost around £170 for a week whereas a Kia Xceed could cost in excess of £300/ week. Car rental companies like Enterprise have weekly rental offers that could be more cost-effective.

Factors influencing the price include the type of car, rental duration, location, and time of year. To get the best deal, compare prices online and book in advance. Be aware of additional costs like insurance, taxes, and fees for extra services.

What documents do you need when hiring a car?

When hiring a car in the UK, as well as in other countries across Europe, there are several standard documents you’ll need to provide:

In the UK:

  • Driving License: A full, valid driving licence held for a minimum of 1 year (some companies require 2 years). In some cases, an International Driving Permit (IDP) might be required.
  • Credit Card: A credit card in the driver’s name for the security deposit. Some companies might accept debit cards, but this often comes with additional conditions so make sure you check with the company.
  • Additional Identification: A passport or other form of photo ID, especially for international renters.
  • Proof of Address: Some companies may also require recent proof of address, like a utility bill or bank statement.
  • Insurance Documentation: If you’re using your own insurance, proof of coverage is necessary.

In Other European Countries:

The requirements are similar across Europe, but there can be country-specific variations.

A UK-registered vehicle travelling abroad must have DVLA-issued V5C or the BVRLA provides the VE103B (Vehicle on Hire Certificate) for rental cars.

Germany, France, Spain, Italy: The standard requirements (driving license, credit card, additional ID) apply. An International Driving Permit may be necessary for licenses outside the EU/EEA, especially in Italy. Since Brexit, it’s advisable to have an IDP as a precaution, especially if you only have an old-style paper license.

Eastern Europe (e.g., Poland, Hungary): Besides the usual documents, additional insurance might be recommended due to different driving conditions – check the local laws.

Scandinavian Countries (Norway, Sweden, Finland): Winter tyres are often mandatory for rentals during certain months, so check if this is included.

Greece: For non-EU licence holders, an IDP is usually required. Also, Greece has specific age requirements for renting certain types of vehicles.

Portugal: Tolls are predominantly electronic, so inquire about the toll policy with the rental company.

Additional things to keep in mind:

  • Age Restrictions: It’s usually 21 years but minimum and maximum age limits can vary. Young driver surcharges are common for drivers under 25.
  • Cross-Border Travel: If planning to take the car across international borders within Europe, inform the rental company as there may be restrictions or additional fees.
  • Local Laws: Familiarise yourself with local traffic laws, such as emissions regulations in certain city centres.

How does car insurance work when you rent a car?

Car rental insurance is crucial. Standard rental agreements usually include basic (third-party cover) insurance. However, you might want additional coverage like a Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) or Theft Protection from a third-party provider, if it doesn’t include this in the policy.

Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) covers the cost of damage to the rental car in the event of an accident. When you purchase a CDW, you agree to pay a certain amount of money (called an excess fee) in the event of damage to the rental car. The rental company will cover the remaining cost of repairs up to a certain amount. The CDW may also cover the cost of theft of the vehicle.

Understand what your personal car insurance covers and consider any additional insurance you might need.

What is car hire excess and do I need it?

There will usually be an ‘excess’ associated with any cover included in your rental agreement. In other words, you have to contribute towards the repair of the vehicle regardless of who is at fault.

Car hire excess insurance will cover you for that excess, as well as for any additional types of damage to the vehicle that the basic policy doesn’t. This can include things like damage to tyres or windscreen.

There is no legal requirement for car hire excess insurance. It is often opted for by customers in order to avoid the high rates charged by rental companies for excess waivers. Basically, you can avoid higher excess charges if your hire car is damaged by paying a small amount upfront.

What to do when returning a hired car?

To help ensure returning a hire car is a problem-free process, here are some tips:

Disconnect Your Phone from the Car’s Bluetooth: Before returning the rental car, ensure you disconnect your phone from the car’s Bluetooth system. This is important for privacy and security reasons, as modern cars can store personal information like your contacts, call logs, or places you’ve navigated to.

“The mistake too many people are making is forgetting to erase the device from the Bluetooth system when selling their cars or handing the keys back on a rental vehicle. While some rental car companies have a policy of wiping the system after each driver, many don’t and it’s up to the individual motorists to do it themselves. Make sure to completely unpair your phone from the vehicle” – Andrew Jervis, co-founder at ClickMechanic

Check the Return Time and Location: Confirm the time by which the car needs to be returned and the specific location. Late returns can incur extra charges.

Refuel the Car (if required): Based on the fuel policy agreed upon (often full-to-full), refuel the car to the level it was when you picked it up to avoid additional charges.

Clean the Car: While normal wear and tear are expected, returning a car with excessive dirt or garbage inside can result in cleaning fees. A quick tidy-up and removal of any trash can help avoid this.

Inspect the Car: Check thoroughly for any personal items that might have been left behind, especially in compartments, under seats, and in the boot.

Keep Receipts and Documentation: After the return, keep all receipts and documentation related to the rental for a few months in case there are any disputes or additional charges. Make sure you do the return process in the presence of an employee of the rental company.

How do I get the best deal when looking for a car hire?

Getting the best deal when renting a vehicle involves a combination of timing, research, and understanding of the rental process. Here are some strategies to help you secure the best possible deal:

  • Book in Advance: Generally, the earlier you book, the better the prices. Rates tend to be higher when booked last minute, especially during peak travel seasons.
  • Compare Prices Online: Use car rental comparison websites to compare prices across multiple rental agencies. Websites like Kayak, TravelSupermarket, or Rentalcars.com can provide a broad view of the options available.
  • Check for Discounts: Some credit card companies such as Amex Platinum offer rental car discounts or insurance coverage.
  • Opt for Economy Cars or Compact cars: Economy class cars are usually cheaper, and unless you need more space, they can be a cost-effective choice.
  • Avoid Airport Rentals if Possible: Renting a car from an airport location generally includes additional fees. If feasible, consider renting from a non-airport location.
  • Understand the Fuel Policy: Choose a rental with a full-to-full fuel policy. This way, you only pay for the fuel you use and avoid extra refuelling charges from the rental company.
  • Inspect the Vehicle Thoroughly: Before leaving the rental parking lot, inspect the car for any damages and ensure you take photos and videos on your phone. This can save you from being charged for pre-existing damages.
  • Check Insurance Requirements: Review your auto insurance policy and credit card benefits to see if you already have coverage for rental cars. This can save you from buying unnecessary additional insurance from the rental agency, especially in the case of a second driver.
  • Be Aware of Mileage Limits: Ensure you understand the mileage policy. Unlimited mileage deals are often the best value, especially if you plan to drive long distances.
  • Read the Fine Print: To avoid unexpected costs, pay close attention to details about additional fees, cancellation policies, insurance coverages, and any restrictions
  • Return the Car on Time: Late returns can incur massive fees. Make sure you return the car on time as per the agreement.

Hiring a car doesn’t have to be intimidating. With the right prep and knowledge, your travel experience can be trouble-free. By understanding your requirements, choosing the appropriate vehicle, and being aware of the costs and your insurance options, you can ensure a smooth and enjoyable journey!

Marketing at ClickMechanic

Louanne is a marketing and communications professional in the automotive tech industry currently at ClickMechanic, boasting over 5 years of experience.

Louanne’s work at ClickMechanic might revolve around branding and customer engagement, but her passions extend far beyond the marketing sphere. A true foodie at heart, she loves exploring diverse cuisines and talking about her culinary adventures across the world. Her writing prowess shines through in her car-related blog content, where she offers invaluable driving tips and practical car repair advice.

In her Suzuki Jimny 4-wheel drive, Louanne combines her sense of adventure with her automotive know-how, transforming every drive into a lesson and a pleasure.