Car hire: Save money on your holiday rental with these top tips

Summary: As the cost of fuel spirals, here’s how to save money on your car…

Summary: As the cost of fuel spirals, here’s how to save money on your car rental while on holiday.

The energy crisis has led to huge price hikes at fuel pumps across Europe. Not only has the price of petrol and diesel risen dramatically, but the cost of many other related goods and services, including car hire, is spiralling too.

Renting a car can be a tricky business, as there are often hidden costs, additional fees and lots of insurance extras involved. So if you’ve booked a holiday this year and are planning to hire a car as part of your trip, how can you keep costs low?

Read on for our handy guide to car rental in 2022.

Don’t leave it until the last minute

It’s a well-known fact that buying anything time-sensitive at the last minute is likely to result in higher costs. From train and plane tickets to accommodation, as urgency rises, so does the cost.

So thinking ahead and taking the time to shop around is the best thing you can do when looking for a car rental. If you’re booking during peak months like July and August, prices are likely to be high already, so thinking ahead will help you to save some cash.

Some countries have higher rental demands too. There’s likely to be more people looking to hire a car in popular summer destinations like Italy and Portugal which will drive up prices.

Check the car before you drive off

One of the most important things you can do is check over the car before you leave the parking lot. While car hire firms will be quick to tell you that there is no damage to the vehicle, make sure you take note of any existing issues so they can’t be blamed on you once you return it.

Check the car carefully for dents, scratches and cracks – especially in common places such as wing mirrors and bumpers. Point these out to the dealership and write them down on the agreement before you and they sign.

Taking photos and videos of any pre-existing damage – which will be time stamped – is a good idea too.

Book a car with a local company

While it might be tempting to book a car with a big global brand, small rental firms are often cheaper. As with most things, it pays to shop around, but it also might not be sensible to book with a company you’ve never heard of.

Using a car rental broker that you trust, such as Skyscanner or Zest Cars, will give you peace of mind and help you compare small firms based on a wide variety of factors.

Steer clear of airport car hire companies

Though it might be easier to get your car from a car hire firm at the airport, the convenience will cost you. Cars are in demand at these transport hubs, so there’s a surge price involved in hiring one here. Smaller firms that aren’t based at the airport are likely to be significantly cheaper, so make sure you’ve planned ahead.

Buy third party insurance

Buying insurance directly from the car hire firm is usually always more expensive and less comprehensive. Instead, buy your insurance from a third-party provider.

In the UK, Which? has a good guide to car insurance firms. While many car hire firms will try and pressure you into buying their insurance if you know you’ve got good coverage in advance, their sales pitch will be easier to ignore.

Pack a map or download a navigation app

If you can live without satnav, your car hire costs will likely be cheaper as you’ll be able to get a model without all the added technological extras.

While maps might seem a bit old school by today’s standards, if you’re good at navigation and travelling in a pair, it’s worth considering. Reading a map will also help you to get to know the local area too and you might discover some less well known beauty spots.

Alternatively, if you don’t think your navigation skills are up to the task, consider downloading a satnav app on your phone instead. That way you’ll be able to choose a cheaper, satnav free car.

Find out how you’re paying for fuel

Petrol prices are high and likely to get higher as the year goes on, so saving on fuel is one of the easiest ways to reduce the cost of car hire.

There are generally two ways to pay for fuel in a hire car, you can either sign up for a full-to-empty policy or a full-to-full policy.

While the full-to-empty scheme might seem easier- you’ll be paying the car rental firm’s costs for that full tank. Though it means you won’t have to fill it up before you return the car, these prices are unlikely to be the cheapest on the market. Also, if you don’t use the whole tank, it’ll be money down the drain too.

This makes full-to-full the more cost-efficient option if you’re unlikely to use the full tank, you’ll only have to top it up a bit -plus you’ll be able to find the cheapest petrol station in the area.

Shop around for the best petrol prices

While it might seem that fuel prices are universally high, some petrol stations are still cheaper than others. As a rule, you should always avoid buying petrol from a motorway service station, where the price of filling your tank is almost always going to be more.

Get off the motorway and you’re likely to find cheaper prices. Supermarket forecourts are usually the best option, and if you’re on a staycation you’ll already know which ones have the cheapest deals. Also make sure to sign up for supermarket loyalty cards, as many of these offer points for petrol schemes.

If you’re travelling in the UK the Petrol Prices app will be able to direct you to the cheapest petrol station in your area. Many other countries have their own version too, including Germany’s Clever Tanken app and Gas Buddy in the US.

Drive efficiently to save fuel

It might take a bit of brain training, but driving efficiently can also help you cut down on the amount of petrol you use while travelling in your hire car. Driving faster uses more fuel, so accelerating slowly will lead to better fuel efficiency.

Driving in the highest gear possible within the speed limit is the most fuel-efficient way you can drive. Equally, maintaining momentum will keep fuel use low too. While this isn’t always possible given traffic jams and stop signs, bear in mind that slowing and accelerating will be bad for your mileage, so try and keep it to a minimum.

If you find yourself in a temperate country and don’t really need to use the AC, turn it off. Having the air con on all the time will also guzzle fuel, so always take off your jumper before reaching for the AC switch.

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