Back to main blog page

The Insider’s Guide to Car Hire


We know car hire can be confusing. It’s not usually something you organise regularly. A once a year booking means that you often forget what things are or how they work. Here we’ve created a bit of an insider’s guide to car hire. The sort of things we treat as standard but our customers aren’t aware of, forget, or are mis-informed about. So follow us through this guide to car hire and fill up the gaps in your knowledge.

Who’s who? When it comes to car hire, you can either hire direct through a supplier or through a broker who will find you the best deals.

Supplier Hertz, Alamo, Sixt, Centauro etc. are suppliers. These are the guys who give you the car and with whom you sign the contract. Suppliers work with brokers to ensure as many of their cars are hired out as possible. car hire suppliers

Broker Economy Car Hire is a broker and we work with over 150 different suppliers to find you the best deal. You do not sign a contract with the broker. How they work together A broker negotiates exclusive deals with the suppliers to provide customers with certain benefits. For example, we have negotiated a free additional driver as well as collision damage and theft protection with no insurance excess with most of the suppliers that we work with. Other benefits include unlimited mileage, fair fuel policies and excess amounts (more on the last two later). Comparing prices between brokers and even with the supplier themselves is often unfair. This is because it’s not a like for like comparison. Always check exactly what is included in the price.

When should I book my car hire?

Generally, prices are cheaper the earlier you book. Ok, this may change if suppliers have a number of cars available the week before your holiday but you’re usually best off booking your hire car A.S.A.P.  You’ll also find prices tend to be lower if you collect from a city location rather than the airport if this is suitable.

Car hire insurance explained

Car hire insurance is a bit of a nightmare because there is no industry standard phrasebook. The word “excess” appears a lot and can mean a couple of different things. What is an “excess”? The excess is the amount that you pay the supplier upon return if your hire car is damaged or stolen. NB it’s sometimes called the ‘Deductible’ instead. Your hire car obviously comes insured to a certain standard. Usually, collision damage waiver (CDW) and theft waiver (TW) are included. This can collectively be referred to as Loss Waiver (LW). But what exactly does this mean? Well, if you have a crash or the vehicle is stolen, you will not be liable for the entire value of the vehicle, but limited to a pre-determined excess amount. The amount of this excess is determined by the supplier and can be up to €3,000 in some cases. If you’re not hiring through Economy Car Hire make sure you check what is included in the price that you are considering. Just because it says CDW and TW are included, it doesn’t mean there won’t be a huge excess. The standard policy (CDW) is designed to cover damage caused in a collision with another vehicle and not single-vehicle damage. It does not cover damage caused by driving into a wall or negligence. Think of it as a very basic 3rd party policy. However, damage to parts such as wheels, tyres, and glass parts aren’t normally covered. This is partly because not everyone wants a fully comprehensive insurance policy or they like to live on the wild side. This is why you can purchase additional Top Up Insurance when you book a car with Economy Car Hire. When you hire with us, some deals include collision damage waiver and theft waiver with no insurance excess. Where we cannot negotiate this with the supplier, we offer excess reimbursement insurance, which brings us onto the next point!

Excess Insurance (Excess Reimbursement Insurance – ERI) Excess reimbursement insurance (ERI) (also known as excess protection or excess waiver) protects the excess amount should your hire car be damaged or stolen. In the event of a claim, you simply pay the excess amount to the supplier, then claim it back through the insurance policy upon your return home.

“It’s not valid” Suppliers will occasionally say they don’t recognise 3rd party insurance policies and that they’re not valid (they are). This is because the policy isn’t provided by their underwriter and therefore doesn’t cover them directly. For this reason, upon collection you will need a credit card upon which a security deposit will be pre-authorised. This may be frustrating, but it will save you money in the long run. The security deposit (sometime confusingly called an excess) is there to cover damage to parts of the vehicle not covered by the standard insurance. If you take out the supplier’s insurance (often at an inflated cost) the amount of the security deposit will be reduced or removed completely.

Why do car hire suppliers sell insurance? With car rental prices as low as they are, often the only way for the suppliers to make money is by selling extras such as insurance. Imagine the monthly cost of the lease on a car is £350, they have to rent that car out at £87.50 per week to break even. And that’s not factoring in the winter months when there’s a drop in business. This is why some reps occasionally become pushy over selling insurance to try and cover staff costs, running costs, insurance costs, and more.

Hire cars & fuel policies

Fuel is always a tricky one when it comes to car hire. The full-empty policy left many customers feeling ripped off, but this is slowly changing. Around 98% of the suppliers we work with offer a Fair Fuel Policy which means you won’t be left out of pocket.

Fair fuel policies We currently offer 3 fair fuel policies:

  • Full-Full – What it says on the tin. Return the car full and you’ll be fine.
  • Return with same amount – Doesn’t need much explanation. Take a photo at the start of the rental in case there’s confusion over the exact amount.
  • Quarter to empty – This is rare. It’s mainly seen in smaller locations where you’d never use a full tank of fuel and therefore allows you to use what you need.

But it’s not just the policy that created these misgivings, we still suffer from the misconception that fuel is much cheaper abroad and car hire companies are overcharging (or scamming/ripping off/robbing depending on who you ask) in a way to make money. This isn’t true when it comes to unleaded – it is expensive but hiring a diesel abroad can save money. With the exception of Spain, unleaded prices are relatively similar to the UK. Diesel on the other hand is cheaper – although Italy wasn’t far off. However, if you hire an economy car you’re much more likely to be given an unleaded vehicle. If you hire an estate or larger vehicle, you’ll probably get a diesel.

Returning a hire car full Make sure you fill up at the airport fuel station and keep filling until the pump cuts out. It’s no good filling until the needle brushes the FULL line and then driving 20 miles. When you arrive, the car won’t be full and you’ll be charged. Also, don’t worry about the higher prices at the airport. It will only make a couple of Euro’s difference and works out much cheaper than a refuelling charge.

What is a Rental Day?

Cars are usually hired out for 24 hour periods commencing at time of pickup called a rental day. Suppliers usually have a short grace period so if you’re a little late, you won’t be affected. If you return the vehicle really late, you may be charged an extra day as the car was unavailable for the next customer.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.