1. Research and book early to avoid higher prices, fluctuating exchange rates and hidden costs.
Use price comparison sites such as Skyscanner, Travelsupermarket, Carrental and Kayak to help you find the best deal.
2. Always take out standalone excess insurance cover before going away.
Car hire providers will often try to make you take out their own excess insurance policy. However, there are plenty of third-party providers who offer much more competitive prices on car hire excess insurance. You can use a price comparison site such as Money Maxim. Bettersafe.com charges start at £1.99 a day.
3. Is an International Driving Permit required?
A UK licence is accepted throughout the EU but check if a 1949 Convention IDP or a 1926 Convention IDP is required elsewhere. They can be obtained from the Post Office, the AA or the RAC.
4. Sat Nav, App or Map?
Taking a sat nav, downloading a route planner app such as Navmii Navfree or just going old school with a roadmap are all good options. If you have to hire a GPS unit, make sure it is set in your language. It is usually far cheaper to bring your own than to hire one.
5. Read up on the rules of the road.
Who has the right of way on a roundabout and turning right (or left) on a red light? This information can be obtained from the AA and the RAC.
6. Unlimited mileage plans.
Use to avoid penalty costs if you are going on a big trip.
7. Separate driver.
Pay at the time of booking instead of at the rental desk. You will save money.
8. Check the car inside and out before pulling away from the depot.
Take photos and videos. Make notes on the hire company's form regarding scratches and dents and let the staff know. Is the car particularly dirty? Can you reasonably check for damage? If not this is something to raise with the staff at the car hire desk.
9. Ask for all the paperwork to be completed when the vehicle is returned.
If the hire depot is closed and the vehicle cannot be checked, take as many photographs as possible to avoid credit cards being debited for alleged damage. Check credit card bills and bank statements for the next few months. Keep the pictures and all the documents from the rental company.
10. Report unreasonable practice.
The European Car Rental Conciliation Service (ECRCS) has a free service to look into unresolved complaints. It only deals with complaints about member companies, so check to ensure that your company is listed. The European Consumer Centres Network also looks into complaints regarding companies in EU countries.