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Typical Car Hire Scams

By: Tracy Whitelaw - Updated: 31 Jul 2013 | comments*Discuss
Typical Car Hire Scams

Avoiding car hire scams can be a tough job, especially when most people don’t even realise they’re being fooled. Travelling abroad and hiring a car should be a straight-forward process with no traps or tricks, but for most car hire companies, there’s always the knowledge that your everyday hirer doesn’t know what they’re meant to be asking about. Familiarising yourself with the well-known scams means you can protect yourself and avoid paying excess amounts of money. Whether you're hiring a car at a rental agency or hiring on the internet, it's extremely important that you are aware of what to look out for.

Excess Charges

Most car hire companies will assure you that their prices are ‘drive away’ and you won’t face any extra charges for comprehensive insurance. Needless to say this is one of the most common scams available as most companies will offer CDW (Collision Damage Waiver), but will slap a hefty excess charge on it.

Some excess charges can be around 5,000GBP and staff at the rental agency will generally point this out when you show up to pick up your car. At this point they’ll offer you extra cover which will of course reduce your liability to zero. This can be very expensive however so you shouldn’t feel that you need to take it. A great way of avoiding this is to set yourself up with insurance before you go with a specialist company. This means you’re covered for car hire and won’t need to pay ridiculous extras charges.

Petrol Scams

There are generally three ways that you can include petrol in your car rental agreement: to pay for what you use; to drive away with a full tank and return it with a full tank; or to buy a full tank and come back with it empty. If you decide to drive away with a full tank and come back with it full, you must make sure you have it filled to the top. It’s a common scam that if a rental company can fit in even a few litres of fuel, they will charge you a 45 GBP refuelling charge. If you choose to buy fuel and then return empty, you’ll be charged around 40% more than regular petrol pieces and there’s no refunds for any petrol that you leave in the tank. If you choose to pay for the fuel you’ve used, make sure you keep the receipts and give them to the rental company when you get there.

Dents and Scratches

One of the most important checks you can do when hiring a rental car is to check around every part of it for any scratches or dents. Do not let the rental assistant do that for you. You must look for damage yourself and mark it down and let it be known to the attendant before you leave the lot. The vehicle condition report should have an accurate record of even the smallest scratch or dent as you’ll be liable to pay for those if you haven’t marked them on the sheet and then return with them.

Exclusions and other Hidden Costs

Most car hire companies will not cover you for wheels, tyres, roof damage, windscreen chips or breaks and undercarriage problems on their insurance. Generally their stance is that if someone has damaged any of these areas of the car, it’s out with ‘normal’ driving practices. This is because most accidents result in body damage and not other areas. What this means is that even if you are unfortunate enough to suffer a chipped windscreen, a puncture or other small, common problems with cars, you will have to pay. The best way of avoiding this is again to take out a policy from a specialist insurance company who will ensure you do not have to pay ridiculous amounts for these kinds of incidents.

Specialist Insurers When Travelling Abroad

Ask for a quote and explain your own set of circumstances. You’ll soon find that you’re better off arranging this separately from your rental company and it can save you a lot of time and hassle in the long run.

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I think once I rented a car from a well know city…and I am sure that vehicle was rigged so that it siphoned some of the fuel that was put in it, into an additional tank hidden in the car.I should have been wiser and checked before I returned the car.I remember it cost me a fortune in fuel, something like 3 times the price it should have been for such a small car.
Tony - 29-Aug-11 @ 10:17 AM
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