Car Hire: Common Hidden Costs & How to Avoid Them

To find out why people are paying more than they need to for car rentals, insurance4carhire surveyed 1000 people in the UK who hired a car in Europe.

This year, one-in-six people in the UK has taken a road trip or tour of a country. Having the flexibility and freedom to explore is exciting and while insurance may be the last thing on your mind, it can really make or break a holiday.

While most car hire companies include insurance as standard when you rent a car, the excesses can range from £500 to more than £1400. This is where car hire excess insurance can help, providing peace of mind by reimbursing you for the excess spent on a claim.

Car hire excess insurance can be bought directly from car hire companies, usually as a single trip policy, or can be bought from a third-party provider like insurance4carhire as single-trip or annual cover. A car hire excess policy from insurance4carhire is not in addition to a policy with the rental company’s excess cover, it’s a replacement and can save you an £65.50 versus the cost of an excess policy for week long car hire in Spain.

Being stung

Almost half of our respondents admitted to having been caught out by extra costs, with around one-in-four respondents having been sold excess insurance at the rental desk when hiring a car in Europe after being told it was ‘compulsory’. Most of the time, drivers are just unaware that excess cover is both voluntary and can be cheaper when booked in advance.

To avoid falling victim to this, make sure you read the breakdown of costs relating to your hire car before signing anything – as once you’ve signed, it could be difficult to contest. And remember: you can’t buy third-party car hire excess cover after you’ve signed your rental agreement at the desk, but you can purchase it at any point leading up to this (even while you’re in the queue to collect your car – although we’d recommend giving yourself more time so that you can properly read through the policy information!).

Hidden costs of car hire

On average, people are paying up to £65.50 more than they need to when hiring a car. To mitigate the likelihood of this happening to you, it’s important to plan carefully. If you’ve purchased car hire excess insurance from a third-party provider such as insurance4carhire, in advance, you can avoid buying potentially expensive daily car hire excess at the desk.

After picking up the car, make sure that all pre-existing damage is documented and (if possible) photographed before you set off in your hire car. The car hire company is entitled to charge you for anything that’s undocumented before you set off.

Another unexpected cost that our respondents reported happening to them was the ‘collect full, return empty’ fuel policy, which sometimes makes a car rental seem cheaper than it otherwise would be, but incurs costs if you return the car with fuel remaining in its tank.

Getting prepared for driving a hire car

Nearly half of drivers surveyed thought that booking a rental vehicle wasn’t an easy experience. With so many car hire companies out there as well as the amount of hire car options and insurance add-ons available, it’s hardly surprising that some of  our respondents perceived it to be a challenging task.

Once the booking is complete, drivers can begin to get clued up on local road laws and signs, but despite over half of drivers preparing to drive abroad in some way, nearly a quarter still experience higher levels of stress when driving in Europe.

How do people prepare for driving in Europe chart

Making a car hire claim

Our survey results suggest that some people are paying more than they anticipated, which can leave a nasty dent in the holiday budget (or bank balance after returning home). The most common reason respondents made claims on car hire policies were  accidents with a person, vehicle or animal (40%) and theft (29%).  

Hidden costs of car hire chart

How to avoid paying extra for your rental car

A key problem drivers surveyed claimed to have experienced is the lack of general knowledge around excess insurance, as people sometimes don’t realise that it exists or the benefit it has. In fact, over 20% of our survey respondents admitted to having paid more than anticipated for car hire excess at the rental desk.

In most cases, the best thing drivers can do is to purchase car excess insurance in advance from a third-party provider so that you know exactly what you’re paying for. This involves deciding whether a single trip or annual policy is right for your needs and can be checked using our product comparison tool.

While over half of our respondents prepare to drive on European roads in some way, more than 60% don’t read their car rental agreement all the way through – or at all. Getting to know your rental agreement and insurance policy is a great way of getting to grips with what you’re paying for, what’s covered and how you can claim.

Every car hire company is different; if you’ve made a claim with one company the clauses may not be the same for another. And if you can’t make a claim for the damage on your insurance policy, then there’s no excess to claim back on your rental either!

Here are some other ways you can get prepared and save money when hiring a car:

  • Get clued up on local road signs and laws: our handy guide to driving in Europe
  • Read the policy: ask to see the full rental  documentation and look for any mention of includes everything you need to know, from the types of roads to speed
  • Print out your insurance4carhire policy (or at least save it on your phone): present it at the desk and politely decline if the car hire company attempts to sell you excess
  • Before you begin driving, check the car thoroughly: take the representative with you, point out any scratches, bumps and dents that have not already been highlighted on the forms and take
  • Ask about petrol: make sure you understand whether you need to give the car back with a full or empty
  • Keep hold of the car hire paperwork after your holiday: most claims are made after you get back and you’ll need evidence when checking the amount, you claimed on your credit card
  • Consider how often you rent a car – with insurance4carhire, an annual policy may be cheaper than a single trip policy in the long-run and, with insurance4carhire, will even cover a courtesy car loaned to you if your personal car is being repaired.

Find out more about car hire excess insurance or buy online today.


Research carried out in February 2020 based on hiring a medium sized family car from Barcelona Airport, 13 to 19 April 2020, when Annual Europe policy at £44.99 purchased from insurance4carhire, compared with car hire excess cover for a week-long trip in Spain in April with Hertz £108.99, Sixt £81.84, Avis £128.28, Firefly £110.79 and Goldcar £122.67.

When you are provided with a courtesy car because your own car is being serviced or repaired for damage, we will pay you the costs of repairs or excess relating to the courtesy car for which you are responsible, up to £6,500 for any one incident and no more than £6,500 in any one period of insurance. The maximum number of days for each loan period must not exceed 60 continuous days.

Survey of 1000 people in the UK who hired a car in Europe was carried out between June 2018 and June 2019.

Why choose a policy from insurance4carhire?

Excess cover is often offered when you pick up your rental car, but at a high cost - between £9 and £20 per day. A policy from insurance4carhire will cost you from £12.79 per trip or from £46.99 per year* and will cover your excess - up to £6,500 per claim. 

About the author

Adam Summersby - blog author, car hire excess insurance business unit directorThis is a marketing article from insurance4carhire by our car hire excess insurance business unit director, Adam Summersby. Adam is a respected leader with 11 years’ varied experience in niche personal and commercial lines insurance, including caravan, site operators and excess reimbursement, with proficiency in leadership, sales and account management.

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