The British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association (BVRLA) is giving the gift of advice this Christmas, and recommending consumers take extra care when hiring vehicles for the holidays.
Bogus car hire companies often catch travellers out during the festive season, with their offers of very low prices and nationwide availability right up to Christmas Day. Customers are conned into handing over deposits of hundreds of pounds for vehicles that never materialise, and the BVRLA is warning that similar scams could be running this year.
Remember, if the price or service being offered seems too good to be true, it probably is – and you may well end up out of pocket and disappointed!
“These bogus companies offer unbeatable prices and free delivery – but they really are too good to be true,” says BVRLA chief executive, Gerry Keaney. “Unfortunately, it is very easy for companies to build a basic website and set up a call centre to pass themselves off as a legitimate business.”
The BVRLA has the following top tips for safe and hassle-free car rental not just this festive period but all year round:
Use a BVRLA member
If you can see the BVRLA logo when booking a vehicle, it’s a sign that you’re dealing with a company which adheres to high standards and a professional Code of Conduct. You can find your nearest BVRLA rental member by using the association’s Rental Directory
Check before you book
Pay close attention to what is and isn’t included in the reservation quote, especially when using price comparison websites. Many companies only provide a basic drive-away quote that may not include additional extras, such as child seats, sat-navs, paperwork for taking the vehicle abroad or additional drivers.
Tell the rental company how you plan to use the vehicle
Make sure that you tell the rental company if you plan to take the vehicle abroad – some companies won’t let you take rental vehicles into certain countries. You’ll also need to bring additional documentation, such as a VE103 certificate (vehicle on hire document which shows that you are entitled to drive a hire vehicle abroad) and proof that you’re insured to drive the vehicle in that country.
Read the paperwork before you sign the contract
Make sure you read and understand the terms and conditions of your contract with the rental company. You can ask for a copy of the agreement prior to your rental, so that you can read it in your own time.
Check if you’re covered in the event of an accident
It’s important to know the difference between the excess waivers offered by rental companies and the policies sold by third-party excess-reimbursement insurers – they’re not the same product. Make sure to check if there are any exclusions in your loss or damage waiver, such as roof, windscreen or tyre damage.
Be aware of the local road laws and regulations
You’ll be liable to pay a fine and administrative fee if you’re caught committing a road traffic offence or fail to pay a toll charge. It’s best to familiarise yourself with the driving regulations of that country before you arrive.
Understand the fuelling options you have
Your car rental quote will not include the cost of fuel. Most companies will give you the option of buying a tank of fuel from them and returning the car empty or with a fuel tank. Make sure you remember which option you agree to in order not to return the vehicle with more or less fuel than required.
Remember to arrive at the rental desk with the correct documentation required by the company, such as the credit card used to make the booking and your driving licence. Ensure you have considered any extras or upgrades you may want and how much you are prepared to pay for them.
Check the vehicle over before you drive away
Thoroughly inspect the vehicle inside and out before driving away and familiarise yourself with its controls. Note down every chip, dent and scratch and inspect the wheels, windscreen and lights, as these are common damage areas. Make sure that the damage is reported to the rental company and try to take photographs of any damage on the vehicle before leaving the parking lot.
Don’t drop and dash when returning the vehicle
Allow plenty of time to check over the vehicle’s condition with a rental agent present when returning the vehicle. If you can’t return it during opening hours and sign a condition report, photograph the vehicle to be able to prove the condition you left it in. When you drop the car off in out of office hours, you are liable for any damage that occurs between you returning it and the company inspecting it.
Know where to go if you have a complaint
In the unlikely event of a dispute, you should put your complaint in writing to the rental company first. If they provide an unsatisfactory response, then you can use the BVRLA’s Conciliation Service if you rented a vehicle from a BVRLA member in the UK. If you have a complaint for a rental that took place in Europe, the European Car Rental Conciliation Service may be able to help.