A Guide To Car Hire Abroad

Jane Wardle

Written by Jane Wardle on February 4, 2019

Updated June 3, 2019


When you are on holiday, hiring a car for your trip can give you the freedom to explore your destination at your own leisure. It is a popular option for many holidaymakers and having your own vehicle to hop into when you please can make your time away far more convenient and hassle-free.

It isn’t always plain sailing though, as hiring a car abroad can be a confusing process. With so many different variables, such as a huge selection of car hire companies, a choice of car and a range of insurance options, knowing what is right for you and your holiday can be difficult.

The car hire market is designed to catch out the unwary, and it is easy to end up paying over the odds if you aren’t careful. This guide covers how to hire a car abroad, including the various aspects to consider and some top tips to help you find a good deal.

What are the fuel options for hiring a car abroad?

When comparing prices for car rentals abroad, you should take into consideration how you are being charged for fuel. There are various policies offered by different companies, and they will affect the overall price of your car hire. The options include:

  • Full tank to full tank: This is one of the most popular options and usually works out cheapest. It means when you receive the car it will have a full tank of fuel, and then you need to fill it up again when you return it. Be careful to make sure it is full when you bring the car back, as otherwise, you might find yourself with additional refuelling charges.
  • Full tank to empty tank: A more convenient but often pricier option is full to empty. You will collect the car with a full tank and can then return it empty, so there is no hassle of filling up before taking the car back. However, you should be aware that you won’t get a refund for any fuel you haven’t used, so if you return it with half a tank, you are still paying for all of it.
  • Same tank to same tank: This option is not as readily available, but it means you need to return the car with the same level of fuel as you collected it with. If you return the car with less than it had before, you will be charged a premium, but if you return it with more fuel, you won’t receive any money back.

Always ask your car hire company where the nearest petrol station is when you collect the vehicle, especially if you have chosen the full to full option and need to refuel before you return the car.

What is on or off airport?

When looking for car hire companies at your destination airport, you might notice some companies are in the airport themselves, while others are further out. Choosing an off-airport car hire company will often be cheaper, however, you will have to get a shuttle bus or other transport to their site. This can be an extra hassle that you don’t want at the start of your holiday, especially as you might have to wait around for the shuttle bus to leave.

The savings you can make on choosing off-airport instead of on-airport are often minimal, and many people would prefer to pay slightly more for the hassle-free option. However, if you are hiring a car for a longer period of time, then the savings can be significant and worthwhile.

What to check when hiring a car abroad?

There are a few things you should confirm with the car hire company before going ahead with hiring a car abroad:

  • Contract: Read the contract thoroughly before signing anything, and query anything that you are not sure about.
  • Charges: Double check what extra charges might be incurred from the car hire, particularly refuelling charges or late return charges.
  • Insurance: Read the insurance cover carefully, even if you have full cover you could find various aspects such as tyres and windows are not included.
  • Photograph damage: Take the time to photograph any damage on the vehicle when you first collect it and make sure the company makes note of the damage as well. If you are dropping the car off when they are shut, take photos of its condition when you leave it, so if damage occurs afterwards you can protect yourself.
  • Safety equipment: When you collect the car, double check that all the required safety equipment is present and bear in mind this will vary from country to country. Check the spare tyre is in good condition and not overly worn or damaged.

Allow yourself plenty of time to both collect the car and drop it off again. Both you and the car hire company should thoroughly check the vehicle for damage, which can be time-consuming but is necessary to avoid additional charges.

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