Renting a car on holiday: Everything you need to know

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Hire cars are part and parcel of the holiday experience, but there can be a lot of confusion about them. Ryan Hirons clears things up.

Summer is here, and that means it's the time of year many of us will be flocking to exotic locations such as Madrid, Zagreb and Torquay.

No matter where you're heading off to this year though, the fact you're reading this suggests there's a good chance you're thinking about hiring a car for your trip. Though a simple process usually, it can be a little bit of a daunting experience for newcomers, so it pays to do some homework before you hit the road.

Unsure where to start? Here's what you need to know when hiring a car for your holiday...

First of all, should I hire a car?
If you're staying in a major city and don't plan to venture further out, you can probably get away with sticking to public transport links.

For those wanting a little more adventure on their travels though, hiring a car enables that - so it's worth keeping the extra cost in mind.

How do I hire a car?
There are two main ways to hire a car really - either online in advance, or when you arrive at the airport of your destination. Booking online would be our go-to method. This usually presents you with the best deals, and allows you to compare between providers.

That said, it may be easy to forget amidst all the holiday excitement, so it's always nice to know a car can be booked right as you arrive at your destination.

How much should I expect to pay and how can I cut costs?
Pricing of a hire car can can vary wildly depending on where you are, the type of vehicle you want, the length of your stay and how much driving you plan to do in it. That said, as a general rule, booking well in advance and shopping around for the best deals can save you money no matter what rental motor you're after.

What does 'or similar' mean?
Now this is quite a common sight. If you're looking to hire say, a Ford Fiesta, and you're met with 'or similar' next to it, don't be surprised to arrive to another car of the same size.

Companies tend to use a popular car to symbolise the size of a vehicle, rather than using terms such as 'supermini' or 'executive saloon'. This makes it easier to understand for those who may be a little less clued-up when it comes to categories of cars.

Is insurance covered?
Typically, hire car companies will offer some level of insurance coverage - though these tend to be light, so it's worth checking details closely when making a booking. For extra peace of mind, many third party firms offer more comprehensive hire car insurance.

What's the deal with fuel?
Fuel policies with hire car firms can vary, but typically you're given a car with a full tank and then expected to return it as such.

Don't be caught out trying to get away without refuelling though - many terms of conditions when hiring a car will allow the company to invoice you at an inflated rate to cover the extra.

Are there any restrictions when hiring a car?
Though hiring a car tends to be fairly relaxed, the big restriction is often age. Typically, drivers under 25 may struggle to hire a car through mainstream companies, and specialist firms for younger drivers are likely to charge a much higher rate.

Many firms may also deny drivers with a higher number of points on their licence from driving - typically this is for those with higher than six but this can vary.

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