If you have ever hired a car on the internet you can probably visualise this scenario. You turn up at the car hire bureau; fill in all the forms; sign where appropriate; hand over your credit card which “won’t be charged, but will just be nominally debited with £500 as a deposit”. The smiling assistant then hits you with the crunch line, “You are fully covered by our insurance which is subject to an excess of £500. Would you like to take out car hire excess insurance?”
You’ve just picked up a car hire bargain online because the idea is to keep costs down. So you tentatively enquire, “How much?”
“Well, you can protect your excess for just £45,”
You consider that you have paid just £96 for a week’s car hire and then you have to do a quick mental risk assessment to decide whether it is diligent to increase your car hire spend by almost fifty per cent. You ask yourself, “What could possibly go wrong?” then make your snap decision whether to keep your holiday within budget.
Well, what could possibly go wrong? Why should you need to take out this additional car hire excess insurance? That depends on how confident you are that there will be no unfortunate, unplanned incidents involving the hire car.
You also need to make sure you read the small print on your car hire agreement in order to ascertain what you are covered for. Slight damage to the bodywork could result in hefty excess fees. More serious damage could result in you paying up to the value of the car itself.
Most hire cars would be from the latest models available. Many new cars have varying levels of automation and can take a little while to get used to. For instance, some new models do not have a handbrake, but have a small parking lever instead. This can cause confusion, particularly when starting on a hill, at road junctions or traffic lights.
So it might seem a good idea to invest in the peace of mind that the excess waiver would offer.
Conversely, you might be well advised to not pay the excess waiver fee to the car hire agency. We are not for a moment suggesting that you should take unnecessary risks and leave yourself open to pay excess charges, which in some European countries can reach £1,700 or more. To reduce your excess to zero may cost you as much as £18 per day.
There is an alternative to paying the hire car agency a fee that is only valid for the duration of the hire. A number of specialist insurance companies offer an annual car hire excess insurance. You pay an annual fee and you could be covered for unlimited use within the twelve months period.
Some companies offer special rates for Europe, USA and Canada. If you are going to be hiring a car on more than one occasion in any twelve month period, the annual premium car hire excess insurance can offer value for money in addition to the aforementioned peace of mind.
So if you are booking your car hire online, why not take a look at some of the car hire excess insurance sites. You can save yourself money and potential grief if something does go wrong.
Likewise, if you are booking your car hire in advance, in person at an agency office or by telephone, do not be rushed into committing yourself to unnecessary expense. Shop around for what will undoubtedly be significant savings, when taken into consideration over the period of a year.