Car hire excess cover – how to make sure you don’t get ripped off

car hire
By Bob Atoo
July 1, 2015

‘Don’t fall for the sales patter’ is invaluable advice to follow whenever and wherever, yet when the ‘where’ is abroad and the ‘when’ is on holiday, then you really need to pay attention to what we’ve got to say next.

Foreign car hire companies are notorious for trying to rip off customers by getting them to sign up for this, that and the other – employing all sorts of scare tactics and horror stories as part and parcel of their ‘schtick’.

Don’t believe every word they say though (disclaimer: there are plenty of legit car hire companies overseas who pride themselves on offering an unsurpassed level of customer service) and do your homework before you even step foot on the plane, as it could save you a whole lot of £’s and bother in the long run. Trust us.

One of the oldest tricks in the European car hire firms’ book is to warn you that ‘without signing up for their excess insurance, you’ll be liable for a huge scratch’ and other such pearls. That’s of course when they do mention facts and figures in print, small or otherwise, as some hire companies make it almost impossible to find out beforehand exactly how much this additional insurance will cost, particularly at the time consumers make the booking.

Car insurance


For those that do though – and often quoting the equivalent of £25 a day for the service – we’d advise you to take this with a pinch of salt. NOT that we’re advocating that you shouldn’t entertain the idea of taking out some car hire excess cover while you’re on your jollies, only arrange it with an independent insurance provider before you go away – that way you can have the self-same peace of mind for as little as a fiver a day. Figure this ball-park amount into an average 7 day sojourn and you could be saving in the region of £100 for the period.

You see when you set about renting a vehicle while on holiday – which of course is ideal if you’re hoping to venture off the tourist trail a bit and go and explore your new surrounds – the price typically comprises insurance cover for a major crash, write-offs and other significantly fiscal damaging eventualities which could play out as you circumnavigate unfamiliar environs, possibly on the wrong other side of the road.

However, should any of the aforementioned incidents occur, you’ll be faced with a bill for the first £500 – £1,000 to pick up. So for example, if there are barely any scrapes or skin blemishes to the hire car, adding up to, let’s say for argument’s sake, £500, this means you’ll have to stump up in full. To counter the prospect of this, the car hire company will instinctively attempt to twist your arm into purchasing what’s referred to as a super CDW insurance to safeguard this first £500 – £1,000 potential bill. Unfortunately they then try and charge you up to £150 a week for the pleasure/protection.

Don’t leave car hire excess cover to chance to ensure you’re not taken for a ride abroad

So with this in mind it makes perfect sense to opt for a far more realistic and affordable £33 per week charged on average by an independent car hire excess insurance policy provider.

What’s more – MUCH more in fact – unlike the European car hire firm’s bespoke policy, dedicated independent foreign car hire excess insurers will extend their protective wing to cover any damage incurred to windows, tyres, roofs and the undercarriage of the hire vehicle, while the rest of the car will be insured up to £2,000 per single claim.

Like all insurance products, transparency is key from a would-be policyholder’s perspective, and in many cases it’s not just the smaller companies but even the leading name car hire firms who repeatedly fail on this score.

According to research carried out by two of the biggest players in the European car hire business – Avis and Hertz – are a bit lick to lag in flagging up certain important criteria. Despite charging double what some firms charge for the equivalent picking up and dropping off service at Barcelona Airport, you can only arrange your excess insurance once you arrive at the collection point. And obviously when you’re a captive audience.

The same perverse logic applies with another car hire heavyweight, Hertz, although they afford customers an approximate figure at the ‘review and book’ stage. Whichever way you look at it, it’s hardly right to expect holidaymakers to grapple with and understand the finer print of excess insurance when they roll up at a foreign airport with jet lag.

So being pre-prepared is more than half the victory, and something we’d always urge holidaymakers to strive to do when it comes to organising car hire excess cover when travelling – and then travelling some more by your own steam – abroad.