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Hiring a car abroad

Car hire abroad

An AA survey of 12,000* adults finds that one in three motorists choose to rent a car on holidays

According to a recent survey conducted by AA Travel Insurance, a total of 54% of Irish people have travelled abroad in the last 3 months. Europe and North America were the most popular destinations. One third choose car hire as their preferred mode of transport. A significantly higher proportion of males (35%) chose to rent a car while abroad than females (27%).

46% of those who travel to the US chose hire car, 31% who journey to Europe travel by hire car and 20% of those who travel to the UK chose car hire as a mechanism of transport. 45-55 year olds predominated car hire use at 35% in contrast with only 11% of 17-24 year olds. 10% rented car hire abroad despite the fact that they had no travel insurance.

AA Ireland investigates the cost of car hire abroad. The table below outlines the basic costs of car hire abroad using motorists most popular destinations depicted in a recent study by AA Ireland. Motorists must be prepared for significantly higher prices abroad this year. Hiring a car in Paris will cost over double the price as at home.

AA car hire study

Average car rental prices abroad (based on one week, March 2010)

City Small Economy Medium Economy Large Standard
Dublin €111 €133 €174
London €194 €219 €251
Rome €146 €241 €316
Paris €217 €234 €352
Barcelona €144 €244 €363
New York €197 €216 €248
Las Angeles €180 €205 €229
Chigaco €168 €182 €208

Your car hire agreement generally covers you for Collision Damage Waiver and Theft. However, In most agreements you are still liable for the first portion of the repair or replacement costs (the excess) A high excess can apply to a small scratch on a car, a chip in a windscreen and damage to tyres or mirrors. Excess fees range from €600 to €1500 per week depending on the model of the car and chosen destination. Motorists need to be aware that charges above exclude Personal Accident Insurance. Often motorists end up paying additional costs for Personal Accident Insurance (ranging from €30 to €70), Supplementary Liability Protection (€50-€80), Super Collision Damage Waiver (up to €100), Super Loss Damage Waiver (€80-€130), and Super Personal Accident Insurance (up to €125). These additions significantly drive up the cost of car rental.

Issues concerning motorists about car hire, at home and abroad, include the cost and quality of child seats, and confusion over insurance, excesses and waivers mentioned above. There have been numerous charges reported for damages on return, additional charges and unfair fuel policies. It is important to be prepared before you travel to avoid these risks.

The AA’s tips when hiring a car abroad

  • When booking the holiday, ask for a copy of the terms and conditions of car hire. Ensure the requested insurance cover is documented. Ask specifically if the car provided will be fully equipped to meet all the legal requirements of the country being visited and have AA’s breakdown number at hand.
  • Holidaymakers should familiarise themselves with the rules of the road of the countries they intend to drive in.
  • When picking up the car, ask the rental firm about their procedures should it break down and the emergency number to call.
  • On getting to the car, holidaymakers should check for the presence of emergency equipment. If it’s not there, ask the rental firm to provide it. Also take the opportunity to look around the car and check for damage that may be attributed to them later. Check all the switches, indicators and other controls – if any are unfamiliar or don’t work, ask the rental firm for guidance.
  • Holidaymakers would benefit from being able to communicate with a policeman, breakdown recovery firm, garage or local resident, should the car have problems and assistance prove difficult to arrange. A good phrasebook or dictionary will be useful.
  • When looking for the best bargain, bear in mind that very often prices quoted online only contain the basics so make sure you check what is included in the final quote and what is not. Pay special attention to airport and other location related surcharges as well as the insurance coverage.
  • Always check the cost of extras that you will need during your rental: child seat, additional driver, extra insurance etc.
  • Pay special attention to the fuel policy and make sure it is explained to you clearly before you confirm the booking.
  • Contact AA Travel on (01) 617 9988 if you require any information before you go.
  • Carry your driving licence, original vehicle registration document and passport; you may be asked to produce any one of these items. A provisional licence is unacceptable and the minimum driving age in most countries is 18.
  • If you are staying in the EU then you do not need an international driving permit. However it is still worth having one as some hire companies insist on them – they are issued by the AA and the cost is €10 (a €5 admin/postal charge may also apply).
  • Check your tyres carefully – including the spare. If you think they are likely to be worn down to below 2mm before you get back, replace them before you go.
  • Try to return the car during the working hours of the car rental company and have it inspected by a competent employee. The condition of the vehicle should be confirmed in writing and signed by the company and the driver. If you are returning the car outside of working hours, park in the designated area taking pictures of the vehicle as confirmation that it was returned in good condition. Cars are inspected for damage on the following day and therefore the excess can still be charged to a consumer’s credit card.
  • Remember that children under 12 and/or 1.5 metres in height are not permitted to travel as front seat passengers in some countries and in others may only do so when using an approved restraint system – check. However, never use rearward facing child restraint in front seat with an airbag.
  • Drive on the right and overtake on the left except when travelling in Cyprus, Malta and the Republic of Ireland.
  • Never drink and drive. The laws are strict and the penalties severe.
  • Be careful not to overload your vehicle, apart from safety risks and on-the-spot fines, this could invalidate your insurance.
  • Don’t cross a solid white line to change lanes or overtake – the result could be an on-the-spot fine of €381.10 in France.
  • Find out about local parking regulations and try to understand all relative signs. Heavy fines are imposed and unaccompanied offending vehicles towed away. As a rule, always park on the right hand side of the road or at an authorised place.
  • Never leave money or items of value in an unattended vehicle, and remove all other property whenever possible.
  • Carry a spare pair of glasses especially if you are the sole driver.
  • Beware of motorway taxes and/or toll charges. Motorway taxes are payable in Austria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia and Switzerland. Heavy fines are imposed for non-payment, Tolls are payable on many motorways.
  • Don’t forget if your vehicle is fitted with seat belts – wear them!
  • For a breakdown of current fuel prices abroad, please log on to http://www.aaireland.ie/petrolprices/

The AA’s annual multi trip policy offers great deals right now, you can travel as many times as you like throughout the year up to 45 days per trip. To ensure you are protected while abroad, AA offer comprehensive travel insurance policies to suit all your needs. Call the AA on 01 617 99 88 for further details or go to http://www.aatravelinsurance.ie/

*AA online survey carried out as part of AA Motorists’ Panel research, 12,000 responses received between 26th February to 26th March 2010

AA Ireland Limited trading as AA Insurance is regulated by the Central Bank of Ireland.