• Doing your research will mean you get the most for your money
  • Set yourself a budget to work from and book early for better discounts
  • Bringing your own Sat Nav or baby seats could save you up to £100 each

What were the changes in car hire for Europe?

From the 8 June 2015, the paper counterpart to your photocard ID is no longer valid. To hire your car, you need to get a code from the DVLA website that you show to the rental company when you arrive. The code shows any convictions or speeding offences, like the old counterpart did.

The code is valid for 21days; however, the code is not a requirement for all rental companies, so it's worth checking the terms of your chosen company beforehand.

If you’re arriving at your holiday destination but not hiring a car straight away, don’t worry, as all you need to do is find an internet connection, register your details, get the code and show the car hire company. Many accept proof of your code from a smartphone screenshot.

What are the first steps I should take?

Make sure you do your research before choosing a car hire company. If you do the right research you will be able to gauge the fixed and optional costs, comparing prices and policies between different companies. If you book in advance, there is also a great chance that you'll find the best deal.

Most holidaymakers will start by looking on price comparison sites, which can give you a good idea of the fixed prices you'll need to pay for your hire. Make sure to research beyond initial prices; you’ll need to determine which company offers the extras you require at the most competitive prices.

If you've never hired a car in Europe before, it's usually a benefit to choose a large company, as they're more likely to have a bigger selection of pickup and drop-off points. Or, if you have a preferred car hire agency in the UK, check if they have available offices elsewhere in Europe.

No matter which company you choose to use, make sure to keep all paperwork you receive, just in case you have a dispute with them later. Although your car hire company will offer insurance for you to drive around your destination, make sure you check your travel insurance for example, if the company goes bust you’re still covered.

It’s important to check the most important factors for you; whether it’s pick-up/drop-off locations, office opening hours, extras such as ski racks or contract flexibility, you should check that the company offer your must-haves. If you can't find the information you need online, you may find it easier to call them for greater peace of mind.

Which car should I choose?

When it comes to choosing a car, it's better to think about practicality before appearance. How many people will be in the car? How much luggage will you be taking? What season is it? What will the terrain be like?

These questions are going to have an impact on your budget, so set out what you're willing to pay; typically, the longer you rent, the less it'll cost per day so keep this in mind when searching for quotes.

How much should I pay?

Make sure to double-check currency conversions when you compare hire prices.

Some European rental companies will display their prices in local currency and won't always provide an accurate conversion, so recheck prices using a reliable currency converter to avoid any unpleasant surprises on your credit card bill.

After you’ve confirmed your itinerary, make sure to pay upfront for your rental car at the time of booking, rather than when you get to the agency counter in Europe. This means you'll avoid any unexpected on-the-spot charges or an overseas transaction fee on your credit card.

Remember to take any print-outs of your prepaid booking with you as proof. To ensure the most cost-effective car hire, it is important to consider and research the best way to avoid the following traps:

  • Be clear on the company’s cancellation policy, as you may need a more flexible approach based on your itinerary
  • Try to avoid a company that uses a full-to-empty fuel policy; you may pay a hefty premium in advance on fuel you might not use
  • Check what the provided insurance includes, for example Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) or theft
  • Confirm the excess you may have to pay. You may want to take out a stand-alone excess policy before you leave as you could save hundreds should something go wrong
  • Check the cost of an extra driver as this could bring up the price considerably and there could be extra fees if that driver is under the age of 25
  • Avoid service or cleaning charges by checking they're included in the initial hire charges

What else should I bring?

Local laws may require drivers to carry equipment such as a warning triangle or reflective jackets in the car, so make sure your hire company provides them. Finally, to save some hefty charges, you may want to consider bringing your own Sat Nav and baby seats, as these can cost up to £100 each for a two week holiday in Europe.