Hiring a Car Abroad

Hiring a car abroad can be an intimidating task, especially if you're not used to driving abroad or working with rental companies. These tips will help you to avoid the most common rental car pitfalls.

What to Look For When Hiring a Car
Many drivers get caught out by hidden charges, such as extra insurance fees, cleaning fees and mileage related fees. It is important to take out insurance when you rent a car and drive abroad, but some car hire companies try to up-sell extra insurance fees, such as "excess waiver insurance" which will cover the excess on the standard insurance policy, should you need to make a claim. Do some research before taking this kind of policy out. The excess fee for hire car damage can be quite a lot of money, but the rental company's policy is not always the best deal. You may be better off taking out a separate policy from your own insurance company.

Choose a well-known hire car firm. If you have used any companies in the UK, see if they have branches abroad. Even if you choose a well-known firm, it's a good idea to pay for your rental by credit card, so that you can easily dispute the charges if you don't get the service that you paid for.

Look for a company that allows some flexibility for picking up and returning the vehicle. Many large chains have several branches in major cities, and having the option to return the vehicle to any branch might come in handy if you're going on a long trip.

When you collect the car, look it over carefully to make sure it is in good condition. Check the amount of fuel in the car, and make a record of every single issue you notice with the car. Take photographs if possible, and then have an employee of the company sign your paperwork to acknowledge the issues with the car. Your checklist should cover:

- The lights
- Body (look for scratches and dents)
- Windscreen wipers
- Tyres (check the spare, too)
- Petrol caps
- Seat belts and seat covers
- Brakes

If you are uncomfortable with the safety of the car, ask for a new one. Do not let the employees fob you off with something you feel is unsafe.

Driving a Hire Car
It may sound obvious now, but it's all too easy to forget that most foreign countries have a road system that is different to the system in the UK. If you're heading abroad, remind yourself which side of the road the cars will be driving on, and think about how that affects the rest of your driving habits, for example:

- Left turns are the ones you need to worry about the most, if you're driving on the right hand side of the road.

- The rules for giving way are based on the way traffic operates. So, give way to drivers on the left and drive anti-clockwise around roundabouts in Europe.

Even if you're comfortable with driving abroad, it's all too easy to forget that a hire car will be different to driving your own car. The pedals will still be in the same place (the accelerator is always on the right, even if the driver's seat is on the other side of the car), but the auxiliary controls may be in a different place. Take some time to look around the car and check where everything is. Drive cautiously until you are used to how the car feels.

Handing The Car Back
At the end of your trip, fill the tank up with fuel and return the car. Have a staff member sign off on the car after it has been inspected. Keep copies of the paperwork so that you have proof that the car was handed back in good condition. If the company tries to charge you extra for damages to the car without telling you, be sure to dispute those charges.

Crispin writes and blogs for Tool Orders. Without a doubt though his main passion in life is his Pontiac Firebird Trans Am SD455. It was his quest for high quality mechanics tools that pout him and Tool Orders in contact in the first place.


  1. Good guides and tips. But always be alert when hiring a driver.