Refuse to pay rental car damage? How to avoid such situations

By , 03 November 2023

5 mins read

Hiring a car abroad can be a great way of maximising your experiences and seeing what you want to see when you want to see it.

Whether you’re on holiday or a business trip, it’s easy to rush the ‘check-out’ process at the airport when picking up your hire car.

However, you don’t want to find yourself in a situation where you refuse to pay rental car damage because you don’t believe you caused it – but the hire company is telling you otherwise!

The UK consumer public is becoming more aware of stand-alone excess insurance like the policies available from Our policies offer cover for up to £10,000 excess charges with an optional $50,000 upgrade available for USA and Canada.

There are more steps you can take to avoid the risk of disputing rental car damage claim documents from the hire company.

Here are key steps you can take to minimise the chance of being caught out by unfair repair charges for damages that just weren’t your fault.

Understand the excess

Before renting a car, make sure you understand the terms and conditions of the excess charges. Excess is the amount you're liable for in case of damage or theft. Knowing this amount will help you plan better.

Review the rental agreement and terms and conditions provided by the rental company before signing. The excess amount should be clearly stated.

Ask the rental company for clarification if you have any doubts or questions about the excess charges.

Consider your personal risk tolerance, driving habits, and the type of trip you're taking when evaluating the excess. If you're going on a long road trip or to an unfamiliar area, you might want to choose a lower excess if available.

Take out excess insurance

Consider purchasing a standalone excess insurance policy, which can cover you in case of damage or theft.

These policies are often cheaper than what the rental company offers, so don’t be lured in by what you’re told at the hire desk and tell the company you’ve taken out your own insurance policy.

Car hire excess insurance reduces the amount you're personally responsible for in case of damage or theft. Instead of being liable for the entire excess amount, you may only be responsible for a smaller deductible or none at all.

You won't need to worry about unexpected, potentially high repair costs in the event of an accident or damage to the rental car.

Check the vehicle before you sign for it

If you’re pushed to accept the vehicle before you’ve even seen it, don’t sign any paperwork. They may tell you that they’ve performed checks, but you should be allowed to look at it yourself.

Start by walking around the car and checking for any existing dents, scratches, or other damage.

Get out a torch – or use the built-in one on your smartphone - to check all the body panels if the car park is dimly lit.

Use your smartphone or a camera to document any pre-existing issues. These photos can serve as proof in case there is a dispute later.

As well as documenting the exterior, ensure you check the following:

A surprising number of claims come in for damage done to car parts you can’t even see. Make sure you check under the front lip of the car, inside all the door sills and around the boot - especially where heavy cases could be dragged in and out.

Make sure the rental company is aware of these damages and has them documented in the rental agreement.

Before leaving, take a short test drive to ensure the car is running smoothly and that there are no unusual noises or issues.

Ensure you’re charged in local currency

If you’re hiring extras like sat navs or child seats, or if the worst happens and there is damage to pay for, remember to think about how the hire company charges your card.

Most hire companies will try and charge your credit card in your home currency. This is because they can then dictate the exchange rate imposed on your card at whatever they choose. It will often be more expensive than paying your card issuer’s rate.

Always ask for any charges to be made in the local currency. This could save you a small fortune in fees.

Choose the right vehicle

Select a car that suits your needs. Larger, more expensive vehicles often come with higher excess charges. If you don't need a big car, opt for a smaller and cheaper one.

Think about the purpose of your trip, the number of people you’ll have travelling with you and the amount of luggage you will have.

If you’re a group of eight, each with a suitcase, then a people carrier might be the best option. However, if you’re travelling solo on business with a small case then you don’t need to hire a flashy SUV when a smaller vehicle will do the job.

Be aware of your fuel and mileage

When checking the vehicle, verify the fuel level and ensure it matches what is indicated on the rental agreement.

Opt for a full-to-full fuel deal – it’s much easier, and you won’t be landed with an unexpected refill charge at the end, assuming you return it with a full tank.

During your checks, ensure the odometer reading matches the mileage indicated in your rental agreement. You don’t want to risk being charged extra for miles you didn’t drive.

Consider an annual excess policy

For a couple of pounds more, you can sometimes buy an annual policy instead of a daily policy.

This means that you’re covered for up to 31 days per trip, regardless of the number of rentals you make in a year. Make sure you check both prices before you buy.

About the author

Jon spent years travelling Europe and Asia before settling down in the UK when he met his wife.

He’s hired cars across the globe and is passionate about helping people save money with excess insurance.

Since co-founding Reduce My Excess, Jon has found that he can use the knowledge he picked up from his travels by sharing it in online guides and articles.

He hopes to save people from making the mistakes he learnt from over the years by giving them the travel information they need before they head off on their holidays.