Car checks before a long journey: What you need to know

By , 29 December 2023

6 mins read

How to avoid car rental agreement issues at the hire desk

It’s likely that a car hire contract doesn’t make the top of your reading list on the best of days, let alone when you’ve been travelling for several hours.

By the time you reach the car hire desk, you're probably quite tired and just eager to get to your final destination.

Add in the potential stress of having a family in tow or an important meeting to get to, and it’s not hard to see how so many of us aren’t feeling 100% by the time they’re ‘next in line’.

However, much as you might want to just sign your papers without so much as a second glance, having a handy checklist in your back pocket will help with avoiding any potential issues.

Much as you’ll benefit from having a packing list to hand when you’re loading up your suitcase, the following will help you once you’re being handed a car rental agreement and being asked about things like excess waiver insurance.

Here’s what we recommend doing ahead of time so you’ve got the documentation and hire car excess insurance you might need in place before you pick up your rental vehicle.

Read the car hire agreement.

You should always ask for the car hire contract to be provided in your language.

You may be expected to sign the copy in the hire company’s local language, but any reputable company will be able to provide you with a copy in English as well.

Don’t forget your documents.

Everyone knows the phrase ‘Don’t forget your passport’, but you’ll need a few more documents when it comes to hiring a car.

You should make sure you’ve got your photo card licence and your driving licence check code. If you haven’t prepared a code before, check out the site to find out how to view or share your driving license information.

The code is valid for 21 days, so get it sorted a few weeks before you travel.

If you haven’t already printed this information, you may find some car hire companies will charge you to use their computers to print it. Worse still, they may simply turn you away.

Make sure you take your credit card.

Most hire companies will pre-authorise your credit card for the value of the excess on the insurance they provide.

If you’re unfortunate enough to have a prang or a claim arises during your car hire agreement, they’ll charge your card any value up to the maximum excess to cover this cost. It’s worth noting that many companies will insist the credit card is in your name.

Don’t be pushed into buying unnecessary add-ons.

If you’ve already bought an excess policy, you don’t need another one!

We recommend keeping things simple. If you’ve got a ReduceMyExcess policy covering your car hire agreement, when you’re offered add-ons such as excess waiver insurance or excess reimbursement insurance just say ‘Thanks, but no thanks’.

You don’t need to provide them with the details of your ReduceMyExcess policy because it won’t affect your rental agreement with them.

If you’ve taken out our excess reimbursement insurance policy, make sure your liability for damage to the rental vehicle doesn’t exceed £10,000 (or $50,000 if you are taking out a policy for the USA and Canada) and you can simply tell the desk that you self-insure.

Check the car and take photographs.

This is a tip you’ll find on almost every one of our blogs or how-to guides. It’s the single most important thing you can do to make sure your car hire experience goes without a hitch.

Make sure you have the hire company acknowledge any damage you find when you finally get to the car and BEFORE you drive it out of the car park.

If you can, take pictures that include a date and time so that you can prove (if you need to) that you didn’t cause the damage.

Consider taking out excess reimbursement insurance before you travel.

Whilst you’ll still need to provide a credit card for pre-authorisation, if there is an accident and a claim does arise, by having car hire excess insurance you’ll only be out of pocket temporarily.

The policies that ReduceMyExcess sell mean that you’ll receive the money back that you’re charged when you put in a claim. One thing to consider, though, is that our policies must be purchased and start before you collect your hire car.

Some hire companies will refer to this cover as ‘excess waiver insurance’. Importantly, this is what you’ve already purchased from ReduceMyExcess if you buy one of our policies.

You don’t need to tell the car hire company that you have insurance. All you need to say is that you don’t wish to pay the additional fee for their cover.

Our policy works like this:

  1. You decline the car hire company’s excess waiver insurance.
  2. If there is a charge, the car hire company charges your credit card, and you pay the excess.
  3. You return to the UK with the relevant documentation and make a claim with us.

Read and understand the car rental agreement.

Any time you are buying insurance, including ours or a policy from the car hire company, it’s really important that you read the policy wording and understand the limitations, exclusions, terms & conditions.

The last thing you want to do is spend money on something that isn’t going to give you the cover you need or spend money on cover that you’ve already got.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions.

It is unreasonable to think that every car rental employee from every car rental company from every country in the world will understand our insurance and all the other similar insurance policies from around the world – they won’t!

So, if they try to tell you that our insurance is inadequate, you have to question whether they know what they are talking about!

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.