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Hiring a Car In The UK: Regulations and Rights

By: Sarah Clark (ILEX) - Updated: 11 Apr 2017 | comments*Discuss
 
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Car hire companies are commonplace across the UK, and you can rent cars online to be picked up from virtually any town or city. It’s often an inexpensive way of getting around, and it beats waiting around for a bus or train.

Shop Around For the Right Price

As with most things travel-related, the price you’ll pay to hire a car in the UK depends a lot on how you book, and often how far ahead.

Booking a Car Online

Because there are often good deals to be had if you shop around on websites, it’s a good place to start your search. Most well known car rental firms will have a web presence and you can be reassured that you’re dealing with a reputable company if you go for what you know. If you see a good deal on a website and you’re not sure of the company, here’s what to look out for:

  • There should be a map and opening hours to arrange pick up
  • The quote given should include all essential insurance
  • The description of the car should give you a good idea of the car size and its capacity
  • It should be clear about rates for additional drivers and other extras
  • You shouldn’t be charged more for using a credit card.

If you’re not overly concerned about the make or model of the car, a budget site could be your best bet. There are many websites where you can actually dictate the amount you want to pay. Even though they are budget, don’t dismiss them out of hand as they can sometimes offer incentives like unlimited mileage to get your business.

Protect yourself

If you’re hiring a car from a reputable company, you will expect the quote to include all necessary insurances, but it doesn’t hurt to double check. When hiring a car, there are three legal insurance requirements:

  • Third-party liability
  • Collision Damage Waiver (or Loss Damage Waiver)
  • Theft Protection

Check for excess if you’re buying insurance from the hire firm. An excess is the amount of money you have to pay towards any claim you make while driving the hire car. Car hire firms make a lot of money by offering ‘additional insurance’- usually at a daily rate, which means you don’t pay anything if you do have an accident.

Remember that you don’t have to take out the insurance offered by the car hire firm. It can be a lot cheaper to find a standalone policy from an insurance company not connected to the company. If you have a comprehensive motor insurance policy you might already have rental car insurance cover so don’t take the same cover out twice!

Other Considerations

  • Age The minimum age at which you can legally rent a car is usually 21, but you’ll be charged more anyway if you’re under 25. For older drivers, the age limit is set around 75.
  • Car type Don’t expect to get exactly the car you saw on the website, as any booking is usually for a ‘group’ such as ‘compact’, rather than a specific model.
  • Mileage what is the arrangement for mileage on the car you’re hiring? Is there a limit to the mileage you can do or is it an unlimited deal?
  • Fuel Check whether you will need to fill the tank up, or half fill the tank when you return the car.
  • Extras Find out what’s included in the price and whether you’ll have to pay for accessories like child seats, or sat nav.

When You Pick The Car Up

Inspect the car before you drive off for any damage from previous renters. It’s also a good idea to check the lights, wipers etc so that you know whether they are working when you take the car.

Also check what fuel type the car uses: if you accidentally use the wrong fuel and damage the car, you’re unlikely to be covered by the insurance.

When You Take The Car Back

At the end of the hire period, don’t just drop the car off, watch them inspect it so that you don’t get the blame for any damage after you have returned the car. Make a record of the mileage, too. If you’ve had an accident, keep all the repair bills. And it goes without saying...always take the car back on time, or you could get a hefty bill for late return!

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Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
[Add a Comment]
ejp - Your Question:
We hired a car and took out the excess insurance separately as it was cheaper than that issued by the rental company. They were very aggressive with us and when we returned they have charged us £200 + £50 administration to replace a tyre which they say was ripped and bulging. They supplied pictures later in the evening which I have taken to the reputable tyre company I use to be told that the tyre did not need replacing it could have been superglued and there was no evidence of bulging. I am getting nowhere asking them to supply the bill for the replacement of the tyre even though the company covering the excess have asked us to supply it. Has anyone got any suggestions how to resolve this

Our Response:
You may have to seek professional legal advice on this, but in the first instance write to the hire company informing them that you cannot make any payment without a copy of the invoice/receipt for the works done.
YourTravelRights - 12-Apr-17 @ 2:35 PM
We hired a car and took out the excess insurance separately as it was cheaper than that issued by the rental company. They were very aggressive with us and when we returned they have charged us £200 + £50 administration to replace a tyre which they say was ripped and bulging. They supplied pictures later in the evening which I have taken to the reputable tyre company I use to be told that the tyre did not need replacing it could have been superglued and there was no evidence of bulging. I am getting nowhere asking them to supply the bill for the replacement of the tyre even though the company covering the excess have asked us to supply it. Has anyone got any suggestions how to resolve this
ejp - 11-Apr-17 @ 1:36 PM
Josie - Your Question:
I have been trying to hire a people carrier for Christmas that I can take my dogs in a cage, I have found a place that want to give me an 11 year old car to drive to Yorkshire, is there an age limit on a car you can safely hire out?

Our Response:
We're not aware of any rules regarding the age of a vehicle available for hire.
YourTravelRights - 8-Nov-16 @ 12:37 PM
I have been trying to hire a people carrier for Christmas that I can take my dogs in a cage, I have found a place that want to give me an11year old car to drive to Yorkshire, is there an age limit on a car you can safely hire out?
Josie - 6-Nov-16 @ 10:27 PM
Cliff - Your Question:
Hire car company said at desk they can't hire to me as I have hired to many times, what??? after a long and drawn out load of rubbish as to why, I said lets do the insurance then, even though they are fully aware I have full annual cover policy from AIG. Now with there ins it would seem they can hire to me, I've said I'm paying under protest, I feel this is totally false on there part and is only because my rental is so cheap and they simply dont want to honour it. Can I get this money back

Our Response:
Sorry we don't understand your question - are you being charged for a hire car that you're not able to actually hire?
YourTravelRights - 10-Oct-16 @ 10:11 AM
Hire car company said at desk they can't hire to me as I have hired to many times, what??? after a long and drawn out load of rubbish as to why, I said lets do the insurance then, even though they are fully aware I have full annual cover policy from AIG... Now with there ins it would seem they can hire to me, I've said I'm paying under protest, I feel this is totally false on there part and is only because my rental is so cheap and they simply dont want to honour it. Can I get this money back
Cliff - 7-Oct-16 @ 1:12 AM
Cyn - Your Question:
I have hired a car for over year now from several different hire companies. All of them except one have insisted that a new signature is required in advance every 28 days and will not rent without it as they claim this is the Law in this regard. What is this about and why did one dealer not require it. Regards C

Our Response:
This is up to the hire company. If it's their policy unfortunatly you will have to comply.
YourTravelRights - 8-Feb-16 @ 2:42 PM
I have hired a car for over year now from several different hire companies. All of them except one have insisted that a new signature is required in advance every 28 days and will not rent without it as they claim this is the Law in this regard. What is this about and why did one dealer not require it. Regards C
Cyn - 6-Feb-16 @ 11:55 AM
Is it legal for a car hire company, having agreed to extend the hire for a further week, to say they cannot say how much the extra week would be? Having agreed the hire as dealing with new baby and disabled mother, and assumed it would be about the same rate as the first week, then found charge was more than double. Is a car hire company legally obliged to give a quote? The company was Alamo. Any help gratefully received as bill is £462 for one week Thanks.
DB - 11-Jun-14 @ 9:39 PM
Hello, is it legal for a car rental company not to let a car without providing third party insurance? Chris
chris - 22-Apr-14 @ 4:13 PM
In the UK, are you liable for damage to a rental car after you have dropped the car off, handed over the keys to a Company representative who has also inspected the car in your presence and left ther office/car lot?
Nervous Brit - 23-Jan-14 @ 5:33 PM
Ihired a car from green motion stansted for 1 day, i had to go in to london and forgot to pay the congestion charge, the hire company billed me for £156.00 + vat.£60.00 fine & £80.00 administraion fee. can this be right?
Dec - 17-Apr-13 @ 10:02 AM
We were waiting for our easyjet flight through passport control in Terminal 2B and the only real lunch service available was at Café Sélect. This was unfortunately a dreadful experience especially given all other food and drink we had in France was excellent. Thanks.
Cheap minibus hire - 14-Dec-11 @ 10:59 AM
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