Direct Line magazine

Hiring a car on holiday

Updated on: 10 December 2020

Car rental sign at an airpot.

Off on the road trip of a lifetime across America? Want to treat the family to a camping holiday in Italy? Or maybe you fancy cruising in a cabriolet along the Côte d’Azur in France? Driving holidays can be great fun but if you want a trouble‐free trip then it’s worth doing your homework first. And if you don’t want to take your own vehicle, this includes researching the ins and outs of hiring a car abroad.

Unfortunately, hire car companies don’t always have the best reputations and the process can be plagued with pitfalls if you don’t go prepared: for example it could be that you’re not old enough to drive in a certain country, you’ve left important documents behind or you don’t check the vehicle properly before you cruise away from the rental depot. If something goes wrong on the road you also need to make sure you have adequate insurance and breakdown cover.

To ensure your holiday is as relaxing, exciting and stress‐free as you deserve, follow this simple checklist:

How old do I need to be?

The driving age differs depending on the country you’re visiting and the company you’re hiring from. In many countries the age limit is a minimum of 21 years and with some companies there may be a surcharge if the driver is under 25 years. Check the smallprint of the hire company before you commit.

Who shall I hire from?

Some of the biggest hire car companies include Europcar, Avis, Alamo and Hertz. You can use their websites to hire in advance – always good if you want a car waiting for you on arrival.

What kind of licence do I need?

A full UK driving licence will be honoured in most countries and is required by anyone who wishes to drive the car. However, it is recommended that all drivers also carry an International Driving Permit for countries where the local language isn’t English. This is written in 10 languages and serves as an officially recognised translation of your local driving licence in more than 150 participating members of the United Nations. You can apply for an International Driving Permit through Green Flag. Make sure you take the actual documents, as most hire companies will not accept photocopies. If you have the new style photocard driving licence, you need to take both parts of this to hire a car abroad.

Do I need additional identification?

An identification document, such as a passport, may also be required along with a valid credit card. For some luxury models you may also need a second credit card and/or a utility bill dated within the last three months from the same address. All drivers who want to drive the car must present these documents.

Should I do a vehicle inspection?

It’s vital that the vehicle you are given corresponds with the rental agreement documents that you need to sign. Check it for any listed defects and let the hire company know if you spot any more – you don’t want to be charged for any damage you didn’t do when you hand the car back. Ensure the registration and model are correct and that your personal details have been listed correctly too. You should also get fuel with the car so check the tank levels and double check what kind of fuel the vehicle uses and where you can buy it. Your hire car company should be happy to help with any queries you have. Remember that you may also need to return the car with a full tank of petrol, so build that into your holiday expenses.

How do I pay?

Payment by credit card is preferred as this can be used to provide a deposit without exchanging large sums of cash. If no damage is done to the car and it is returned as per the hire company’s terms and conditions, then you should get your credit card back with only the rental costs charged. You may instead be able to pay for the actual rental charges with a cheque or cash. Check with the hire company before you travel to clarify payment conditions.

Do I need insurance?

If you are going to be driving abroad then you also need to be sure you are adequately insured. Holders of Direct Line car insurance have several options. We provide automatically, at no extra cost, the minimum cover required by law in all European Union (EU) countries.

We can also issue you with an annual Green Card. This gives you the minimum insurance for the country you’re visiting, which is the equivalent of, or less than, our third party insurance. Or we can give you a maximum of 90 days foreign use extension on your comprehensive or third party fire and theft policy for a small charge (trips for three days or less are free). You can find out more about these terms and conditions and about what is covered by visiting our car insurance policy documents online.

As with any holiday either in the UK or abroad, it’s essential to take out travel insurance to cover yourself, your family and belongings for any injury, loss or theft.

Do I need breakdown cover?

For those who will be driving in Europe, our two levels of European breakdown cover offer insurance against a range of incidents including car breakdown, car theft and personal possessions theft.

At Direct Line we want you to enjoy your driving experience abroad. It’s not worth the stress of driving without adequate car or breakdown cover or travel insurance. So get a quote from Direct Line today.

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