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Ins and Outs of renting a car in England, need advice.

Ins and Outs of renting a car in England, need advice.

Old Dec 10, 19, 1:45 am
  #1  
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Ins and Outs of renting a car in England, need advice.

A few years back I rented a car in Scotland through Europcar and they tried to gauge me on only accepting their insurance at $15 per day. (it was 200% over what my rental amount was) and was able to switch to Enterprise which allowed my credit card CDW (collision damage waiver insurance).

Last year I flew to Ireland and I booked through Budget and they tried to charge me a bunch of "road" fees and insurance waiving "administrative" fees.

With that data in mind, In April of 2020 I'm flying to London Heathrow and though I won't be driving into London, I'd like to know if there are certain rental car companies I should avoid that will require additional fees and what is considering normal and what is considered a load of rubbish?

Any advice on who to avoid for crap fees and what fees I should truly expect would helpful.
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Old Dec 10, 19, 3:21 am
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Welcome to Flyertalk, Socal Travel Junkie.

It's a tricky one to answer from somebody based in the UK, as our experience will often be different to yours. It's not the norm here for your personal car insurance (if indeed you own a car) or credit card insurance to cover it for a rental ("hire") car. So the rates we get always include basic insurance (including mandatory third party), generally with an excess of around 1000 (more for premium cars).

However, book with one of the international companies from the US, with a US address, and you'll often be quoted without this insurance. So when you reach the counter, they need to make sure you have the mandatory minimum. CDW insurance alone won't cover this. What may have happened is that, if you booked Europcar from the US, you were quoted a rate with no insurance, but when you approached Enterprise, you were quoted a rate with basic insurance (where your CDW cover will apply). Alternatively, you stumbled across a smaller agency not set up to deal with a situation that it's pretty obscure to them. (Am applying Hanlon's razor here...)

I also get annual CDW cover, and generally find it is accepted. That doesn't stop some rental companies trying to convince me to buy CDW because "the claims process is easier". These guys are on commission - and Europcar seems to be the worst offender (not that it stops me going there, I know the dance).

The main companies - Hertz, Avis/Budget, Europcar and Sixt are generally fine. Enterprise too - they have a great customer service ethos over here. Avoid the "too good to be true" rate people like Greenmotion at all costs. With all of them, double check what insurance is included. With the cheaper ones, check what other small print may be there - mandatory fuel purchase, cleaning charges, etc, etc.
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Old Dec 10, 19, 10:46 am
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Not sure where home is for you but the use of the $ sign suggests USA...?
All rental companies in the UK are very strict on damage control, to a degree that often surprises customers from N America. You need to check over the car against the damage sheet very thoroughly before you drive away. It will be checked over very closely on return. Small dings or damage to wheels/tyres are never considered fair wear and tear, they will be charged.
If you rely on your own policy to cover you, you need to understand that the UK rental company will NEVER deal with your insurer. If you incur damage (no matter who was at fault) they will charge that cost to your credit card and it is then for you to reclaim this from your insurer. The system works, I've suffered incidents where I had to pay for damage then reclaim from my policy (through American Express). I did get the money back, but there is time and faff factor involved.
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Old Dec 10, 19, 11:10 am
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Originally Posted by stut View Post
Welcome to Flyertalk, Socal Travel Junkie.

It's a tricky one to answer from somebody based in the UK, as our experience will often be different to yours. It's not the norm here for your personal car insurance (if indeed you own a car) or credit card insurance to cover it for a rental ("hire") car. So the rates we get always include basic insurance (including mandatory third party), generally with an excess of around 1000 (more for premium cars).

However, book with one of the international companies from the US, with a US address, and you'll often be quoted without this insurance. So when you reach the counter, they need to make sure you have the mandatory minimum. CDW insurance alone won't cover this. What may have happened is that, if you booked Europcar from the US, you were quoted a rate with no insurance, but when you approached Enterprise, you were quoted a rate with basic insurance (where your CDW cover will apply). Alternatively, you stumbled across a smaller agency not set up to deal with a situation that it's pretty obscure to them. (Am applying Hanlon's razor here...)

I also get annual CDW cover, and generally find it is accepted. That doesn't stop some rental companies trying to convince me to buy CDW because "the claims process is easier". These guys are on commission - and Europcar seems to be the worst offender (not that it stops me going there, I know the dance).

The main companies - Hertz, Avis/Budget, Europcar and Sixt are generally fine. Enterprise too - they have a great customer service ethos over here. Avoid the "too good to be true" rate people like Greenmotion at all costs. With all of them, double check what insurance is included. With the cheaper ones, check what other small print may be there - mandatory fuel purchase, cleaning charges, etc, etc.
Thank you. This helps. When booking through Expedia, etc. they don't list the fees that the booking does cover. I didn't realize Europcar and Sixt were now considered main companies. I will add those to the long-existing companies when comparing prices. Appreciate your feedback.
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Old Dec 10, 19, 11:15 am
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Thank you. Yes from the USA. I understood the seriousness of the damage control, it's really finding out after getting to the counter, tired and out of sorts that there are "road taxes" and "required insurances- that your personal insurance or credit card won't cover", etc that are really upsetting. In the USA the quoted price includes all fees, taxes, etc, except optional add-ons and I don't like being surprised at any counter or place of business.

I did find Ireland was different than Scotland and wanted to make sure England didn't have it's own set of fees that were outside the scope of my quoted booking rate.
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Old Dec 10, 19, 11:30 am
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Welcome to FT, Socal Travel Junkie!

You've already been given some good advice, let me add a few things:

1. Check if your credit card covers car rental insurance. Most of the better ones have it and you can confidently say no to anything the counter tries to sell to you. This is what I do.

2. Check if your US car insurance policy includes foreign car rental, and at what level. Most good policies cover this.

3. Europcar is a very big rental company, around since the 1950s, owned by a French private equity firm (it used to be part of VW). Sixt is the largest rental company in Germany, Austria, etc, and was founded about 100 years ago and controlled by the Sixt family. They have the best fleet in many European family, including the UK.
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Old Dec 10, 19, 11:46 am
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LondonElite,

Thank you. Are you aware if either of those two firms (Europcar, Sixt) has any non-mentioned fees that a customer from the USA will definitely be charged when picking up my vehicle near/at LHR?

Europcar definitely insisted I use their CDW insurance while in Scotland even though my credit card covered it. I even spoke with the manager at the counter and they were not willing to rent me the car unless I paid for their CDW - no exception. I had booked this through Expedia so I was able to recoup my loss. Enterprise was willing to accommodate me on the spot and match the initial booking cost, which I consider myself lucky for.
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Old Dec 10, 19, 12:05 pm
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I can't point to any specific fees, but I am confident you can decline their insurance with evidence that it is included elsewhere. I always make sure to mention that I want no insurance at all. Shame on Europcar. Sixt has a decent operation at LHR, with a generally good selection of vehicles.
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Old Dec 10, 19, 12:10 pm
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Originally Posted by stut View Post
I also get annual CDW cover, and generally find it is accepted. That doesn't stop some rental companies trying to convince me to buy CDW because "the claims process is easier". These guys are on commission - and Europcar seems to be the worst offender (not that it stops me going there, I know the dance).
Agree that annual excess recovery insurance policy is the best route nowadays. I pay 90 per year and can recover up to 3.000.

stut is right that 1) all agents will try and flog you something extra because they are on commission and 2) that the agents are right in saying that the claims process would be easier with them, since the rental company would deduct from you, then you would have to reclaim. This is just a matter of longer process.

I had a seriously damaged Europcar rental when a tractor/trailer smashed the side of the car in Scotland last year - ended up being debited with the excess of GBP 1.400 but refunded by Europcar before my insurer had managed to complete recovery proceedings because the (guilty) third-party insurance paid up to Europcar.
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Old Dec 10, 19, 12:26 pm
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Thank you for the data. This also helps.

I wish someone would create a link or blog that lays out what to expect when renting a car in different countries with different carriers. It would make my renting experience easier and less of a hassle.
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Old Dec 10, 19, 1:35 pm
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Originally Posted by Socal Travel Junkie View Post
Thank you. This helps. When booking through Expedia, etc. they don't list the fees that the booking does cover......ck.
That is problem number 1 for you.
Book direct through rental cars web site.

Scotland & England are part the same country (United Kingdom). Even if Scotland has a parliament
Ireland is a different country. Well known that insurance by credit card (if any) needs to be carefully checked

Originally Posted by Socal Travel Junkie View Post
<snip>
I wish someone would create a link or blog that lays out what to expect when renting a car in different countries with different carriers. It would make my renting experience easier and less of a hassle.
That's something a social travel junkie could do !
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Last edited by Mwenenzi; Dec 10, 19 at 3:45 pm
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Old Dec 10, 19, 10:00 pm
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If you're in the US and start traveling outside the US, you soon find out that every country may have its own ways. Renting a car can be interesting if you're relying on US credit card coverage. Luckily for you, the UK is generally considered covered with no real issues to face. Decline coverage at the counter as you would in the US, and you'll generally have no issues getting your car. Ireland is a notable exception, for many reasons. When I first went there in 2000, AMEX provided coverage there, then for a period of time, they excluded Ireland from their list of covered countries, and then they provided coverage there again. If you ever go back to Ireland, look closely at this thread, Car Rental Insurance in Ireland -- Very Confused. Although coverage is generally provided by US credit card companies in Ireland, it's a universal rule that you'll need written confirmation issued within a couple of weeks of your rental that you'll need to present at the counter for them to waive your need for coverage.

Even in the UK, though, your problem is twofold once you have your car. First, other than the modern motorways, Scotland and the UK have roads that were built long before the modern automobile. I've found the roads to be quite good, but it's intolerable at busy times inside the cities, and the rural areas can present challenges as well. Right-side driving is not always easy to adjust to, and as a result, you may find the occasional scrape with a car will occur.

That leads to the second problem. The damage discovered when you drop the car off at the end of your trip will generally require that you work through your credit card company. After you've left the country. And can no longer check the car for the damage that is claimed to have occurred. That makes it tough to contest much of anything--if the rental car company says you owe $2000 for damages on the car, you have scant resources for contesting that assertion.

Yes, insurance over there is generally two or three times the daily price of a rental. That doesn't mean the insurance isn't worth taking out. Get as much information as you can before going. Understand that the risk of damaging a car is probably higher over there than in the US. Realize that the UK/Ireland/other foreign country rental car agency has the "home court" advantage. And I agree with the advice others have given that renting directly through the agency rather than through a third-party website is preferred.

Written by someone with over twenty rental experiences in the UK/Ireland.
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Old Dec 11, 19, 1:04 am
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Originally Posted by Socal Travel Junkie View Post
Thank you. Yes from the USA. I understood the seriousness of the damage control, it's really finding out after getting to the counter, tired and out of sorts that there are "road taxes" and "required insurances- that your personal insurance or credit card won't cover", etc that are really upsetting. In the USA the quoted price includes all fees, taxes, etc, except optional add-ons and I don't like being surprised at any counter or place of business.

I did find Ireland was different than Scotland and wanted to make sure England didn't have it's own set of fees that were outside the scope of my quoted booking rate.
Not for foreigners it doesn't... if a foreigner books through a US site the quoted price would ALSO NOT include very necessary things...like CDW etc (which OUR credit cards do NOT generally cover) Foreigners turning up at US car rental depots are routinely told they need all sorts of extras.... it can be a VERY hard sell indeed! (which is why I book through European consolidators that include all necessary covers) So, in effect..it was the same experience for you that time as for a great many folks visiting the USA.
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Old Dec 11, 19, 5:14 am
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Originally Posted by Socal Travel Junkie View Post
Thank you. Yes from the USA. I understood the seriousness of the damage control, it's really finding out after getting to the counter, tired and out of sorts that there are "road taxes" and "required insurances- that your personal insurance or credit card won't cover", etc that are really upsetting. In the USA the quoted price includes all fees, taxes, etc, except optional add-ons and I don't like being surprised at any counter or place of business.
On the whole, businesses in the UK selling to consumers have to advertise the final price. Unlike in the USA where they're allowed to charge large amounts of taxes / fees etc which aren't in the headline price, even if it doubles (or worse!) the total price, that's generally not allowed

However, they don't have to include optional extras that most people won't need in the price. All depends on if you count as "most people"... For example, the basic insurance will have a pretty high excess

Assuming you have your own insurance that'll take care of the excess, or you're willing to self-insure, you can pay the initially quoted price, and decline the up-sells. However, if you end up damaging the vehicle, you personally will be billed for it, and it'll be up to you to reclaim costs from your own insurance.

Car hire staff are generally on commission for up-sells, but also have to deal with distraught people facing huge bills who didn't pay attention. If you seem like you don't know what you're doing, they will almost always try to explain the options, and if you are nervous will generally try to steer you towards the "safer" but more expensive options. Gets them some extra money, but importantly, makes a a problem go away! If you tell them that you have your own insurance, and understand that they'll bill you not that insurance, they're quite happy to send you on your way, normally after signing something to confirm you really understand how it'll work. I do it often, no issues

Having stood in queues in hire car offices awaiting my turn, listening to confused americans having a go at staff, and seen family/friends try to drive on the left for the first time, I can see why many staff try to explain things in detail and try to get people to take the no-personal-risk options!

"What do you mean I can either have an upgrade or an automatic, but not both? Just give me one of *gesture* those, they can't all be stick. You're lying to me, you can't only have the one automatic car left on a Saturday! I hire all the time, those are always automatics with Hertz! I demand ....." was pretty much what we all had to listen to from an American couple at Hertz a few weeks back. The comprehension and expectation gap was vast
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Old Dec 11, 19, 7:18 am
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I have rented through Enterprise at LHR several times and been happy with them. What I do is book the rental through their UK website which provides more information. Their listed price on the UK website includes the damage waiver which you can decline if you have personal insurance.

https://www.enterprise.co.uk/en/home.html

I believe it also helps to be part of the rental company's loyalty plan. I'm an Enterprise Plus member and had a small dent overlooked when bringing a car back to LHR.

The other advice is know how to drive a stick or be prepared to pay a much higher daily rental rate.
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