Top Tips for Hiring a Car on a Backpacker’s Budget

The freedom of driving through a new country hardly compares to the joy any other ground transport could bring (sorry, train lovers!). Thanks to multinational vehicle rental corporations, you can enjoy reliable services in almost every spot on the globe.

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However, the car hire business is a business after all, and recently it has been showing more and more teeth when it comes to draining your purse. Here are the top tips to help you safeguard against unnecessary expenditure while you enjoy your rental freedom!

Excess in excess

We are talking insurance, of course. This is car rental companies’ prime source of revenue. You booked the basic package which includes insurance for any damages in excess of 500 or 1,000 pounds. They will fight tooth and nail to get you to buy the collision damage waiver (CDW) which takes care of that excess, too. It is great not to worry about damage charges, but you will be much better off to bring your own full insurance – it saves you at least 100 pounds on the bottom line!

Accessorise on your own terms

Adding up the charges per day for a GPS device or a baby seat, you can afford buying your own after your first car hire already. Be smart about any extras outside the basic package; you will inevitably be better off if you bring your own. If you already have a smartphone, it probably offers as good a GPS service as any other paid option. Invest in a cigarette-lighter charger (starting at less than 5 pounds!) and hit the road happy!

Fuel fights

Check your company’s fuel policy carefully. Many of the big names such as Avis, National Car Rental, Hertz, or Europcar are adopting a full-to-empty tank regulation in some European territories, particularly around the Mediterranean. This means the price of a full tank of gas is added to the bottom line; whether you used it up or not makes no difference. Check your trip route carefully and calculate whether it is even possible to use up a full tank for the duration of your rental. If not, look for another company.

Mileage, age, and other catches

If you are planning an intense road trip, make sure to hire a car with unlimited mileage. Otherwise you will be in for a nasty surprise where every bit of extra distance travelled costs you dearly. Another potential expense might have to do with your age: clients under 21 or sometimes even 25 get slapped with extra “young driver” charges to counterbalance the risks associated with lack of road experience. Check the small print. On the upside, if you are a registered student, you might enjoy a special discount. Do not be too shy to ask!

Before and after – keep the evidence!

To avoid paying for someone else’s sins, make sure the check-out and check-in protocols are thorough. Have the company employee sign off on both of them, keep your copies, and take pictures of the car at the beginning and the end of your rental period. Zoom in on all relevant details. No visible damage is excessively small!