Hiring a car in France is a great way to travel around at your own leisure and explore the best France has to offer, free from the shackles of public transport and pre-determined timetables. With hundreds of locations throughout France from the major airports and rail stations to smaller rural locations, hiring a car is very well appointed and supply plentiful which also keeps cost in check due to strong competition. That said, car hire comes with its own risks, here we take a look at the most common pitfalls to avoid to ensure you get the best deals on car hire in France.
The car rental industry moved to a trend of pre-paying for fuel in an effort to reduce base rates. This policy has been widely criticised by consumers as the rental agents charged a premium for the fuel and included mandatory admin costs resulting in much higher fuel costs than a regular filling station. It also meant that despite paying for a full tank of fuel (at inflated rates), returning the car with half of that fuel left, there was rarely any refund for unused fuel. Thankfully, most of the reputable agents have now moved back to the much preferred and fairer ‘Full to Full’ policy, meaning the car is supplied with a full tank of fuel and you simply return it that way so you only pay for the fuel you use and refuel at local filling station rates. It’s always wise to check the fuel policy on any rental to check you are getting a ‘full to full’ policy even if the base rate is a little higher, you are likely to save in the long run.
This is arguably the most contentious issue of all as rental agents have been known to adopt aggressive selling techniques to encourage customers to pay extra at the rental desk to ‘top up’ their insurance. All car rentals will include CDW (collision damage waiver) which insures the car to legally drive on the roads and is technically all that is required to drive the car away. However much like a domestic car insurance policy, this does carry an excess and typically this is around 1,000 EUR, meaning you are liable for the excess should you damage the vehicle. There is also a grey area around the limit of your liability should you damage the car beyond the value of the excess. Scare tactics are often employed to secure the extra insurance which can be as much as 15-20 EUR per day extra, often more than the cost of the rental. It boils down to your appetite for risk, however other options are available, if you book with a rental broker they will often attach a ‘complete cover’ package for a more competitive rate, or third party stand-alone policies (individual trip / annual) are available.
When picking up the car, it’s essential that you inspect the car prior to driving away and ensure that any damage is recorded and signed for by the rental agent. If the car is returned with any damage you are likely to see a bill on your credit card, so if it didn’t happen whilst in your care, you could end up footing the bill for someone else. If you do happen to damage the car and are charged by the rental agent for repairs, also check to see if the quote is reasonable for repair and ask for evidence that the repairs were carried out. If you are paying for the repair, it’s not unreasonable to seek proof that if was actually carried out.
Using a Broker
Car rental brokers are sometimes given an unfair ride, it’s true that unscrupulous third parties may just take a ‘commission’ from any rental and offer little in return, however the value that a reputable broker can offer can be invaluable. Booking with a rental broker such as Rhinocarhire.com offers another level of security as whilst the rental agreement is ultimately with the rental agent who supplies the car, in the event of any issues or dispute, having a rental broker who will often have more influence with the rental agent than an individual customer can only be a good thing. Where disputes can be ‘your word against theirs’ a rental broker can offer value and often secure a more positive outcome for their customer. It’s important to stress however that whilst there are many rental brokers out there, booking via a reputable one is key.
During peak times, particularly at the airports it’s common for queues to form which can be frustrating. It’s no surprise that the budget rental agents are likely to have longer queues as likely to attract more customers with low headline rates, which could be funded by reduced staffing. We suggest a little research to this, however there are still ways to get to the front of the queue. We suggest the lead driver head straight to the car rental counter whilst the rest of the party collect the luggage.
If you need to add extras to your rental, this is likely to bump up the cost, however just be aware that the cost of extras will vary from supplier to supplier, so the cheapest rental deal may in fact end up costing more if the cost of required extras is higher than another, so always run a ‘complete’ cost comparison and look out for special offer such as ‘free additional driver’. Child seats are often a significant cost also, most airlines will allow you to take child seats free of charge, so it’s always worth considering taking your own.
It’s worth looking out for special offers, but make sure they are genuine and not designed to just lure you in.