A tale (and tips) about renting a holiday car

Fiat500 With the changes to UK driving licences, it makes sense to be prepared if you are thinking of booking a holiday hire car. We’ve have just returned from a few days in Italy and pre-booked a Fiat500 with Hertz at Genoa airport. I was so excited because a) I have always wanted to drive one of these funky little cars and b) 6’4″ Husband can, surprisingly, quite happily fit inside one!

So you can imagine my disappointment when a) Husband announced he had lost his wallet and b) the rather stern woman at the Hertz counter told me we couldn’t have the car because we didn’t have a credit card. I explained that I only use a debit card and that Hertz had quite happily taken the money in advance from self same debit card. But she was intractable – rather like a robot, she just kept repeating “crrrredit card, crrrrrredit card”. She wouldn’t give us our money back either (subsequently sorted that out when I got back to UK).

walletSo, we went to Sixt and asked if we could hire a car from them. The chap there couldn’t have been more charming (or, come to think of it, more good looking). In five minutes flat he had taken our debit card and other details and handed us the keys to – yes! a white Fiat500.

I was the sole driver (as Husband’s plastic driving licence was in missing wallet) and I have to say that he was most helpful when I was negotiating roundabouts (quite a tricky thing when you have hardly ever driven on the right hand side of the road). Better still, when we arrived at our hotel, Husband found his wallet tucked between two shirts in his luggage. Now we know from experience that, in Europe, unless you present both paper and card parts of your driving licence, you will be unable to drive. Sixt triumphed again because they agreed to add Husband as a driver if we sent a photocopy of his card by fax.

FullSizeRenderAll went brilliantly until day 2. When I was putting stuff in the boot of the car, I noticed the white paintwork was scratched. OMG! Husband never wants to take out the rip off insurance hire companies offer you and so I spent some time worrying about the huge bill that was no doubt coming our way. Am delighted to report that it turned out that the damage was already there when we picked up the car – phew!

Anyhow, if you are also about to hire a holiday car, here are some useful tips:

  1. Don’t buy excess waiver insurance or collision damage waiver when you pick up the car. Try travelsupermarket.com or insuranceforcarhire.com for a standalone policy before you leave the UK. Miles cheaper.
  2. Opt for ‘a return petrol tank as you found it policy’ – buying petrol yourself is often way cheaper than letting the hire company fill it up once you have returned the car.
  3. Contact your hire company to make sure they know about the new UK rules on driving licences. You will need to get a passcode (valid for 72 hours) from the DVLA website before you leave.
  4. Take photos of the bodywork before you drive off in your hire car (if we had done that, we wouldn’t have wasted time worrying about the scratch). It is supposed to, but not always clearly, be marked on the hire car paperwork – our copy was practically illegible!
  5. Check your bank statement after your holiday to ensure you haven’t been charged any extras by the hire company.