Hiring a car abroad can be a bargain until you get to the airport and discover that there are a host of ‘hidden’ extras to pay. Excess waiver insurance, breakdown cover, an additional driver and a full tank of petrol soon rack up the costs, cutting into your spending money. Follow these simple tips to cut your costs.

1: Only pay for the petrol you use

A full tank of petrol can whack €100 onto your bill – and if you’re told to return the tank empty, you could be paying as much as €50 for unused petrol, particularly on short trips.

Car hire companies such as Avis allows you to return the tank full, so that you only pay for the petrol you have used. Although the hire prices from these companies may appear more expensive initially, they often work out cheaper in the long run when the cost of petrol is taken into account.

2. Check the hire company’s fuel policy before you book

You will usually find it buried in the terms and conditions. If you are using a broker, or booking engine such as Carhire 3000, ring and check which company you will booking and what their fuel policy is.

3: Buy excess waiver insurance before you leave

Buying at the car rental desk when you pick up the car is expensive. It is far cheaper to buy a policy before you leave the UK. Excess waiver insurance covers you for the excess should your car be damaged or stolen.

4. It’s much, much cheaper to do this …

I paid £39.99 (now £45.99) for the icarhireinsurance annual Europe excess insurance but was offered 14 days’ cover at a car hire desk in Malta for around £60 for two weeks. Buying in advance saved me £20 and provided cover on all my car rentals for an entire year.

5. … but you will have to pay upfront and claim the excess back

When buying the rental company’s excess waiver insurance, no money changes hands if you have an accident – a selling point that companies are quick to point out whenever I have hired a car. Don’t be persuaded by their hard sell tactics if you have already purchased a policy.

6. Check that breakdown cover is included

Don’t assume that breakdown cover is automatically included – it isn’t always. Check before you book.

7. Does your rental include additional drivers?

Adding a second driver can be costly. Hertz, for example, quotes €5.90 (£4.20) a day for rental in Malta, adding nearly £60 to a 14-night holiday. A broker such as Economy Car Hire (www.economycarhire.com/),  includes an additional driver in the price.

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