Sneaky car hire tricks that drive up prices

How to pay less for your hire car by avoiding rental companies' ploys.

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You can now hire a car on the continent for as little as €1 (72p) a day. Unfortunately, however, that doesn't mean you can pay less than £10 to rent a car for a week.

While the base price is low, there are more and more extra charges to pay on top. And some of them are pretty sneaky.

Rory Sexton, managing director of rental company Economy Car Hire, said: "With car rental prices dipping to new lows of €1 per day, it's hardly a surprise that car hire suppliers are having to find new ways to increase their profits."

His top tips for keeping your hire car costs down include checking the terms of the booking carefully, and taking the time to read the rental contract when collecting the car.

"If there are any concerns or surprise charges, this is the time to raise the issue with the car rental company or contact the broker," Sexton said.

He also advises booking through a broker in the UK in order to benefit from the protection of UK consumer laws, and keeping an eye out for the tricks designed to up the overall cost of your hire car.

The five top car hire tricks

1. Insurance excesses
Car hire deals generally include insurance. However, in some cases there will be an excess (the amount you must pay towards any claim) of up to €3,000 - making smaller claims completely pointless.

That's why you should always check this before driving off.

2. "Collect full, return empty" fuel policies
With these, you are generally charged for a full tank of petrol - at way above the going rate to fill up at a local petrol station.

And there is no refund available if there is any fuel left in the car when you return it. That's why it's important to check the fuel policy before booking a hire car.

3. "Free" upgrades
We all like being given something for free. But if you arrive at a car rental counter to be told you're being given an upgrade, it's worth checking that it is free of charge.

Some companies will argue that by accepting it you agreed to be charged.

4. Extra insurance
Most hire cars come with insurance included as standard. But you may find yourself being pressured into buying additional insurance costing up to €15 a day.

In most cases, the salesman is simply trying to earn some extra commission, so stand your ground if you don't want to take the cover out.

5. Hefty repair bills
If your hire car is damaged and the resulting costs are not covered by the insurance policy, you will have to pay for the repairs.

However, you should always ask to see a breakdown of charges, and a repair invoice - just to check that you are not being overcharged.

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