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The hidden costs of car rental

The hidden costs of car rental

Whether you’re away from home or your own vehicle is off the road, the freedom of a rental car is hard to beat – and if you shop around, you can often find great deals. But if you’re not careful, that great deal may not always be the bargain it first seems. You can get a nasty surprise when the extra charges add up. Read on for some common surcharges you may face, and how to cut costs on your next rental car hire.


You can pay a set amount per day to avoid liability for any damage to the vehicle, provided you aren’t found guilty of gross negligence. But before you purchase extra insurance, check if it’s covered under your regular insurance policy. Keep in mind that either way, with rental insurance there may be limitations to the coverage offered. An accident in a rental car may affect the rates charged on your regular policy.


The best option here is to fill the petrol tank before you return the car. Most companies charge a premium for returning a car with an empty tank, and you’ll pay more if they fill it up for you.

Early return charges

Returning the car to the depot early may seem like an innocent alteration to the agreement you signed, but you may get an unpleasant surprise. Some companies offer a pro-rated refund, but others will actually add charges. This could be a substantial amount, especially if the early return means you no longer qualify for the cheaper ‘longer hire’ rate.

Airport surcharges

Check if there will be surcharges if you collect a car from the airport. You may be able to avoid these by collecting and dropping off the vehicle at a location outside the airport. Of course, you’ll need to balance the benefits of this with any additional transport costs and the inconvenience involved.

Drop-off charges

You may need to pay a surcharge if you return the car to a different location from where you collected it. The amount will vary depending on the location and distance from the collection depot. If you think you might not be able to return the rental car to the same place you picked it up, ask about the company’s policy on this well before you sign.


Unlimited mileage is often available from the larger hire firms, but it’s always wise to check. Smaller, local companies often impose a surcharge if you exceed a daily mileage. Note that special rates don’t always include unlimited mileage.

Peak season charges

Hiring a rental car in peak season often incurs additional changes. Rates can also vary depending on the city the car is hired from. Do some research to help you save money.

Age penalties

Youth can work against you when renting a car. Drivers under the age of 25 often pay a daily surcharge, due to their statistically higher crash rate. Not all companies rent to people under the age of 21, but those that do often charge even more.

Additional drivers

You may be charged extra if you add additional drivers to your rental agreement.


You may need extra items with your car rental – for example, perhaps you need a GPS to find your way around, or a baby seat. These items will likely up the cost of your rental car.

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