Rental desk rip-offs: Inferior car hire cover seven times the price of comprehensive policies, Which? finds

Some of the biggest car hire firms are charging hundreds of pounds for second-rate insurance, further bumping up already eye-watering prices of hire cars this summer, a Which? analysis has revealed.

The consumer champion found holidaymakers risk being ripped off at the rental desk for insurance that is considerably inferior and up to seven times more expensive than the most comprehensive cover.

Which? insurance experts rated the excess reimbursement policies of 20 third-party providers against the most comprehensive excess waivers sold by major car hire companies in Spain.

The least comprehensive policies were from Budget and Avis – both £168 a week and with a dismal Which? policy score of 46%. Europcar’s ‘Premium Protection’ policy was better, with a policy score of 68%, but it costs £205 per week.

Goldcar, Alamo and Enterprise all scored just 51%, with a week’s cover from Goldcar coming in at £177. The lowest price insurance from a car hire company that Which? found, for a week’s rental from Malaga airport, was £110 per week with Enterprise.

Which? found the best – and the cheapest – insurance deals could be snapped up online with third-party sellers.

Chew Insurance topped the charts with a Which? policy score of 76% and a week’s cover costing only £23. Questor Insurance costs just £24 and scored 73%. Which? found holidaymakers can buy an entire year’s cover from an online insurance company for £47, on average.

The survey shows holidaymakers can make considerable savings by planning ahead and shunning the major rental firms. 

Hire cars in Europe come with basic insurance included in the price, so you don’t have to pay the full cost of replacing a stolen or damaged vehicle. But you would have to pay an excess of up to £2,500.

To reduce this excess, often to £0, car hire companies offer you an excess waiver, which means you would pay nothing in the event of a claim. But these waivers are often expensive and full of holes.

For example, Alamo’s standard cover excludes personal belongings, tyres and the vehicle interior. If any of these were damaged, you’d still have to pay.

Which? recommends using an independent insurer that does include this as standard. The top-rated online insurers also cover curtailment – the costs incurred if your trip is cut short – which has become increasingly important during this period of travel disruption, personal possessions, misfuelling, and the cost of getting towed. 

None of the car rental firms’ expensive policies cover all of these eventualities.

Guy Hobbs, Editor of Which? Travel, said:

“Our analysis found major rental firms are charging extortionate fees for poor quality cover. With the price of hire cars rocketing this summer, it’s worth trying to avoid these rental desks’ rip-off policies.

“Car hire companies make their money from extras, like insurance, and Which? has previously found some unscrupulous providers resorting to pressure selling tactics.

“If you hire a car this summer, avoid the pressure from pushy agents and buy your own policy from a third-party beforehand.”

Notes to editors

  • In June 2022, we obtained quotes for a week’s car rental from Malaga airport. We selected the most comprehensive super collision damage waiver (SCDW) available. 
  • We calculated the policy scores by rating the 16 most important elements of the policy, including tyres, windscreen and underbody cover, flat battery cover, admin charges, car jacking, towing cover, personal accident cover and more.
  • Full results – Car hire insurance explained – Which?, July 2022
  • Research from Which? showed the average weekly rental rate shot up from £119 in March 2019 to £280 in March 2022.
  • Guy Hobbs is acting editor of Which? Travel while Rory Boland is on leave.

Which? advice on buying car hire insurance

Car hire is very competitive and the major rental companies compete on the headline price on comparison sites. They make their money from the extras that they sell, like insurance, and Which? has previously found some unscrupulous providers resorting to pressure selling tactics.

Which? recommends that you buy your own excess reimbursement policy from one of the best third-party insurance providers, then just say no at the rental desk. Explain that you don’t want any extra cover and that you understand the need to pay up to the excess limit if you damage the car (safe in the knowledge that you can claim it back).

The more expensive alternative is buying insurance from the company renting you the car. This is called a damage waiver, or super collision damage waiver (SCDW). 

About Which? 

Which? is the UK’s consumer champion, here to make life simpler, fairer and safer for everyone. Our research gets to the heart of consumer issues, our advice is impartial, and our rigorous product tests lead to expert recommendations. We’re the independent consumer voice that influences politicians and lawmakers, investigates, holds businesses to account and makes change happen. As an organisation, we’re not for profit and all for making consumers more powerful.

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