How to book a hire car
Always book car hire in advance as it's almost always more expensive at the airport and even online the costs rise as you get closer to your holiday dates. During peak times in popular destinations it's sometimes almost impossible to find availability so if you are sure that you want to hire a car get in there asap!
My favourite places to search for a hire car are Travelsupermarket for the huge range of options it usually throws up and Zest* for their easy to use website and their great customer service. Zest also has the best FAQs I have ever seen - they know everything there is to know about car hire! There are of course many other options some of which are listed in the Useful Links section.
Once you start to search there are a few key things to bear in mind:
Vehicle collection - On airport or off airport?
Most search results will state where the collection point is. Do take note if the collection involves a shuttle rather than the vehicle being available at the airport. This might make the price much cheaper but it can be a hassle after a long flight to travel to a car rental location and this feels even more painful if you're not expecting it! Just be aware what you are agreeing to.
The majority of fuel policies involve collecting the vehicle full and returning it full. Some policies just state that you return with the same amount of fuel that you left with (just make sure when you leave the depot you have enough fuel to get you to where you need to go). Beware of fuel policies which are 'full to empty' as this involves being charged for a full tank of fuel (probably at an inflated price) and bringing it back empty which is really difficult to do. Even if you don't bring it back empty you still pay for the whole tank - not a bargain!
Whatever you choose to do, if you are required to top up the fuel before you return the vehicle make sure you do this otherwise you will be charged for the fuel and an admin fee on top. Some car hire searches allow you to specifically search for 'fuel policy' options.
Currently driving in Europe with a UK licence is accepted. For some countries you may need an international driving permit. These are easy to obtain from the Post Office and all the info you need is here.
Most hire companies insist that you have a credit card in the main drivers name and you must present it when you collect the vehicle. The reason for this is so that they can take a preauthorisation which means they can ring-fence an amount of money in case you damage the vehicle. Providing this is usually non-negotiable so don't get caught out if you don't have a credit card - a debit card will not do.
A sat nav can be really useful and we've been amazed that ours has been able to guide us to some of the most remote places we have asked for direction to. Having said that hiring one with a car is usually really expensive so either take your own, but first make sure you have the correct maps loaded, or use your phone - both iPhone Maps and Google Maps allow you to download data so you can access it offline.