There is a huge potential in the car rental industry, if things are simple, easy and convenient. Image Credit: Shutterstock

Dubai: Renting a car while traveling abroad can offer many conveniences, but it can also quickly turn into an incredibly expensive affair, with cheap headline rates at times doubling – or even tripling – once you get to the rental desk thanks to sneaky charges.

“Renting a car when you travel to a new country can be more cost-effective than relying on taxis or multiple public transportation tickets, particularly when travelling in a group or covering long distances,” explained Sophia Sanchez, a travel itinerary planner at a UAE-based European tour operator.

“However, the car hiring process can be a bit challenging if you're not well prepared. In order to not worry about renting a car when you land overseas, it will save you to research and plan in advance before coming across common expense-related issues and mistakes.”

No matter what the reason is to rent a car when you’re headed overseas, there are some expense-related risks to weigh in order to reduce the chance of getting an unexpected bill when picking up and returning the car, and save in the process of doing.

Risk #1: Lack of insurance for your rental car proves costly

Firstly, confirm you have appropriate insurance for the rental car, such as the daily damage waiver, opined Richa Dev, a long-time travel consultant based in Dubai. “Also, be sure you understand your credit card’s car rental insurance policies, many are not as comprehensive as you think.”

When you hire a car abroad, it will come with insurance included - however cover is often minimal, and there is almost always a high excess fee in place. As such, Dev recommends that you take out car hire excess insurance separately to reimburse your high excess payment.

“Some car rentals offer super collision damage waivers or other extras to mitigate their high excess costs, but these can also be relatively expensive compared to finding your own excess insurance. They may also offer other add-ons that can be tiresome to deal with, so ensure to check before agreeing. “

Risk #2: Rental a car from the airport can prove more expensive

Have you ever wondered how much do you really save by booking a car rental at the airport? Is it cheaper to rent a car at the airport or is it more expensive to? Turns out, it’s more expensive on average to rent a car at the airport versus downtown counterpart.

That’s according to a multiple analysis conducted in June 2024 of more than 500 rental car prices (including taxes and fees) across world’s top largest and busiest airports. “Fees charged to rental firms by the airport get passed on to consumers, often making on-site rentals pricier,” added Sanchez.

“If you're hiring a car abroad, insurance is usually included in the hire costs. But it's worth checking the level of cover included and how much the excess is (the amount you'll have to pay towards a claim you make on your insurance) should you need to make a claim.”

Factor in fuel costs as policies differ with each car rental
When travelling to different countries in Europe and most places elsewhere, Dev detailed how car rental companies largely have two different policies in place when it comes to fuel charges:

“Full-full is when your car has a full tank upon you receiving it, and it’s expected you’ll return the car with a full tank too. This is the most common option with car rental companies - be sure to top up the tank as close as possible to the rental location,” she explained.

“Full-empty is the other option and likely less preferable - you’ll be expected to return it empty and won’t be refunded any fuel left in the tank, so it can be expensive. Additionally, you don’t want to risk running out of petrol before you can return the car, so it’s better to opt for full-full where possible.”

Rental a car abroad? Key payment tips to keep in mind

Both Dev and Sanchez recommended that you pay in local currency when renting a car overseas, as you might find exchange rates to be unfavourable in comparison. “Additionally, it’s wise to pay by credit card as this provides valuable cover for purchases if there’s an issue with the car,” added Sanchez.

To ensure your trip goes as smoothly as possible, here are some general tips to keep in mind:

• If there’s any damage on the car when you first get the keys, before driving it off, ensure it’s noted on your rental agreement so you aren’t charged for it.

• Check and double check your insurance policy, and try and get comprehensive cover if it’s available.

• Familiarise yourself with road and driving rules, and ensure you and the car are compliant with norms to stay clear of penalties.

• Check for limits on mileage and ensure it’s enough - and check for extra charges for exceeding the mileage limit.

• Bring your own child seat if you’re travelling with children as a way to save money - you might even be able to bring it on the airplane without any extra charges, but check beforehand.