One. Book Early
Book early, book early, book early. I’ve repeated that 3 times to try and hammer the point home. Also to highlight the fact that if you don’t you could end up paying three times the price.
Typically if you book 3 months before your trip you will pay just 33% of the price that someone else will be paying stood next to you at the desk. Why?
Because they just decided to turn up at Calais or one of the main French airports and pay on the day to hire a car.Two. Compare Car Hire France
You can definitely search more companies quicker and potentially get a better deal that suits your needs if you use a couple of Car Hire Comparison
websites as a starting point. But DO NOT BOOK VIA THEM
. (see ECRCS* below)
That should not be the end of your research though. You will be wise to dig MUCH deeper than just looking at the headline price offered and then immediately booking it.
Car Hire firms are notorious the world over for adding EXTRAS on to the base cost and the unscrupulous pull every trick in the book to do so.
Also whichever company you are thinking of going with search trip advisor for reviews. Also search Google for the name of the company and add the word "complaint" or "scam" or "rip off" etc. There you will quickly find some horror stories if there are any.
You will find that whichever company the comparison website leads you to they (the comparison site) will not help you in anyway if there is a problem. Comparison websites will earn commission from you taking out a policy with someone they have pointed you towards but they ALWAYS say it is nothing to do with them if there is a problem.
They'll just point you in the direction of the supplier claiming they have "no involvement in the supplying of a vehicle and therefore any complaints would be made to the suppliers directly".Three. Check the Fuel Policy
Give some thought to the mileage you will be doing and how much petrol/diesel you are likely to use? Is the fuel policy "Full to Full" or "Full to Empty" etc.
Be careful if you are not going to do more than a couple of hundred miles because if it’s "Full to Empty" they will charge you on collection for a full tank of fuel and you will only use a quarter of it and give them the rest back. Which they then sell to the next customer!
Also find out exactly how much they charge you for a tank of fuel as unscrupulous car hire firms often charge DOUBLE what the fuel would actually cost if you went to a garage yourself to fill up.Four. Excess Insurance
When you arrive to pick up your car a lot of car hire firms try and scare you into taking additional collision damage waiver (CDW).
They will try and scare you into paying around £20 per day for this cover which is an awful lot on a 14 day car hire. If you buy your own CDW separately it can be as little as £2 a day, which is a saving of over £250.
If you hire cars a lot throughout the year then you can actually buy an annual policy which will save you a fortune.Five. Credit Card Balance
Remember they will often want to charge a holding deposit especially if you are not taking the CDW so make sure your credit card has sufficient budget available or this could cause problems and embarrassment.
Personally I would recommend using your credit card to pay for the car hire if the cost is over £100 as this affords you greater consumer protection in the unlikely event of there being a problem.
The holding deposits charged by some of the cowboy firms is over £1,000. Even more importantly check if they just reserve the funds on your card or actually charge the amount in full and then refund it later. Some bad operators do not return this money for well over a month and when you are back home it can be difficult to sort this out. Check before booking.Six. Child Seats and Sat Nav’s
Expect to pay around £5 a day to hire a child seat, so take your own if it’s not too much trouble Sat Nav’s cost about £60 to £80 per week to hire so personally I’d just use the FREE app on my phone called Waze.Seven. Be a Forensic Scientist
Get your fine tooth-comb out upon collection especially and drop off and make absolutely sure you double check the car inside and out. Mark any damage or even the slightest scratch on the paperwork when you pick the car up, and don’t drop the car off without having it checked and signed for.
If it gets bumped in the car park after you have dropped it off but the paperwork isn't signed you will be getting a bill for it. Often unscrupulous car hire firms in France will charge you for dents and scratches that you were not responsible for and often you don't find out you have been charged until you get home.
If the car has scratches or wear and tear on collection I’d advise you to take photos’ or video the car on your phone.Eight. ECRCS* Registered companies
We all use price comparison websites these days but be careful. I'd recommend them for research only but if you are ultimately deciding to go with a company that has signed up to the ECRCS scheme (and that's a good tip) then the scheme only works if you book direct.
So find a company on a comparison website, then check they are a member if the ECRS scheme and then go to them direct. See details of the ECRCS scheme here
.Nine. Safety Equipment?
Has the vehicle got Hi Viz vests for the occupants, a warning triangle etc?
Remember you can get on the spot fines for not carrying these items and blaming the hire company will not save you, the police won't care.
See our Driving in France Checklist page
here for full details of what you may need. (though remember as a French registered car it will not need headlamp converters and a UK sticker.)