If you’re planning a weekend in Bordeaux or a trip around the West Coast of Scotland, hiring a car could make all the difference to how much you’re able to explore and see.

Here’s what to think about before you book your car, and after you’ve paid, to help avoid disputes down the line, most of which usually relate to alleged damage.

Shop around before you hire a vehicle

You may find what you think is a good deal, until you check another website and find that you almost paid way over the odds. Comparison sites such as Kayak and Skyscanner can be useful to compare prices from different car rental providers to find the right vehicle for your holiday. If you haven’t heard of a provider before, do a bit of research and read some reviews before booking anything - if the price looks too good to be true, it probably is.

And don’t just take all reviews on trust, there are some fake reviews out there. For example, be wary of lots of very positive reviews all posted at the same time.

You might also want to compare prices for hiring cars from different pick up and drop off points. For example, it’s usually more expensive to pick up a car in one location and return it to another, even though this might be more convenient than dropping it off at the original location, such as an airport.

Read the small print of the contract

Once you’re ready to book, read the terms and conditions. It may be painful, but it’s worth it. Based on what’s there, you might decide to upgrade the insurance so that you have a higher level of cover. Think about what you really could afford if something went wrong and then choose your holiday car insurance based on that.

It’s also important to note how much you’ll need to pay as a security deposit. This amount will usually be pre-authorised on your card, meaning that the company will freeze the amount during your hire and unfreeze it once the car has been returned, unless it’s returned damaged.

The terms and conditions should highlight what you need to collect the car, for example a valid driver’s licence and credit card, something many car hire companies require to secure the hire, even if they allow you to pay with a debit card.

Save the documents and take pictures

In case of a dispute with a car hire company, keep your rental agreements, the terms and conditions of the hire and proof of payment in a safe place. You could take screenshots or download them. Keep it all in one place on your phone so you have them handy.

Before you set off from the car hire location, make sure to take photos of your car, especially any scratches or faults. If you return the car and the company complains about something, you can prove that the damage was already there with the photos.

You could also take photos just before you hand the car back too for extra peace of mind, ideally once you’ve parked it in a spot that’s allocated for the car hire company.

If something goes wrong, be proactive

Accidents happen and if they do, the first step is to look at whether the damage will be covered by the insurance you’ve taken out for your holiday car hire. Tell the car company what’s happened. If the damage isn’t going to be covered by insurance, seek an agreement on the cost with the car rental company.

Wherever you’re going, don’t forget to pack your Starling card - we won’t charge you any additional fees for using your card abroad or withdrawing cash overseas.

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