Car hire: take care to check terms and conditions when you book

Watch out when you book car hire online. That’s the warning from Which? Holiday that found some companies are using potentially unfair terms in their contracts while others are providing little or no information about their terms and conditions on their website.

Which? Holiday went through the online car hire booking process for eight major UK car hire companies to hire a car at London Heathrow Airport and Paris Charles De Gaulle, checking if the full terms and conditions were available prior to booking. It also checked to see if customers were informed of all the waivers and additional insurance policies available so that they could compare the car hire cost of different companies.

On three car hire websites Which? Holiday found a clause that could be viewed as potentially unfair – stating that if customers could not produce the keys in the event of the car being stolen then they would be liable for the full value of the vehicle. This means that even if the keys were stolen at the same time, or the vehicle was involved in a car-jacking, the customer would still be liable for the full cost of the car.

Which? Holiday also found that two car hire companies had no information about the terms and conditions of hire on their websites prior to booking.

Rochelle Turner, Head of Research for Which? Holiday, says: “Hiring a car for your holiday may seem like a great idea, but our rigorous research shows that it can be a minefield.

“Trying to work out the real price you’ll pay, the insurance you need and what is or isn’t included can be so confusing that most of us just sign the contract, pay for the car and hope for the best.

“But it is really important that you read and understand everything before you sign on the dotted line. Failing to do so could leave you with a hefty excess, or seriously out of pocket if the car is stolen.”