Hit the road smarter and safer: The dos and don'ts of renting a vehicle worldwide

Insurance experts DEFEND INSURANCE on the ins and outs of choosing a rental car service and the benefits of a third-party insurance provider.

William Nattrass

Written by William Nattrass Published on 31.01.2024 17:29:00 (updated on 01.02.2024) Reading time: 6 minutes

Choosing a car rental company is a decision with the potential to make or break your holiday. Car hire is one of the most popular ways to get around during foreign trips, with cheap car rentals offering freedom to travel as you please; but the responsibility and risks of renting a car make taking out rental car insurance abroad really important.

Choosing a rental car provider can be tricky, though, with a wide range of options and services available. To find out more about how to approach car hire and find the best rental car insurance for your trip, Expats.cz spoke to Josef Jehlík, Rental Car Insurance Expert at Czech insurance provider DEFEND INSURANCE.

Do know your rights when choosing a rental company

As Jehlík describes, “the world of car rentals is truly diverse. The variety is vast, and approaches vary based not only on the country where you’re renting a car, but also on the specific location, the size of the urban area, and the car rental company itself.”

While there’s no one-size-fits-all approach, you should be wary of some practices wherever you’re headed. Car rental companies may insist that you must purchase car hire excess insurance from them in order to rent a car, but “this is not true,” says Jehlík. “Assert that you are already insured through another provider and have a policy prepared in English.”

Renters are also advised to make sure to accurately list all drivers in the rental agreement. Most car rental providers permit multiple drivers, but some will charge for this “service”.

DEFEND INSURANCE a comprehensive and user-friendly option for rental car coverage, prioritizes customer convenience. Its affordable rental car insurance has higher coverage limits, comprehensive protection against external damages, a multilingual staff and English-language documentation. The company, which operates Europe-wide, simplifies the process through its intuitive online interface which addresses unique circumstances associated with each rental. Coverage for active days, cost savings versus travel insurance, and extended protection for incidents like lost keys or theft are notable features.

Do look beyond the airport

When picking a car hire company, it’s worth looking beyond the airport or train station for a better deal. Word-of-mouth recommendations can be useful for finding cheap car rentals, but trust fellow travelers more than hotels or other tourism-industry players. Such companies may have a financial interest in recommending a specific rental provider.

Don't opt for rental company simply based on lowest price

“As a general guideline, exercise caution if a rental company is significantly undercutting prices,” says Jehlík. “These companies may find their way to your money through unexpected means. The most reliable assurance you can have of fair dealings will come from established giants such as Avis, Enterprise, Hertz, or Europcar.”

Do get your finances ready

As with any large payment, it’s necessary to have your finances in order, in the form of a payment card with adequate funds and enabled online transactions. Some car hire companies may require a credit card, but many will be satisfied with a debit card linked to your bank account.

We recommend creating a one-time virtual card specifically for blocking off the deposit. This temporary account should be used solely for renting a car, and subsequently canceled. This service is increasingly popular with banks; consider options such as Revolut, Česká spořitelna and others,” Jehlík advises.

Cars are highly valuable goods, so rental providers typically protect themselves by holding substantial funds from your bank card as a condition of rental. As Jehlík puts it, you “essentially become their temporary hostage. Therefore, it’s essential to be well prepared.”

Do consider a third-party insurance provider

In many situations, it can be beneficial to arrange car hire insurance through a third-party provider. Insurance from providers such as DEFEND INSURANCE brings peace of mind wherever you’re headed, but especially when traveling to exotic locations where English-language capabilities may be low, acquiring car rental excess insurance can be a crucial safeguard against unpleasant situations.

“While car rental companies typically provide such coverage, it’s generally significantly more expensive than if you arrange it independently before your journey, and it might not encompass all your specific needs,” says Jehlík.

Do read the fine print on your policy

There are a number of factors to consider when arranging car hire excess insurance. “First, check carefully for exclusions: parts of the car that are not insured. Paradoxically, these often involve the components most susceptible to damage, like wheel rims scratched on a curb or a windshield cracked by a flying stone. Coverage may also be omitted for accidents that are deemed to be your fault. Our DEFEND Car Hire XS insurance covers all important parts of the vehicle, even the most sensitive ones to damage caused by you or someone else,” Jehlík explains.

“Check the insurance limit, too, as this must fully cover the limit specified in the rental agreement with your rental company. Always ensure that this amount is clearly outlined in the contract. If it’s not included in the contract, it’s advisable to have it added. With DEFEND Car Hire XS, you are fully protected with coverage up to CZK 175,000 and an extra limit up to CZK 50,000 for misfuelling and lost, stolen or damaged car keys.”

At the same time, picking a third-party insurance provider with time flexibility can save you money. Travel insurance companies do not allow you to choose specific days for coverage, but will only insure you for the entire duration of your holiday. “Seek insurance options that offer this kind of flexibility, such as DEFEND Car Hire XS,” says Jehlík, who adds: “This means you'll only pay to insure your rental car while you’re actually driving it.”

Don't rush when picking up your car

Often, by the time you pick up your hire car, you’re tired or jet-lagged, and want nothing more than to get to your final destination as quickly as possible. But rushing when picking up your car could lead you to neglect important checks and store up bigger problems for later.

Jehlík advises checking tires and wheel rims for damage, looking carefully at the entire bodywork of the car as well as the headlight glass, windscreen and rear window, locking and unlocking the physical locks on the doors and the trunk, and inspecting the interior, including rear seats and ceiling. Visually inspect exterior elements such as the exhaust, undercarriage and any antenna. If possible, check the chassis too.

Take pictures of the car from all angles as well as a video walking around the car (if it’s dark ask someone to shine a light on the car). 

Save yourself hassle and money by insisting on noting down even seemingly insignificant scratches or visually unusual elements on the handover report. Finally, ask what the procedure will be if you get a flat tire, as this varies from company to company, and check that your gas tank is full. If so, then you’re ready to go!

Do return the car in good order

Similar precautionary steps are necessary when returning a car. Make sure to return the car with a full tank of gas, and insist that your return report explicitly states that you returned the car in good order in all respects.

“When you return the car, cancel or block the payment card which you used for the car rental (if you used a one-time virtual card),” advises Jehlík. “If you used a normal debit or credit card, turn off online transactions or reduce their maximum one-off and cumulative amounts for a given period. This will prevent unexpected charges for ‘after-the-fact’ damage to the car.” You can return to your usual payment limits when you're confident that there is no longer any risk of being hit with unexpected charges.

“It might be hard to believe, but such cases do happen, and the likelihood of becoming a victim of such practices increases proportionally with the ‘exoticness’ of your rental car company and the destination you traveled to,” explains Jehlík. 

Renting a car doesn’t need to be a stressful experience, though. By following our tips, expats in Czechia can travel with peace of mind. Be ready for both domestic and international travels, for less.

This article was written in cooperation with DEFEND INSURANCE s.r.o. Read more about our partner content policies here.

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