By Spreet Aulakh on November 19

Getting the best rental car experience

Renting a car is a great way to get around on a trip, but the experience can be stressful. To uncover what the biggest pain points are when renting a vehicle, we surveyed 500 car renters to ask about their experiences.

Our results highlight that customers are often frustrated by what they see as a lack of transparency from car hire companies – meaning many people simply don’t trust them. We’ve pulled out some of the most striking information, so you know what to look out for when booking a rental car, and where companies might be able to make improvements in the future.

Where are the problems?

One of the biggest problems uncovered by our survey was that people felt like they were often misled by hire companies – particularly when it comes to cost.

60% of respondents feel they have been misled about the total cost of their car rental in the past. The most significant issue is around the excess amount on insurance policies. 84% said that they felt their car hire company used the threat of holding high excess amounts on their credit card to pressure them into buying the company’s excess insurance policy.

Two-thirds (67%) also think that car hire companies charge people for damage that was already on the vehicle before they picked it up. To avoid this, Ernesto Suarez, CEO and founder of iCarhireinsurance.ie recommends that all car rental customers “always fully check your vehicle before leaving the forecourt. That means a close inspection to the exterior and interior and cross referencing with the information provided by the rental company. Take pictures of existing damage so you have time stamped evidence to refer to in the event that there’s a dispute in future.”

The price of added extras also caused a bit of a stir. Half of people (50%) were surprised at how much extra items costed, including excess insurance, child car seats and vehicle upgrades. While many of these extras are essential, they are often not included in the advertised car rental price and you may only find out about them at the rental desk – so make sure you read the small print before signing on the dotted line.

Costs weren’t the only problem people had with the rental process. A significant number of people felt that car hire companies made things unnecessarily complex. 8 in 10 thought that the contract they had to sign at the rental desk was too complicated, and as a result 43% of people drove their rental car away without fully understanding the agreement. One of the biggest causes of confusion was the language used, with almost two-thirds (65%) saying there was too much jargon in the document.

What were the results?

Overall, these experiences did not leave a pleasant taste in customer’s mouths. Negative feelings dominated the rental desk for most with 34% feeling pressured, 42% stressed, 38% frustrated and 36% confused by the experience. Only 13% of people said they were happy with their experience at the rental desk, and less than one in five (19%) felt in control of the process.

These negative feelings could have a significant impact for car hire companies. Almost one-third of respondents (32%) said they’d been put off ever renting a car again because of a previous bad experience.

What improvements can be made?

One of the most important things consumers can do when renting a car is to take the time to do extensive research before renting. Look into car hire excess insurance and other extras to find the best deals. There’s a good chance these won’t be direct from the rental company, so shop around to save money and get everything in place before you travel.

If you can’t find the information you are looking for, whether it’s about price, extras or insurance, go straight to the rental car provider and ask. Don’t be afraid to be direct to get the answers you want, or to clarify terminology they’ve used in their contracts.

When picking up your hire car, be prepared. Print and bring all documentation and correspondence between you and the company. You can use this as reference if any problems arise in the pick-up process. Read through all documentation and make sure you understand it before you drive your vehicle away.

In the longer term, there are a few things respondents to our survey suggested car hire companies could be doing to make the process of renting easier and more transparent. There was a lot of support for more regulation of the products car hire companies sell. 8 in 10 people wanted to see car hire excess insurance regulated by the Central Bank of Ireland to guarantee transparency and honesty.

Similarly, 79% think more scrutiny is needed around repair costs and that all charges for repairs should be based on quotes from two independent repair centres. If you think you may have been overcharged for repairs on rental cars in the past, organisations such as Competition and Consumer Protection Commission can advise you on the best course of action.

With proper preparation, and by securing your excess insurance and other extras before you go, you can get on with your trip without any nasty surprises.