Car hire overseas

This article was written by photographer Rob Gilley for Surfer Magazine and is well worth a read. For more on Rob’s excellent “On the Fly” articles click here otherwise read on for his top tips while renting a car abroad:

Know Your Insurance

The principal driver on your trip should check with his or her credit card provider and car insurance company before leaving home to see if he or she is covered in a particular foreign country. This is one of the oft-overlooked perks of having a major credit card—many of them come with built-in insurance for international leasing. Also, if you have fairly comprehensive car insurance at home, you might have a certain amount of foreign coverage included. The point is to really do your homework before approaching the rent-a-car counter. Some countries require you to buy additional insurance, but much of the time the agents are trained to talk you into buying unnecessary and often redundant insurance to make more money, and they often use fear tactics to do it.

Reserve and Guarantee Your Rate Beforehand

This is really important because often there’s a huge disparity between a pre-arranged rate, and what they want to charge you at the airport without a reservation. The good news here is that reserving a rent-a-car is usually non-obligational, so if you do happen to find a better deal, you can pursue it without sacrificing a deposit.

Get the Largest Vehicle You Can Afford

It’s hard to overstate the peace of mind that comes with having your boards inside your car. Otherwise there’s fairly constant stress about boards falling off the roof, and boards being stolen while the car is unattended.

Don’t Pack the Car Right Away

This is where things get a little more subtle. Sadly, rent-a-car agents are on the lookout for surfers and other types who might pack a vehicle to maximum capacity and/or stack things on the roof. This sends them a red flag to inspect for potential damage and dents on the back end, consequential or not. So, even it involves you and your friends stashing your boards around the corner, try not to load the rent-a-car directly in front of the agency.

Refill the Gas

Just another way for rental agencies to bend you over. Put a post-it note on the windshield if you have to.

Get the Car Washed Before You Return it

What? Yeah, you heard right. This can be a worthwhile strategy because a clean looking car gets a quick, cursory inspection, whereas a dirty, mud-encrusted vehicle will usually get the Gestapo treatment when you return it. A savvy hedge-bet and potential time saver.

Split the Cost

One of the peripheral benefits of going on a surf trip with friends is financial efficiency—a £600 car rental is a hell of a lot easier to swallow if you’re splitting the bill three ways.

Back-End Recourse

There’s nothing worse than receiving an exorbitant, unexpected charge on your credit card when you get home—especially if it’s for some Mickey Mouse scratch or dent that you may or may not have caused. The bad news is that signing the small print on a rental car contract gives them this right. However, you also have the right to fight these charges, and the best way to do this is through your credit card company.

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