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Car rental is something that most of us do at some point, particularly when we’re on holiday. There are a whole host of things that can go wrong though, especially if you’re on holiday and dealing with things in an unfamiliar environment, with different laws and a different language. Here are a few cautionary tales that hopefully you can learn from so that you don’t have the same problem…

Why You Take Pictures…

This cautionary tale comes from a young man who rented a car in the States. He used the car satisfactorily, and returned it to the dealership. When he returned it, he walked around the car to make sure that no damage was done, though no one from the company came and inspected the car, and then returned the keys and left.

Several months later he got a call from a collection company demanding nearly eight hundred dollars in damages. The car had been in an accident, and the young man was being blamed for it. Because he took no pictures of the vehicle, and didn’t insist that the company inspect the condition of the car with him, he had no choice but to pay the amount requested.

Lesson to be learnt: always, always make sure that the condition of the car is documented both before you take it and after you return it.

Why You Return the Car to the Dealer…

This story happened to a man in France. He rented a car from a local company, and since he wanted to return the car on a Sunday, when the offices were closed, he was told to park the car in the car park and give the keys to a local shopkeeper.

When his bill arrived a week later, he saw that he’d been charged for an extra three days of rental. Fortunately, he could prove through hotel receipts that he had been out of the country and couldn’t possibly have had the car during the period in question. He was relieved of the charges.

Lesson to be learnt: return the keys to the place where you rented the car. If that’s impossible, at least get a signed receipt from the person that you do give the keys to.

Why You See the Car Before You Rent…

This story happened to a young family who were planning a trip to Aruba. They rented a car online beforehand, so that they would be prepared to leave the airport in it immediately, since they had small children. When they reached the airport, they immediately signed the rental contract and then went out to the car.

Far from the photo of a modern vehicle that they had been sent by email, they received an old, battered four wheel drive vehicle. The vehicle broke down a mere five minutes down the road. The rental company agreed to replace the car with an upgraded vehicle and not to charge the customers more.

However, when credit card bills were checked, the family found that they had indeed paid for the upgrade. Since they had not inspected the car beforehand, and had signed contracts both for the original car and the upgrade, there was little they could do but pay the charges.

Lesson to be learnt: always check the car before you sign the contract. Whilst in the UK and the US rental cars are usually sold on by companies after a couple of years of service, this is not necessarily true in other countries. Make sure you know and see what you’re paying for before you sign anything.

Phil Turner has rented many cars and has found one sure-fire way to avoid paying the extortionate insurance fees demanded by the car hire company; he found a local company that allowed him to transfer his own car insurance to the hired car.