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Working Lunch Friday, 16 May, 2003, 09:30 GMT 10:30 UK
Driven to distraction
Car hire cartoon

Going on holiday should be a time to relax.

But too often you can get hot under the collar for the wrong reason.

And the cost of car hire is a common bugbear that drives people mad.

Working Lunch viewer Paul Millar booked a car using the British Airways website, where he'd already arranged his flight.

But the cost he eventually had to pay wasn't what he'd expected.

Transparency

He'd fallen foul of the hidden costs. Lack of transparency is quite common when hiring a car.

His bill included these extras:

  • Airport service charge - he had arranged to pick the car up from an airport, so was particularly annoyed by this.
  • Motor vehicle fee - that's the road tax. Each customer has to pay a share of the annual charge.
  • VAT - everyone has to pay it, so why isn't it included as a matter of course instead of as an extra?

    "It wasn't honest," says Paul.

    Paul Millar
    Paul Millar: "It wasn't honest"
    "The final price is not the one you pay and I felt let down.

    "It was only 30 and I can live without it, but it's still annoying."

    BA has now looked at its system and made it a lot clearer.

    "Our car hire package now includes the location service charge, the road tax and registration fee and the VAT payable on them," says the company.

    The lesson is that it pays to shop around for car hire as what you get can differ widely.

    Most firms will offer all-inclusive deals, but that term itself can be ambiguous.

    If you decide just on price, you might find you're not actually comparing like with like.

    You need to find out exactly what each company means by all-inclusive. As a minimum you should expect:

  • Unlimited mileage - this is now quite common among hire companies.
  • Collision damage waiver - you won't have to pay the full cost of an accident, but there's likely to be an excess.
  • Theft protection - if the car is stolen you're covered, although again there will be an excess.

    However, a more generous policy - possibly at the same price - might include:

  • Super collision damage waiver - no excess to pay.
  • Personal injury for the driver - the driver might not be insured on the car's policy and not all holidaymakers take out travel insurance.
  • Child seats/roof racks - these can be important for some travellers, but they're not always included.

    So when booking by phone or online, ask what the inclusive price is but also check exactly what it includes.

    And one final tip - don't be afraid to ask for an upgrade. You might end up with a better car for the same price.

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