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Beware the holiday car insurance traps

28 January 2015

You may be starting to think about your summer holidays, perhaps joining the many British travellers who now choose a fly-drive option.

If you have not done this before you might be confused by the array of options offered at the car rental desk.

Do you need collision damage waiver, additional driver cover, personal accident insurance or the option not to return the car full of fuel? All of this will add to the expense when you thought the package had covered you for everything.  Tired from the travelling you might just accept everything, assume that you are now fully covered, and worry about the extra cost later.  But are you really covered for everything?

The reality is that the insurance packages offered by the major international car hire companies are basic. They will cover the minimum requirements of the country that they are intended to serve, and are far from the comprehensive policy that you might enjoy with your domestic car insurer.

For a start, the excesses are eye-watering. Some will be as high as 1500 Euros.

There may also be exclusions from accidental damage cover that most consumers would find surprising. Some policies exclude damage to certain parts of the vehicle, like the windscreen, the side panels and the roof and even taking out the options offered to you on the desk may not change that.

You can reduce the excess and extend cover to the excluded parts of the vehicle by purchasing top up cover, but to do so at the rental desk will be very expensive. Better perhaps to seek additional cover at much more reasonable rates through a reputable UK insurer before you travel.

But the real twist in the tale comes when you take your hire car off the main road, on un-metalled or unmade roads. In these circumstances the policy may not operate at all, so any damage suffered or any liability for an accident will leave you without cover.

You should certainly check if this is a problem with your travel company or own insurer before you book, as otherwise driving up a dirt road to your holiday villa in the Tuscan Hills may be more of an adventure than you bargained for!

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Nick Cox LLB (Hons)
Consultant, solicitor
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