I am posting a feature from the 'Irish Independent' 9-04-06.
Shock in store for motorists as car hire costs rocket
PEOPLE hiring cars over the Easter break could be in for an unwelcome surprise - paying almost double what they were quoted.
Consumer experts are warning those hiring cars to be aware of a slew of hidden charges that, in one case, almost doubled the price of renting a car.
Despite being branded as "all-inclusive" on car hire websites, many customers have been stung by stealth charges such as airport pick-up fees, child seat fees and additional driver fees.
But it's often only once a person arrives at the hire firm's office laden down with luggage that they discover the true cost of their car hire.
Hiring a small economy car for the Easter break might seem worthwhile at €155 for three days. But a variety of additional costs can push that up to over €307 - almost double the price initially quoted.
Choosing to collect the car from Dublin airport or the city centre will add on an extra €25. Customers are, in some cases, also expected to chip in towards the cost of car tax, so that's a further €1.14 a day.
Despite already taking out insurance on the car, customers are told that they are still liable for the first few hundred euros worth of damage before the insurance kicks in. Therefore they are urged to take out the "excess waiver" - a snip at €11.35 a day.
Customers are also persuaded to buy personal accident insurance, €6.81 a day, despite the fact that many are already covered for this under their travel insurance policy.
It also costs extra to secure an infant in a child seat (€45.50) and if you have the temerity to want a break from the wheel and let someone else do the driving that will set you back another €7.94 a day.
What initially started out at €155 has now rocketed to over €307.
But the headache doesn't stop there. Still flushed with a holiday tan, many consumers have been left pale-faced on opening their credit card bill to find they have been charged even more for minor scratches or returning the car with a not-quite-full tank of petrol.
"One British driver who hired a car in Ireland noticed a minor scratch before he took the car out. About a month later he was told he had caused the scratch and was charged €300 to repair it," said Mary Denise O'Reilly, spokeswoman with the European Consumer Centre (EDC). The ECC secured a partial refund for the driver after it argued that because the rental company did not complete a damage report it could not apply the charge.
However, Ms O'Reilly urged tourists to start taking their holiday snaps as soon as they arrive at the airport.
"Before you take the car out you should give it a quick look over . . . for any signs of damage but even better than that is to take photographs."
She also warned drivers to check if their insurance policy will cover them should they leave the jurisdiction, particularly in those parts of continental Europe where visitors make day trips to neighbouring countries.
"The best advice is to be wary of all-inclusive packages and to be clear in what you are looking for."