I’d never rented a car before. Shocking, I know, but there we are. If you’ve ever read my blog before, it becomes very clear, very quickly: I am a public transport kind of girl.
For my recent trip to Scotland, however, having our own method of transport was very important. We didn’t want to rely on public transport or taxis, since some of the places we wanted to go were quite remote. A rented car was the only sensible option.
Fortunately my mum has rented many cars before, so she was able to walk me through the whole thing. I want to pass on some of my experiences, which might make it less scary for someone else in the future. Please let me know in the comments if you have any helpful hints or tricks that would be useful to share!
Choosing a car
The first surprise was this: you can’t choose a specific car. All rental services seem to provide cars in ranges: ‘standard’ or ‘economy’, going up to ‘luxury’ or ‘premium’. We went for ‘midsize’ and ended up with a nice 5-door Peugeot.
Since all of the rental services have the same sort of range of car, it was quite difficult to decide which one to go for. In the end, we went onto the Glasgow airport website and found out which providers they endorsed. That meant that our car was on a lot near to the airport, and we could pick up the keys from an official looking desk in the airport itself. We didn’t fancy having to walk for miles, or even having to get a shuttle bus, just to pick up a car.
The actual cost of the car which is quoted on the website is only a very small part of the overall cost. I didn’t know this, it certainly wasn’t made clear, but fortunately my mum knew all about it. The insurance that comes with the car is very basic: it usually only covers third parties. This means that if you are in an accident, the insurer will pay for the other car to be repaired but everything else is up to you. This can be thousands of pounds, which isn’t really the point of hiring a car.
Another trick they play with the insurance is that the excess can sometimes be exceptionally high. There’s no point having insurance if you will end up paying £1,000 for the tiniest scratch. Just like with travel insurance, you want an excess that is as small as possible – ideally nothing, if that doesn’t bump up the premium too much.
Since none of this is advertised or explained on the websites, it’s a really good idea to have a poke around in the policy documents before you commit to any car or rental service. For example, we used Avis and found these documents here. All they will tell you about the insurance is how much it *might* cost, which is ridiculous, but better than nothing.
Collecting the car
Upon arriving at Glasgow Airport, we followed the signs to ‘car rental’. There were three booths for three different rental services, and there was a short queue for ours. Once there, we confirmed our booking and talked about insurance for a while. The price he quoted us felt very arbitrary, and I wanted to see the policy documents, but my mum was happy to just agree since it was less than what we budgeted! They also wanted to charge us £100 as a deposit, which was… fine…, but not something they had warned us about.
At this point the printer broke, so he gave us the keys and a drawing of the car, and we headed off to the lot. The drawing was all about the status of the car: the tyre pressure, the tread distance, any bumps or scratches. I think we were supposed to check that the drawing was correct. We did not.
When we arrived at the lot, we went to a little hut. They did some printing and checking and signing of things, and then they took us to our car: simple!
Returning the car
I was really nervous about this. I’ve heard all sorts of stories about how bitchy car rental people can be: finding non-existent scratches, pretending that the tank hasn’t been filled up, getting shirty about the time or how many miles you’ve driven.
Actually, it was really easy. We drove up to the lot and there was a special place to leave the car. We went back to the hut and gave them our keys, and then waited while they had a little poke around. Once we were cleared, we were on our way.
Easy as that!