Your browser isn't supported
It looks like you're using an old web browser. To get the most out of the site and to ensure guides display correctly, we suggest upgrading your browser now. Download the latest:

The MoneySaving Forum: join to chat & swap tips with other MoneySavers. Learn how in the Forum Introduction Guide

Cheap Car Hire

£100s off holiday hire & insurance costs

Get Our Free Weekly Email!

For all the latest deals, guides and loopholes - join the 10m who get it. Don't miss out

Marcel and Megan F | Edited by Steve N

Updated 2 Aug 2016

Car hire firms abroad have more catches than a corset, but follow our 34 tips and you can unhook them with ease.

It's possible to get holiday car hire for less than £4/day even during busy times by booking early, so don't leave it until you're there. Read our top tips to find the cheapest prices, slash your insurance excess and beat hidden nasties.

Speedily find the cheapest with comparison sites

Comparison sites let you search the car hire market at speed. You're then sent a voucher to present to the hire company on arrival.

Here are our top picks. It's worth spending a few minutes searching all four if you can, as the cheapest site will vary depending on destination.

  • Skyscanner* searches 50 car hire companies plus brokers and travel agents. You can then whittle down your search results with filters which cover fuel policy, air conditioning, pick up, car size and more. It will search for drivers aged between 21 and 99, but warns there might be additional charges for under 25s and over 75s, which you usually pay at the pick-up desk.

  • TravelSupermarket* is good on coverage, searching 26 sites. The search also allows you to pick car type and other options such as air conditioning and fuel type. It's a good second check to ensure you're not missing a really cheap deal. It will search for drivers aged 21 to 75, but warns there may be a surcharge for under 24s, which you usually pay at the pick-up desk.

  • Carrentals* is particularly easy to use and searches over 50 sites. It does not have as many filters but includes options such as air conditioning and manual or automatic. It will search for drivers aged 18 to 99 but warns there may be a surcharge for under 25s and over 75s, which you usually pay at the pick-up desk.

  • Kayak's* loads in all the available options, then lets you narrow it down by pick up, car type, hire agency, price and fuel type but does not allow you to search for full-to-full fuel policies. It searches 20+ sites, and covers all the biggies.

Watch the T&Cs. Sometimes comparison sites let you filter results – eg, showing only full-to-full fuel policies – yet when you click through to book, the T&Cs are different. Always check. The Competition and Markets Authority says by January 2017 comparison sites must be more transparent on extra costs such as young driver and fuel charges.

Once you've found the cheapest deal, see if you can beat it by booking direct using a cashback site. First read all the pros and cons of these sites in our Top Cashback Sites guide.

You should then check another few key points.

Use this checklist before you book:

Booking earlier saves big

Find deals quicklyBooking in advance for car hire abroad can save £100s. If you book early even at busier times, you can drive down costs in some cases to less than £4/day – prices Arthur Daley would weep at.

For example booking a few months ahead for the May half-term holiday this year, we found an economy car with a full-to-full fuel policy for just £4/day.

Even at the height of the peak season, the savings can be huge.

Booked four months in advance, got 10 days for £296 for a decent-sized car. Just before I went, checked and the price had gone up to £900. So glad I booked early.MoneySaver Dave

When we checked in late-July was also still possible to book an economy car with a full-to-full fuel policy during August for less than £7/day in Malaga – far less than you'll pay if you just walk in on the day.

Beware fuel policy stealth charges

A common wheeze is to give you a full tank that you pay for upfront. You're then told to return the car empty, often with no refund for unused fuel. If you won't drive far, you'll be wasting lots.

What's more, the amount charged can be much more than local prices – a family car in popular destinations can cost £80+ per tank. Even worse there can be sneaky admin fees around fuel policies, for example, a processing fee if it does refund you for unused fuel. So always check the terms and conditions very carefully. The best firms offer 'return as you found it' policies, so you only pay for the fuel you use.

How to search by fuel policy

The broker firms and comparison sites below help you avoid hidden nasties on fuel costs. They either provide results where you only pay for the fuel you use, or show quotes where what you pay for is the same as the resort's local pump prices.

  • Enjoy Car Hire* only offers quotes for cars where you pay for the fuel you use. Prices do change from week to week, so always compare prices with other providers below to find your cheapest.

  • As mentioned above Skyscanner*, TravelSupermarket* and Carrentals* let you filter results by fuel policies, along with many other sites. Prices vary a lot with 'full to full' policies in destinations such as Spain and France so always weigh them up – at least with these policies you won't waste cash on unused fuel.

Quick questions

What if I don't follow the rules?

Should I go for the cheapest fuel policy or cheapest car hire?

What if there's no choice but 'pick up full, return empty'?

Beat the 'excess insurance' scare trick – and get 20% off a standalone policy

Basic cover will usually be included when you book car hire, but when you collect your car, hire firms often say: "Without our excess insurance, you'll pay huge for a scratch". This insurance can be £25/day – don't do it. Instead, look to get an excess policy from a standalone provider for as little as £2/day, these policies work by you paying and then reclaiming the money back from the excess insurer.

It can mean big savings, as one MoneySaver told us...

I paid £17 for a week's standalone excess cover in Portugal. The car hire company wanted £90. On returning, I got charged £290 for a scuff on one wheel. When I got home the insurer sent me a cheque for the full amount. Fantastic value.

However, to do this you'll often need to leave a large credit card deposit (see more on this below).

Like travel insurance, you can buy a policy for one trip, or to cover all your trips in a year (which tends to be better value if you'll hire a car more than twice). Policies and their limits vary from company to company, so always check them before buying.

First do a comparison

First use excess car insurance comparison site Moneymaxim*. It is covered by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS), a Government scheme which protects your money if a firm goes bust.

Then check for special discounts

Many of the big providers offer special discount codes which can get you prices you won't see on comparison sites, so it's worth checking these too.

  • Leisure Guard with a 20% off code. Use this MSE link to Leisure Guard Car Hire Excess Insurance* and enter the details of your trip. Once you have a quote enter the code MSE20 in the discount box. Its policies are covered by the FSCS.
  • Check against Reduce My Excess with 20% off. Go via this MSE link to Reduce My Excess* to select the type of cover you want and fill in your details. On the payment page enter the code MSE03. All its policies are protected by the FSCS.
  • Then try Questor with a 20% off code. Use this MSE link to Questor Insurance* and then the code MSE2097 (not valid with other discounts) and you'll get 20% off. It's covered by the FSCS. Plus it usually has decent add-ons to the cover – eg, including towing fees or personal accidents for daily policies.
  • And finally, against Direct Car Excess Insurance with 15% off. Go via this MSE link to Direct Car Excess Insurance* – a trading name of big insurer AIG – using the code MSE2101 to get a quote at the discounted rate. All its policies are protected by the FSCS.

Once you've found the cheapest deal, see if you can beat it by booking direct using a cashback site. First read all the pros and cons of these sites in our Top Cashback Sites guide.

Quick questions

What cover will I get as standard (eg, collision damage waiver)?

Do I need to upgrade for more cover?

Is breakdown recovery included in excess insurance?

Important: If you get standalone excess insurance you'll be asked to leave a large credit card deposit

Credit card depositWe're big fans of standalone excess insurance, as it saves you serious money – however the car firms do what they can to make it difficult. They will often say "you'll still need to pay us", and this is true as they require a deposit of €600-€1,350 on a credit card to cover any potential damage...

  • Most companies require a credit card for this – a debit card often won't do. You'll need enough space on the credit card to cover the deposit, typically £500-£1,000, plus any spending you're planning on doing on it, so make sure you don't exceed the limit. If you don't have a credit card some firms could force you to take their insurance because they don't accept deposits on debit cards.
  • If you have an accident, they'll take the money off your card. That's the point of the deposit, it gives them the ability to protect themselves in case of damage to the car.
  • You then claim back the cost off your own excess insurance. Keep all the documentation to help your claim.
  • Always inspect the car and if possible take photos. If you get their insurance, then this is less of an issue as even if there's a problem they sort it out. Yet with excess insurance there can be a dispute, so here it's especially important to take pictures and inspect the car before you take it out – and report back any problems they haven't listed.
  • Most firms just ring-fence the deposit – if not there can be an exchange rate risk. Most firms just ring-fence the deposit (which means you can't spend that amount until it's released). Yet a few, eg, Alamo, Enterprise, Hertz and National, may actually withdraw the deposit when you take the car and refund it later.

    This means if there are big currency fluctuations while renting you may be affected – MSE Nick found he was down more than £30 on a €1,350 deposit for a car hire in Malta in April 2016. Of course it can also work in your favour too – see Car hire exchange rate impact.

It's wise to get a DVLA code up to 21 days in advance – though firms often won't ask

Rules brought in last year mean you now need to request a personal code from the DVLA up to 21 days before picking up a car either in the UK or abroad. This is so hire firms can check for points, as paper licences are being scrapped for photocard holders with licences issued after 1998.

In practice, many firms don't seem to ask for the code at the counter – when we asked 1,700 people in a Twitter poll, just 3% had been asked for the code when hiring a car overseas, and 14% in the UK. But it's still wise to get one anyway just to be on the safe side.

How to get your DVLA code

You may not be asked, but to be safe ensure you get one in advance.

  • To get a code, you'll need to request one from the Share Driving Licence online service via Gov.uk or by calling 0300 083 0013.

  • You will need to provide your driving licence number found on your photocard or on your paper driving licence for paper-only motorists, national insurance number and the postcode on your driving licence.

  • Download a PDF of your licence. It will be worth taking as a precaution – though you will still need the code.

  • Give the code to the rental desk when you pick up your car – it effectively gives the company temporary access to your licence info. Remember you've only got 21 days to use it, so be organised.

Some driving organisations such as the AA also advise motorists to take the paper counterpart of their photocard licence with them too just in case there are any problems. It also warned drivers who want to hire a car abroad to be extra cautious as overseas car hire firms, or even traffic police abroad, may demand to see your paper licence.

Got a licence from Northern Ireland? These changes don't apply to photocard licences issued by the Driver & Vehicle Agency.

Quick question

Do hire companies actually check driving licences?

What if I only have a paper driving licence?

Is there any alternative to requesting a code?

Can I use my code more than once?

What should I do with my paper counterpart?

Why were the changes made?

Watch Martin's quick-fire car hire tips

Looking for a quick overview of the key car hire need-to-knows? Press play to watch Martin's top MoneySaving tips in three minutes...

(Filmed in partnership with The Telegraph in June 2014.)

Renting a car a lot? Get annual excess cover

As a rough rule of thumb, if you book car hire more than once a year, you're better off getting an annual excess insurance policy.

Typically, if you're going away for more than two weeks, an annual policy will also be cheaper in this instance, though sometimes this will depend on the company.

You can search for annual excess policies while doing a comparison on Moneymaxim*. And our 15% to 20% blagged discounts also work on annual policies.

Slash child seat costs

hire a car seat

From £5/day, hiring child seats from car rental firms is expensive. Child seats are compulsory in Europe for under-3s, and in some cases booster seats up to the age of 12.

Factor this in BEFORE you book to see which firm is cheapest overall. Plus, consider taking your own seat, or rent a child's seat on arrival, which could be cheaper than paying the extra. We have a full list of airlines' car seat and buggy policies in our 50 Travel Tips guide.

Some airports have stalls like Malaga's Tots Store (look for the 'Clubs for Hire' golf stall and you'll see it), where seats can be rented at half the cost. Other child equipment rental firms will deliver to airports at no extra charge such as Little Rascals in Faro, Portugal. If you're travelling to the USA, check out Babysaway, which has 80 locations, and delivers to airports including Florida's Ft Lauderdale.

If you know of any other airports with outlets like this, please report them in the Child seat airport hire discussion. This MSE team member's story says it all:

We booked a car seat with a car hire company at £6.80 a day for a family trip to Spain – a £60 spend over the whole trip.

But on arriving, we hired a car seat from a company at Malaga Airport. The cost from this firm worked out at £2.50 a day – £21 over the holiday.

We were able to cancel the seat with the original company and use the airport car hire firm – a £39 saving.

In the Hiring a car seat discussion in the forum, MoneySavers also suggest the BoostApak, a rucksack that changes into a booster seat for children aged 4-12.

Turn your phone into a free sat-nav for 187 countries

Car-hire companies can charge more than £50/week to hire a sat-nav. Yet if you've a smartphone with GPS, there's a nifty way to turn it into a sat-nav abroad, with local maps, for free.

Crucially, you can do this without using up any pricey data overseas, which you'd normally pay with more well-known smartphone sat-nav apps.

Launched in 2010, Navmii is a free app for iPhone, Android, BlackBerry and Windows Phone. It turns a GPS smartphone into a data-free sat-nav, with pre-loaded maps, route planning and voice prompts. It isn't as swanky as a paid-for sat-nav, of course, and you won't be able to get live traffic updates without using data, but it's handy for a one-off trip.

If you've already got maps for the country you're visiting, you could also just pack your own sat-nav.

Where can I find the maps?

Book via firms' foreign websites to cut the cost of big-brand car hire

To find the very cheapest car hire you should always search via a comparison site. But if you prefer to go with a big-name firm – say because you find it more trustworthy or collect loyalty points – this sneaky loophole can slash the cost by as much as a third, and even beat comparison sites' prices for that firm too.

This trick mainly works when booking car hire in Europe, although it can occasionally work elsewhere as well. Essentially it involves booking a car with a firm via one of its foreign websites rather than its UK site. Here's the lowdown:

  • How does it work? Type the firm's web address into your browser, but replace the ".co.uk" extension with that of another country (eg, Italy's is ".it" – view a full list here). This should take you to the firm's foreign site – then search for the car you want. The price'll be in another currency – check what the equivalent is in pounds (you can use TravelMoneyMax) to see if it's cheaper than booking via the UK site.

  • Who does it work with? When we checked with five major firms – Avis*, Budget*, Europcar, Hertz* and Sixt* – they all told us it wasn't against their T&Cs to do this in Europe. So if you have a UK address and driving licence, you can book a car anywhere in Europe using any of those firms' European websites.

    Elsewhere it's more complicated. Avis and Budget don't allow Brits to book cars in the US via their US sites, for example – Sixt does.

  • How much can I save? We found you could make savings booking with the domestic site of the country you're visiting. When we checked in May, seven day's car hire in August in Rome with Avis cost £500 via its UK site, but £381 (€500) on its Italian site for the same car. And always make sure you're using the right plastic to avoid paying nasty foreign exchange fees on the transaction.

    The trick can occasionally beat comparison sites' best prices for the big name firms too. In the past, for example, on the comparison site Kayak, we found three days in Milan in August with Budget for £66. On Budget's Italian site, we were quoted £58 (€81) but these savings can be harder to find.

Here's a little inspiration:

Just saved £440 on my hols car hire by booking with Avis France instead of Avis UK. Thanks.- Mechelle on Twitter

Quick questions

Can it work in the UK too?

What should I watch out for?

Ask yourself if you really NEED car hire

Do you really need it?If you've got a car at home, it's easy to assume you'll need one on holiday. Yet sometimes it becomes an expensive, unused hindrance. So consider the following first:

  • Check taxi prices

    If you plan to spend most of the time topping up your tan rather than travelling, a few taxi rides may be cheaper. International taxi fare calculator Holiday Taxis* gives an estimate of what journeys might cost.

  • Look into public transport

    Take Florida, LA and New York. In the first two, every man and his dog needs a car to traverse huge city distances. Yet in the Big Apple, you can't park anywhere so the subway wins hands down. Many European cities have great public transport, so a little location research goes a long way.

  • Take your own car

    If you're venturing onto Europe's winding roads, it may be possible to take your own car. All UK car insurance policies automatically provide the correct minimum cover required by law in all EU countries, but check if the full cover extends across Europe for full protection.

Package holidays give extra protection

The ATOL programme gives extra financial protection if you're booking a holiday via an ATOL-licensed travel agent as part of a formal package. Basically, you'll get a full refund or an alternative holiday if your tour operator goes bust.

ATOL protection includes flights and accommodation or car hire booked from the same company within a day of each other, even if they're not part of a formal package.

This is an extra way to build in extra protection for your car hire if you're flying out. See the ATOL travel protection extended MSE news story for full info. While package holidays offer extra protection, they're expensive.

If there's not much price difference between the cost of your trip with hotel, flight and car hire booked separately, and a package, go for the package.

Do you really need that Hummer?

Ask questionsWhen you hire, cars fit into classes. Classes vary between company, but the smaller and less sexy the car, the cheaper it is to hire. In summer, soft-tops or coupes command premiums.

If you're offered an upgrade, compare the features you're getting. A top range compact car may be better than a low-range standard car.

Don't assume lower range cars are cheapest. Surprisingly, estate cars and people carriers can work out cheaper than smaller cars – it all depends on demand in that country.

Got a preference for a car? If you've used a certain make of car before, let's say a Nissan Leaf, and it's not available cheaply via a broker or comparison site, try going direct. With a little polite nudge, sometimes you can get lucky and get the car you want at the price you want.

The different car hire classes
Mini

Mini: Usually a two-door car with a small 1.0 litre engine. It can fit four people at a squeeze, but you'll struggle with lots of luggage. Usually offered as a manual car without air conditioning. Ford Ka, Peugeot 107

Economy

Economy: Two to four-door car which can fit a family of four (two adults, two kids) plus a standard amount of luggage. Again, unlikely to be an automatic or to have air conditioning. Vauxhall Corsa, Renault Clio

Compact

Compact: A four-door car which can fit five people and around two suitcases comfortably. Might be an automatic drive. If so, you'll pay extra. Ford Focus, Peugeot 307, Volkswagen Golf

Standard

Standard: A four-door car with a 1.8-2.0 litre engine that can fit four to five adults comfortably plus a good amount of luggage. Will usually have air con and be an automatic. Renault Laguna, Audi A4, Opel Insignia

Full Size

Full-size: A four-door automatic car or people carrier with the full works including room for five or more and lots of luggage, power steering and air conditioning. Mercedes C-Class, Citroen C6

Prestige

Prestige: A sportier car (though don't expect a Lamborghini) with a big engine and everything a full size has. BMW 525, Gran Tourismo, Mercedes CLS

Big road trip planned? Get unlimited mileage

If you're planning to cover a serious distance, check the booking has unlimited mileage. Plus, if you're crossing borders, whether national (such as Spain to Portugal) or internal (US states), make sure you're still covered by the insurance.

Don't pay over the odds for separate drivers

Say in advance if two or more of you want to split the driving, otherwise it'll cost you if you leave it till you get there.

For example, when we looked at hiring a four-door hatchback with car hire firm in Malaga, Europcar was cheaper than Sixt* by about £20.

However, Sixt's* price for an additional driver was £7.31/day whereas Europcar charged an extra £9.62/day which quickly swallowed up most of the savings.

Keep a close eye on the price you're given and check how much the extra driver fee will be on top of that. It's also worth checking comparison sites too, to see if you can get a better deal.

Do you need an international driving licence?

IDPA UK driving licence is accepted throughout the EU, but if you're planning a road trip further afield, check if you'll need an International Driving Permit.

An IDP is required or recommended in about 140 countries, including the USA, Thailand and India. Drive without one where it's needed and you risk trouble with the authorities, and may be refused a hire car.

It's in booklet format and there are two types, known as the 1926 and 1949 Conventions (they're the same price). Which one you need depends on the destination. They cost £5.50 in person from selected Post Office branches, £8.50 by post from the AA, or £8 from RAC.

Beware websites selling 'international driving licences'. These aren't legally recognised documents, so don't get caught out.

See the Is Your Driving Licence Valid? guide for full details, and how to get one.

Get extra discounts in a package

Some websites give extra discounts if you're hiring a car with flights and a hotel. The main one is Expedia* – though just because car hire, flights or hotels are discounted when booked together doesn't automatically make them cheapest (see the Cheap Flights and Cheap Hotels guides).

Airport websites (such as Heathrow's) or airline websites such as Easyjet and Ryanair occasionally offer special discounts, so once you've done a comparison check the site to see if it's beatable.

Fly-drive can be cheaper

For trips to the US, especially Florida, check 'fly-drive' package holiday deals, which bundle the flight and car hire together from a tour operator. They're sometimes cheaper. For tips on how to haggle on these, see Cheap Package Holidays.

Always compare fly-drive quotes with those you get on comparison sites – don't assume it's cheapest. Orlando has a mass of car hire firms at the airport, so you can get dead cheap deals by comparing via Kayak, TravelSupermarket and Carrentals.

Package holidays also offer extra protection via ATOL. Read more about ATOL on the Civil Aviation Authority website.

Know the lingo? Haggle for cheaper hire

haggleIf you're heading to an English-speaking country or are fluent in the lingo, check that country's car hire sites for cheaper deals, or try a little haggling.

Be careful how you pay if booking on a foreign site. In most cases, you're better off paying in the overseas currency, rather than letting it convert the cost to pounds for you, as you'll get a poor rate. Better still, ensure you're using a Cheap Travel Money Cards.

If you're confident with the native language, haggling can work particularly well for pricier cars and longer holidays. Just try a little polite chutzpah.

Check van insurance inside out

If you're booking a van for a family or group holiday, you need to be aware of specific insurance issues:

  • Contents:

    Vans' lack of windows make them more attractive to thieves. Check policies before buying to make sure anything left inside overnight is covered. If you have materials on top of the vehicle, again don't expect these to be covered, so a quick phone call to confirm may be needed.

  • Breakdown:

    Most vans are heavily-used, increasing the chances of breakdowns. Some policies include breakdown cover, but separate cover's often cheaper. See our Cheap Breakdown Cover guide.

Pay by credit card

If possible, pay on a credit card. Provided the total hire costs over £100, you get extra protection provided by Section 75. This means the credit card company is equally liable along with the car hire company if things go wrong.

This is very valuable if you end up having problems with an overseas car hire firm but make sure you pay the credit card off in full.

Check your car inside out first

Sadly, international car hire can be tricky. If something goes wrong, fixing problems isn't easy. There are a few techniques to prevent problems:

  • Inspect and take a photo of the car's condition

    Reports of overcharging and claiming damages are rife. So snap some pictures of the car and make notes of its condition on the hire company's form, especially any scratches or dents – these can be the prime source of disputes.

  • Check the fuel type the car takes

    Always check if the car requires petrol or diesel. If you damage the car by using the wrong type, it's unlikely you'll be covered.

  • Going off-road?

    If you're going to be adventurous, check what's covered. If you have an accident while racing through the Sahara desert, you may have to cough up for damages. Check the spare tyre is fully operational.

  • Local legalities

    Some countries have legal requirements such as in-car first aid kits, high-visibility jackets, breakdown and spare bulb kits which, if you don't have them, invalidates the insurance. The car hire company should be well aware of this, but do check.

Know the hire firm's emergency number

Most car hire companies have a 24-hour contact number, in case the car breaks down or if you're in an accident. Make sure you've got it before going anywhere.

Know the country's road rules or risk the strong arm of the law

Check country-by-country driving regulations on the AA website to ensure you're familiar with local rules before you go.

Quick questions

Which side is right?

Can you put kids in the front?

Are there rules about carrying items?

Driving in Spain?

Driving in Hungary?

Driving in France?

Return your car on time or risk big charges

Avoid problems at the end of the car hire period by sticking to the rules. Return your car on time to avoid late charges, preferably in the cleanest state possible so you're not hit with a cleaning bill if it's covered in grime. Also:

  • Stick around for the inspection

    Stop minor scratches being blamed on you, which can lead to charges. If you don't have time, take photos just before returning it.

  • Had an accident?

    Keep repair bills in a safe place. You may not be able to claim without them.

  • Get the paperwork sorted

    Ask for all paperwork to be completed on the spot. Keep the credit card slip for the deposit so it can't apply charges later. Keep the paperwork in a safe place too, in case any disputes arise.

Check your account when you get back

The final bit of vigilance that's needed. Check your credit card or bank statement when you get back to make sure no extra charges have been added to your bill without your knowledge, and ensure you've had your full deposit back.

After that, you can delete the photos and get rid of the paperwork. But not before, otherwise you have no way to dispute the process. If there's a problem and contacting the company to sort it out doesn't work, and you paid on a credit card, remember you have the Section 75 protection as a secondary back-up.

Book cheap airport parking

Airports often make more from parking and shopping than planes. Leave the car there without booking first and you risk sky-high rates, so don't just turn up.

Booking first, even on the day, could save money. See the Cheap Airport Parking guide for the full technique, plus safety tips, how to snaffle hidden local discounts and more.

Hiring a car in Switzerland? Beware if you want to drive it across a border

Sounds bizarre, but if you hire a car in Switzerland or other non-EU country, a new law means you may not be able to drive it across the border to an EU country such as France, Germany, Italy or Austria.

The EU law, which came into force on 1 May, bans any European Union citizen (including British nationals), from driving non-EU registered cars in EU countries.

Some car hire desks in non-EU countries affected may have EU-registered cars that you hire, and you would be able to drive these across the border to an EU country. However, call ahead to check – this isn't guaranteed and you may need to pay extra.

Hire motorhomes Down Under dirt cheap

Sounds too good to be true, but some firms let you hire campervans and motorhomes in Australia and the USA for less than a dollar a day.

Go to Aussie site Transfercar or the wackily-titled Vroomvroomvroom to see where you can get the cheapest prices, some days you get to hire for free.

These are relocations – you're picking up and dropping off the vehicles at specific locations, so there's less choice. But there's still a wide range of journeys you can do.

The same applies in the USA – see Apollo for more information.

Paying by card? Buy car hire extras in local currency, not pounds

pay in local currency Many overseas banks or shops at overseas airports ask: "Pay in euros, or pounds?", especially in Spanish tourist resorts. If you choose pounds, then the retailer does the currency conversion. If you've a top overseas card, always say the local currency as your card does the exchange and it's unbeatable.

If you don't, it's touch and go.

Sometimes it'll show you the load. If this is under 2.5%, go with pounds. If it's over, go local. See Martin's blog: Using plastic overseas? Always pay in euros.

So if you get any extras at the airport or car hire company (a sat-nav or a roof rack, for instance) and you're asked this question, opt for the local currency, and use your overseas card.

Make sure the policy's in your name

Once you've finished the booking, ensure the policy is held in the exact spelling of your name. Some drivers who've used the same hire firm for years have booked quickly assuming they could stroll by the depot, then pick up the car with no problems.

However, increasingly drivers are finding that when the policy is not in their exact name, particularly in the US, they've arrived at the pick-up point, and not been allowed to get the car they wanted. They've then had to start the booking all over again – and pay much more for it.

Tons more travel tips to slash costs

As well as our car hire tips, we've got bundles of nifty tricks to use to save even more abroad. See our Travel cost-cutting section for more.

  • Tell your mobile provider before you go

    Taking your mobile abroad can turn it into a cash assassin in some places, costing as much as £2.50/min to receive a call. Many providers have special packages to use abroad, but you won't get 'em unless you call them. See Mobile Roaming.

  • Get a free printable wallet-size travel guide

    The Little Lifesaver is a free, passport-sized printable travel guide to store key details while you're on holiday. It's packed with key holiday info, including which plastic is cheapest to use and your flight cancellation rights.

Add your car hire and travel tips to the forum

Add any tips of your own to the MSE Forum Cheap Car Hire thread. The Overseas Holidays and Travel Planning forum board is another great place to share your travel experiences with others, including tips and tricks you've picked up along the way.

Whether you want to natter about MoneySaving in Las Vegas, What to do near Calais or Camping tips, it's well worth a visit. Plus if you've any tips to help others, please share them in the 50 Travel Tips discussion.