Payment for car hire

Price is one of the key factors to consider when hiring a car and “how to get the best car hire deals” is one of the top questions we are asked. There’s no single answer to this question because there are many variables involved in the pricing of a rental or car hire. Over the years, customers have noted that the original advertised price is often different from the price they end up paying, so it’s important to know how pricing works and how you can avoid paying full price.

Basic tips to get the best car hire deals

1. Book ahead

Booking two weeks ahead of time typically yields the best results. Try checking a month in advance and then again periodically as the date gets closer.

2. Book on any day

There’s no single best day to book your hire car, so you should book on whichever day offers you a price you agree with. Average car hire in the UK is around £22, but you may be able to find cheaper deals depending on the city.

3. Consider an upgrade

This one may sound counterintuitive because it goes against getting the absolute lowest price. However, you may find that the difference in price between an economy, mini or compact car and a larger SUV or Full-sized car is worth the investment.

4. Pick up and drop off at the same place

Picking up and dropping off at the same location will always be cheaper than picking up and dropping off at different locations. The median price of picking up at an airport is £36 and picking up at different locations within the city itself is around £24. However, picking up at one and dropping off at another may be considerably more expensive.

5. Fill up your fuel tank before you return the car

One of the easiest ways to save on your car hire is to fill up the tank before you drop it off. The price you pay to fill the tank yourself is generally going to be cheaper than the price the hire company will charge you for the same amount of fuel.

Advanced tips on how to get a cheap car hire

1. Use your credit card

Depending on the type of credit card you have, you may have access to several offers linked either directly or indirectly to car hire. American Express, for example, has three key accounts that give holders up to 15% off car hire when they pay using their American Express credit card.

British Airways Executive Club card holders can also earn Avios points for every £1 spent on car hire globally. Virgin Atlantic offers a Rewards credit card that enables holders to earn 1.5 Flying Club miles for each £1 spent on car hire. Some credit cards also offer roadside assistance and other insurance protections either as a separate policy or as part of a travel insurance package offered to eligible customers. Make sure you double check with your card provider prior to booking to check benefits available to you.

2. Book through an airline

If you’re planning on hiring a car from somewhere you’re flying to, consider booking through the airline’s booking portal. Many major airlines have partnerships with hire car companies that are tied to the airline miles/rewards programmes.

For example, holders of a British Airways credit card can earn Avios points when booking with British Airways car hire services. If you’re a frequent flyer and enjoy “elite” status with your airline, you could be eligible for status matches that lead to free car upgrades and bonus points.

3. Use a corporate discount code

Many companies and universities have partnerships with the major hire car companies like Avis, Enterprise, Hertz, and National.

These aren’t available to the general public, and you’ll be required to submit proof of employment or alumni status to be eligible. Make sure there aren’t additional criteria like only booking business travel with your corporate code.

4. Check with your insurance provider

Another option would be to check with your insurance provider as to what benefits you may be entitled to as a policy holder.

RAC and the AA, for example, offer members exclusive discounts of up to 15% for UK and global car hires with certain hire companies.

How to get a good deal on a car hire abroad

1. Remember the other tips

Most of the tips above for getting a good deal on a hire car apply when you’re abroad. You should always check the terms and conditions for regional differences, but many of the same principles will apply.

2. Hire a manual transmission car

This only applies if you’re already proficient at driving a manual transmission with ample experience doing so. In Europe, manual transmissions are the norm, and it will typically cost extra to rent an automatic because they’re less common, and may only be available in larger or more premium cars.

3. Watch for cross-border fees

If you’re planning on driving across national borders, you need to make sure that the car is eligible to cross at all, and see how much it would cost. Cross-border fees depend on the countries involved, so check the terms and conditions of your hire.

4. Bring your own child seat

The child seat is a requirement that you can’t overlook if you plan on hiring a car abroad. Bringing your own child seat may sound like a huge hassle, but most airlines let you bring one for free with a pushchair – it won’t count against your baggage allowance. It’s a way to save some money if you don’t want to book one from the hire car company.

5. Book with only one driver

It’s more comfortable to split driving duty between multiple drivers on a long road trip, but additional drivers means additional costs to your hire car. Check to see if your hire company offers a free second driver or if you can add a second driver for individual days where you know there will be lots of time spent behind the wheel.

6. Watch the clock

This depends on the hire, but it generally pays to drop off your car at the same time that you picked it up. This way you can avoid getting charged for an entire additional day in case you return the hire after the 24 hour cutoff time.

Search for hire cars

When is the best time to book a car hire?

Learn how far in advance you should book a rental car, and when car hire prices drop throughout the year.

Learn more

Car hire payment FAQs

There are many factors which can affect the prices you find for your hire car. When you search (prices can go up closer to the date of the hire), the city you’re looking in, the type of car you’re looking for, your age, whether you need a one-way hire car, what type of mileage plan you book, the length of the hire and even the day of the week you are picking up the car can all affect the prices you see. Use KAYAK’s “Cheapest” sorting tool to see the cheapest offers we find at the top of your results, and use filters to narrow down the options to match the type of hire car you need.

On average a car hire in United Kingdom costs £25 per day.

Hiring a car for a week depends on many factors such as the driver’s age, whether you’re booking for a one-way journey or not, the mileage plan you want to take out, the day you are picking up and returning as well as the destination and car type. You will need to ensure that you input all applicable data into your search to ensure that your results are best tailored to your needs.

On average hiring a car in United Kingdom costs £154 per week (£22 per day).

If you’re looking for a cheap hire car, the first thing you should consider is time as booking in advance will always save you money. Consider your location and whether or not you’re going to be picking up the hire car from the same place you plan on dropping it off at. Depending on your needs, you may also want to think about upgrading for a small surcharge as the benefits do tend to outweigh the costs. Finally, always remember to fill up the fuel tank when you return the car to avoid being charged above average prices for the hire company to do it for you.

You can get the best rates for your hire car three to six months before you plan to travel. If you try to book a hire car within a week of your travel plans, it will probably cost you more. Car hire prices tend to go up even more within 48 hours of your trip.

Car hire companies will sometimes match the prices of their competitors. National hire companies like Hertz are more likely to match prices of competitors like Avis. For the best pricing, compare car hire rates before you make a reservation.

Almost all hire car companies will require a deposit. Most require a credit card, although some companies will accept debit cards to cover deposits.

Find out which hire car companies accept debit cards.

Most car hire companies prefer or require you to use a credit card to reserve the car. In some cases, especially if you are paying with a debit card, the company may want to check your credit score first. To find out your credit score, the company would run a “soft credit check”. This type of check is recorded on your credit report but does not impact your credit rating. If your credit score is too low, the company may change the types of car they are willing to offer you, raise the deposit amount, or even refuse to hire the car to you completely.

Paying tolls varies from one hire company to another. In many cases, the toll company will bill the car hire service first. Then you will automatically pay the fee via your debit or credit card used to pay for the hire.

One-way fees, also known as drop fees, are extra charges that car hire companies might add to the price of hiring a car if you drop it off at a different location to the one you picked it up from. These could include hires where you travel from one city to another and drop the car off at the end of your trip, but might also include picking up the car at one airport and dropping it off at another airport in the same city.

Learn more about one-way car hire.

A cleaning fee, sometimes referred to as a “valeting fee”, is a fee charged by some car hire companies for cleaning the car if it is too dirty when you drop it off after use. Most companies won’t require you to return the car as clean as when you picked it up, but you should try to limit the amount of dirt, sand, etc. brought into the car and make sure to dispose of any rubbish to avoid the imposition of a cleaning fee.