CheapTickets.hk (CT) Travel Helpdesk: Car Rentals
“I was charged several thousand dollars for car damage that never occurred, several months after I had returned the car and flown home. When I refused to pay, they threatened to sue.”
“I was once charged 400 dollars for a missing spare wheel. I called the local dealership to ask about it, and apparently built-in spare wheels for that model do not even exist.”
Road tripping is an incredible experience when done right, but car rentals and their potential crippling consequences frequently threaten to run your holiday off the road. Exorbitant repair fees, pushy salespeople, opt-out insurance plans, and shady post-trip charges are just some of the many problems that travellers may face - a list so daunting, some people drop it altogether, and miss out on the otherworldly experience an adventure on four wheels can bring.
Enter the CT Travel Helpdesk, a new initiative by CheapTickets.hk to point out the common pitfalls of travel, and how to avoid them for a safer, better trip. Today, we’ll shed some light on some key pain points our travellers experience when on the road, and some ways you can skip these problems when you’re on a road trip of your own!
Renting Cars From the Airport
Many aspiring road trippers face their first stumbling block the moment they step off the airport and head for the nearest airport car rental. Prices turn out higher than expected, and that dream SUV everyone has had their eye on has been fully booked. Eventually, people settle for a clunky cramped sedan, and the perfect trip is ruined even before it begins.
SmarterTravel posits that prices of car rentals upon arrival will usually be higher for two reasons: it offers unparalleled convenience compared to a rental station further away from the airport, and some people will book it out of necessity anyway. Rental companies play on your desperation for profit, and in that situation there is little customers can do.
The solution, therefore, is to prevent yourself from falling into that trap. Book everything you can before leaving your home country, and leave yourself room to comparison shop, identify favourable exchange rates, and promotions that may not be directly available on-site. (In case you were wondering, we’re very upfront about our discounts - we’ve up to 25% off car rentals now, no promo codes required.) Some companies have stringent age windows, drop-off times, and late penalties - ask about these online, and confirm what you can before making a decision on which rental firm to patronise.
When you’ve made your decision, always remember to pay with your credit card - it’ll save you a lot of trouble later on should things go sideways. More on that later!
Driving in a Foreign Land
Covered all your bases and got yourself a safe and reliable ride for your trip? That, unfortunately, was the easy part. Even the best car needs a driver, and the next step involves making sure you’re eligible.
First, you have to make sure you’re legally allowed to drive in your destination country. Some countries accept Hong Kong's driving licence as proof of proficiency, while some will need you to furnish your International Driving Permit. There is more prep to do after this - find out the side of the road you’ll be driving on, and ensure that you’re confident and experienced enough to drive for long distances at a time several days over.
If you’ve fellow drivers coming along for the journey, be sure to choose a vehicle that everyone can drive - a car running on manual transmission, for instance, may be unfamiliar even to licenced drivers who have been driving automatic for years. Take fatigue into account as well, and be sure to factor these in while planning your drives - safety is key in any holiday, and even the smallest scratch on your car may be exploited by your rental company when returned.
Now, in the unfortunate event where your car does take some damage, what do you do?
Returning the Vehicle, Damaged or Not
No one wants their rental company to come knocking months after a holiday. Preventing such a fiasco however does require some preparation both before and during your holiday. A key factor to keeping yourself safe is the legitimacy of the rental company you’re signing up for - read reviews, speak to their representatives in your country of choice, and familiarize yourself with their terms and conditions.
When you’re at the rental garage picking up your car, check it thoroughly for existing damage and ensure that it is recorded on your documents before signing. The photos will come in handy in the off-chance you are charged for something you didn’t damage.
Remember the emphasis on using your credit card to pay previously? As the rental company has your card details, you won’t be expected to fork out exorbitant amounts that you wouldn’t have in your wallet overseas. Also, if the charges are unreasonable, you can get your credit card company to cancel the transaction if you bring forth proof that the damage or penalty was not justified. This is subject to your card company and rental contract - again, read the fine print before signing anything!
The situations we’ve asked you to brace for are an exception to the norm - most road trips go off without a hitch and the best car rental firms are a joy to work with. But, if your holiday does veer off course, these tips will have your back.
Getting into trouble during a road trip is understandably stressful, but booking your wheels from a reliable source helps in both prevention and cure. Book your next flight and car of choice with us, and secure your rides on the cheap and with peace of mind today!