Get grip on car ‘extras’

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The complexity of vehicle rentals for skiers who shun packages can be as baffling as a black slope, says Jeremy Gates.

Do It Yourself holidays are generally seen as a cheaper version of what can be steeply priced and inflexible package deals, particularly in the notoriously expensive ski market.

But experts are warning that skiers who make their own way to the slopes this winter, instead of buying a package with transfers included, could be hit by hefty charges for car hire at the airport.

According to iCarhireinsurance.com, a specialist insurer, some skiers hiring cars for New Year breaks could pay for their hire car twice over, because of ‘extras’ added.

Of six major ski gateways surveyed – Geneva, Turin, Innsbruck, Barcelona, Sophia (Bulgaria) and Inverness – on cars from companies Avis, Sixt, Europcar and Hertz, iCarehireinsurance.com found the average car hire (per week) costs £275 in Barcelona, £290 in Innsbruck, £314 in Inverness, £336 in Turin and £403 in Geneva.

But, for one example, a medium compact car from Hertz, from Geneva for a week’s hire from December 27 would have ‘extras’ of £405, namely £71 for an extra driver (£112 if under 21), £137 for excess car hire insurance, Sat Nav (£102), snow chains (£48) and child’s car seat (£47).

Ernesto Suarez, the boss of iCarhireinsurance.com, says many travellers are unaware of these ‘baffling’ additions. “All hire car companies should provide total transparency at the time of booking,” he says.

“But instead, the complexity of costs is as baffling as a black run.  To cut costs, car hirers must keep extra drivers to a minimum, know local rules on snow chains and winter tyres, take their own Sat Nav – and always buy excess car hire insurance before they fly.”

Indeed, this excess car hire insurance can be the biggest danger at the rental desk; without it, a customer could face costs up to £2,300 (eg the excess amount in Turin with Europcar) when cars are damaged or stolen, even if it’s not the hirer’s fault. But buying it through the rental company can be hugely costly – excess insurance at Turin would cost £185 from Hertz, more than eight times the cost of a pre-planned iCarhireinsurance.com policy at £21 for the week (£2.99 a day). This does the job just as well, and also covers vulnerable parts, like tyres and windscreen, which are often excluded from rental firms’ policies.

These complex and weighty hire costs are one big factor persuading more skiers to return to established operators in recent winters, but there are other reasons, too. DIY travellers do not have extra luggage included in the flight cost, whilst ski carriage can be costly too (£60 on Easyjet, but £35 with Thomson). Bookings with operators can also save money by including two-for-one lift passes. Crystal Ski has more than 40 resorts with two-for-one lift pass, and several resorts have a buy-one-get-one-lift-pass-half-price scheme.

If skiers aren’t bound by school holidays, booking a package deal on ‘quiet’ weeks in January and February, ahead of half-term, is a great money-saver too.

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