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FAQ Car rental

Knowledge is half the battle

We often handle complaints regarding the booking of rental cars. Here are the most common questions and some useful tips.

What are the most common complaints?

Most complaints concern the subsequent settlement of allegedly caused damages and additional services, such as insurance packages. Therefore, we generally advise you not to sign anything you do not understand (on request, the terms of contract should also be available in German or at least in English) and have a copy of all documents that you have signed - even on a tablet - given to you or sent to you immediately by e-mail.

Are there particularly many complaints about certain providers?

Yes, you can quickly find reviews on companies online. Goldcar, for example, has recently been sentenced twice to very high penalties for unfair business practices.

What is the best way to find a good offer?

If you book a rental car on your own, then it's best to start your research online. Comparison platforms are a good way to get an overview. From these platforms, you are usually forwarded to intermediaries, via whom the contract is concluded directly with the landlord. Bookings in advance are usually cheaper. Tip: Some providers grant a free cancellation even at very short notice. This opens up the possibility of following the price development and, if need be, taking advantage of an even better offer. In a test conducted by Stiftung Warentest in 2016, www.billiger-mietwagen.de and www.check24.de scored best.

What should I keep in mind regarding the price comparison?

Most important tip: Check "best price offers" (especially in advertisements) for hidden additional costs and restrictions on insurance benefits. When comparing prices, pay particular attention to the following factors: Is the mileage limited? How extensive is the insurance cover? How high are the costs for the desired additional services, e.g. return to another location, child seat, navigation device or additional drivers entered in the contract?

Which insurances really make sense?

That depends on your own "risk appetite". But be sure to pay attention to the following: Particularly attractive rates often only include liability insurance with minimum coverage amounts. With comprehensive insurance, deductibles and exclusions are the decisive points. You will often be confronted with "supplementary insurance" as soon as you take over the vehicle. Don't let yourself be talked into extra services that you don't want or that may already have been included when you made your reservation. For reasons of proof, insist in any case on a copy of the contract on the spot. Another basic tip: Always compare your booking documents (voucher) with the details in the rental agreement.

Do I have to accept deviations from the vehicle type booked?

Not really, but in practice you hardly have a choice. Important: In principle, you do not book a specific vehicle model, but only a specific rental car category (in terms of size and equipment). If the booked rental car class is not available and you receive a larger vehicle (upgrade), you should not be charged any extra. In the opposite case, you are entitled to a price reduction.

Which fuel regulation is recommended?

Two models are common: One is that you have to return the rental car with a full tank. Then it is better to take care of it yourself before returning the car; otherwise you will have to expect considerable additional costs. If you can return the vehicle with an empty tank, you should try to keep the remaining amount as small as possible; there is no financial compensation for the contents of the tank. Whatever the case, make sure that you follow the rules agreed at the time of booking and that the tank regulations are not changed against your will at the pick-up.

What should I bear in mind when crossing the border?

If there is no clear information in the booking documents, it is best to contact the renter directly. Depending on the region, there may be restrictions (e.g. according to vehicle class) or extra charges (for obtaining papers or additional insurance).

How should the deposit be handled? Does the person appearing in the contract as the tenant have to do this?

If the tenant and the driver are not identical, this can become a problem when the car is picked up. It is common for the deposit to be deducted from the card with which the reservation was made. We are aware of cases where another card or cash deposit has not been accepted. This can ultimately lead to considerable additional costs. We are also often told that the credit card pin is required. We therefore recommend that you check this in advance!

It is best to read the terms and conditions of the contract before booking. It is also important to make sure that the credit card has sufficient cover so that the deposit can be "blocked" and you can still make further payments during the trip.

The renter does not make a protocol when renting - how should I document previous damage?

You should definitely insist on a take-over protocol. To be on the safe side, it is best to take photos of previous damage, if possible in such a way that the position and extent are well documented.

Nobody from the rental company is present when the car is returned. What should I do?

In principle, we advise you to return a rental car only during the opening hours and with a hand-over protocol. If this does not work, it is important to secure as much evidence as possible for the dispute. Take photos of the closed rental car station, the vehicle at the parking lot, the vehicle in different views, the mileage and the fuel gauge.

Can the renter charge extra for dirt?

Yes, if the pollution goes beyond "normal use", this is usually covered by the rental conditions. In these cases it is cheaper to clean the car yourself before returning it.

I have actually caused a small fender bender damage which is not covered by the insurance. For this the renter demands an almost astronomical sum. What can I do?

Demand a basis for the calculation - this can also be a list for which damages which lump sum is estimated (with this, renters also calculate losses from downtimes). If you do not receive these or if the information is not plausible, request the invoice for the repair!

The renter claims damage to the vehicle and retains the deposit - what to do?

As long as you are still on site: Insist on a joint inspection of the car. Demand that the current condition is compared with the condition according to the take-over protocol when you picked up the car. If it turns out that the damage was already present in advance, confirm on the return protocol that no new damage has occurred.

And what should be done if such a claim is made after the return?

Ask the renter for proof that the damage was caused by you and at the same time ask for either a receipt for the repair or a list of the repair flat rate charged according to the type of damage. And do not forget: Objection the credit card debit immediately.

This article was produced in cooperation with the Verein für Konsumenteninformation (VKI) and was first published in the test magazine KONSUMENT.

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