FAQ Car rental
Knowledge is half the battle. We often deal with complaints when booking rental cars. Here are the 15 most common questions and some tips from practice.
1. What are the most frequent complaints?
Most complaints concern the subsequent charging of allegedly caused damage and additional services that were talked up on the spot, such as insurance packages. Therefore, our basic advice is: do not sign anything you do not understand (on request, the terms and conditions of the contract should also be available in German or at least in English), and have a copy of all documents you have signed - even if it is on a tablet - or have them sent to you immediately by e-mail.
2. Are there particularly many complaints about certain providers?
Yes, you can quickly find them on the internet in forums with reports of experiences. Recently, Goldcar was sentenced twice to very high fines for unfair business practices.
3. How do I find a good offer?
If you are booking a rental car on your own, it is best to start your research on the internet. Comparison platforms are a good way to get an overview of what is on offer. Through these platforms, you will usually be forwarded to intermediaries who will then conclude the deal directly with the rental company. Bookings in advance are usually cheaper. Tip: Some providers grant free cancellation even at very short notice. This gives you the opportunity to follow the price development and, if necessary, to take advantage of a better offer. In a test conducted by Stiftung Warentest in 2016, www.billiger-mietwagen.de and www.check24.de scored best.
4. What is important when comparing prices?
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 desired additional services, e.g. return to another location, child seat, navigation system or additional drivers listed in the contract.
5. Which insurances really make sense?
That depends on your own "risk appetite". But be sure to pay attention to the following things: Particularly attractive rates often only include liability insurance with minimum coverage amounts. With comprehensive insurance, deductibles and exclusions are the crucial points. Often you are confronted with "additional insurances" directly when you take over the vehicle. You have to be particularly careful. Don't let anyone talk you into taking out extra insurance that you don't want or that was perhaps already taken out when you made the reservation. For reasons of evidence, insist on a copy of the contract on site. Another basic tip: Always compare your booking documents (vouchers) with the information in the rental contract.
6. Do I have to accept deviations from the booked vehicle type?
Not really, but in practice you hardly have any other 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 car rental class is not available and you receive a larger vehicle (upgrade), you may in any case not be charged a surcharge. In the opposite case, you are entitled to a price reduction.
7. Which refuelling arrangement is recommended?
There are two common models: one is that you have to return the rental car with a full tank. In that case, 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 low as possible; there is no financial compensation for the tank contents. However: Pay attention to what was agreed upon at the time of booking and make sure that the refuelling arrangement is not changed against your will at the time of pick-up.
8. What do I need to know to cross the border?
If it is not clear from the booking documents, it is best to contact the rental company directly. Depending on the region, there may be restrictions (e.g. by vehicle class) or extra charges (for obtaining papers or additional insurance).
9. Does the renter always have to handle the deposit according to the contract?
If the renter and driver are not identical, this can be a problem when taking over the car. It is usual for the deposit to be charged to the card used to make the reservation. We know of cases where another card or a cash deposit was not accepted. This can ultimately lead to considerable additional costs. In addition, we are often told that the pin of the credit card is requested. We therefore recommend that you check this in advance!
It is best to read up on the subject of deposits in the contract conditions before booking. Also important: Make sure that the credit card has sufficient coverage so that the deposit can be "blocked" and you can use it to make further payments during the course of the trip.
10. How to document damage if rental company does not make a protocol?
In any case, you should remain annoying and insist on a takeover protocol. To be on the safe side, it is best to take photos of previous damage, preferably in such a way that the position and extent are well documented.
11. What to do If no one is present when returning the car?
As a general rule, we advise you to return a rental car only during the rental company's opening hours and with a handover report. 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 car park, the vehicle in different views, the mileage and the fuel gauge.
12. Can rental company charge extra for soiling?
Yes, if the soiling goes beyond "normal use", this is usually covered by the rental conditions. In these cases, it is more convenient to clean the car yourself before returning it.
13. What to do in case of excessive claims for damages
Ask for a basis for the calculation - this can also be a list for which damages which lump sum is applied (landlords also use this to calculate losses from standing times). If you do not receive this or the information is not plausible, demand the invoice for the repair!
14. What to do about an unjustified damage claim withholding my deposit?
While you are still on site: Insist on a joint inspection of the car. Demand that the current condition on return is compared with the condition according to the handover report. If it turns out that the damage was already present, have the return report confirm that no new damage has occurred.
15. What if the damage claim is made after I return?
Ask the rental company for proof that the damage was caused by you and, at the same time, ask for either a receipt for the repair or a breakdown of the repair fee charged according to the type of damage. And don't forget: Immediately dispute the credit card charge.