The Call Wiser guide to Holiday Car Hire

19th June 2015

Hiring a car abroad can be an essential part of many holidays, providing a convenient means of getting to your destination, getting out and about and exploring the local area.

However, if you have hired a car on holiday before you may appreciate that it is not always the simplest of tasks and due to the recent changes on how driver’s licences work in the UK, hiring a car abroad is about to become slightly more difficult.

To make sure that you’re not caught out this summer, Call Wiser has prepared this useful guide to holiday car hire.

No more paper licences

On the 8th June the DVLA scrapped the paper counterpart from the UK licencing system (excludes Northern Ireland). The below video outlines the major changes, but further information is available on the website.

The information contained on your driving licence, including penalties and endorsements, is now stored on an online database, which you can view here.

While this new paperless system is set to simplify procedures in the UK, it is anticipated to cause confusion abroad this summer, especially at car rental offices where staff are required to check the licence details and conviction history of customers, before handing over vehicles.

To allow license details to be checked, the DVLA has created an online portal where the information can be accessed remotely. However, before anyone else can access your information you must first obtain a ‘check code’.

What is a Check Code?

The check code is a password that temporarily allows someone to access your driving licence information. It will allow companies such as car hire firms to identify:

  • what vehicles you are licenced to drive; and
  • any penalty points and disqualifications you have

Please note: Not all vehicle hire companies will require access to this information, but it is advisable to check with the business before you travel, or to obtain a check code if in doubt.

Obtaining your ‘Check Code’

To obtain your code you can:

  1. Log onto the GOV.UK website and follow the on screen instructions to view your licence
  2. Select the ‘Share your licence information’ tab at the top of the page and then click the ‘Create a code’ button
  3. Your check code will then be displayed on screen, remember to make a note of it.

Alternatively you can obtain a code by calling 0300 083 0013.

How long is my check code it valid for?

Your check code is valid for 21 days only. The validity period was increased from 72 hours following a number of complaints from motorists. You can read more about the DVLA's change to the validiy period here.

Remember your photocard

You will still be required to present the photocard part of your driving licence to the hire company.

The licence number printed on the card is also required to view the additional information stored online.

If you are still using the old style paper licence, make sure to take this with you. These licenses are gradually being phased out in the UK, but you can exchange your paper licence for a photocard licence by following this link.

“Hang on to your old licence”

Although the paper counterpart no longer has any legal status, the AA has recommended that if you are planning to hire a car on holiday this summer that you should still take the counterpart with you.

President of the AA, Edmund King said "Not all car rental companies will be aware of the changes,” so a 'belt and braces' approach of also taking the counterpart might help."

Shop Around for Excess Insurance

While rent-a-car companies provide insurance as part of the rental agreement, it is common for these policies to carry very high excesses. In the event that the vehicle is damaged, you could be liable to pay several hundred pounds.

To protect against this eventuality it is possible to purchase excess insurance for a small premium, which will reimburse your excess should you be required to pay it.

Excess insurance is usually obtainable from the rental company when you make the booking or when you collect the vehicle.

Be aware however, that purchasing excess insurance at the point of sale is often the most expensive way and you can save money by shopping around online before you travel.

Find out the Fuel Policy

There are two common polices car-hire companies employ with regards to fuel:

  1. You are provided with a full tank of petrol and expected to return it with a full tank
  2. .
  3. You are provided with a full tank, but can return it empty.

The cost of petrol is more than likely to be factored into the hire agreement, so the latter option is often more expensive. Also, as it is difficult to arrive back at the rental office with and empty tank, the hire firm will be entitled to any left over fuel.

Be aware that if you are expected to return the vehicle with a full tank, you are likely to face an additional charge if this condition is not met.

Take your own Accessories

If you are looking to save money, a good way to do this is by taking your own accessories such as sat-navs and child seats.

Hiring these optional extras from the car-hire company can be expensive, so you are likely to save money if you take these with you.

Several airline companies allow child car seats as hold luggage at no extra charge but be sure to check with you airline before you travel.

Taking your own car with you this year? – Did you know that you can upgrade your free RAC cover to include Home Recovery, Onward Travel & Full European Cover?

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