Britons face high costs when driving in Europe

Failing to take out excess waiver insurance (EWI) can cost holidaymakers that hire cars in Europe up to £1,186.

EWI reduces the excess payable for accidents or theft to zero. However, a report by UK Post Office Travel Money Car Rental found that nearly two-thirds, or 63 percent, of holidaymakers who hired a car to drive overseas, paid only the basic rental charge and failed to take out EWI.

The Post Office analysed the excess charges in 19 European holiday destinations and found that they were lowest in Turkey at £400 and Bulgaria at £404. However, the cost could rise to more than double this amount. The excess charges levied in Italy were £842, while in Norway holiday motorists could face costs of £893, and in Portugal £961.

In Switzerland, those that venture out without EWI could pay £1,064 or more if their car is damaged or stolen, and £1,186 in Ireland.

According to the research, nearly 80 percent of holiday motorists also failed to take out insurance cover for tyre, undercarriage and window damage, thus facing hundreds of pounds in excess charges. However, the Post Office also found that paying for the extra cover when hiring a car from airports at holiday destinations could also add hundreds of pounds to rental costs. For example, the cost of including EWI and tyre, undercarriage and window damage insurance adds £152 to a week’s basic car rental package of £124 in Spain’s Costa del Sol, while the charge for an additional driver adds another £41.

The Costa del Sol was just one of six destinations where rental costs doubled when extras were added. The others were the Costa Blanca, Tenerife, Majorca, Larnaca and Dublin. Car hire extras costs are reportedly cheapest in Marmaris, Turkey, at around £35 for EWI and £19 for an additional driver, but were almost four times costlier at Pisa Airport in Italy (£205).

Andrew Brown of Post Office Travel Money said: ‘Car hire costs can go through the roof when extras are added so it is understandable that many motorists go for the cheapest rate offered when booking online. It can also be very difficult to find out the cost of Excess Waiver Insurance before travel and it is only when collecting the car that what seemed a cheap deal becomes a very expensive one.

‘However, the consequence of not paying for the extra insurance could be a much higher bill if you have an accident or if another driver hits your car and leaves without giving his details. There is an easy solution to this because you can buy an insurance policy before leaving home for a fraction of the cost of EWI. The lowest cost we found was around GBP14 for a week’s insurance compared with an average of almost £102 for EWI in Europe,’ he said, adding: ‘In many cases drivers must pay for car hire extras when they collect their rental car, so it makes sense to carry enough foreign currency to cover this – rather than incur charges for paying on plastic.’