The Cruise Holidaymaker’s Guide to Hiring a Car When in Port


If you’re in port for a few days, there’s nothing like experiencing your home away from home like the locals in a car of your own. It’s a novel way of getting around a new city, but one that can prove difficult if not done properly. Nowadays, it’s no longer a case of signing an agreement and rolling out of the rental car park on four wheels; there’s a bit more red tape surrounding the process today.

Here, we’ll put you on the right track as to how to go about hiring a car when you’re in port.

Book ahead

A good rule of thumb is to book as far in advance as possible to get the best deal. Hire car websites can be a bit of a minefield to negotiate, with information presented in an obscure and confusing manner; even viewing the contract beforehand can be difficult.

However, there are websites that make the process a lot easier, and which seasoned some travellers swear by. Holiday Autos, and Sixt are all reputable with transparent prices to ensure you don’t fall prey to any hidden costs. Sixt, in particular, makes its pricing very clear, with local terms and conditions, as well as extras including post-return damage; far better than having an unexplained deduction from your bank balance after you’re back from your holidays.

Be sure of insurance

Though it might be advertised as ‘fully comprehensive’, the Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) that many companies provide does not actually equate to the car insurance we’re used to in the UK. It only covers collisions with other vehicles and not single-vehicle damage, so any scrapes, bumps and dents to the car’s hubcaps, wheels, undercarriage, and roof of your car may not be covered. A reputable rental firm will provide cover if the roads you’re driving on are likely to be fairly rocky – but be wary of more cavalier firms who try to sell you excess insurance at a premium price too. Which leads us onto…

Don’t bother with upgrades

When booking, there’ll be attempts from the firm to get you to upgrade to a bigger car. The familiar narrative is that they’ll say your existing car is too small for all your luggage, but under no circumstances should you be convinced to upgrade. Double check that you haven’t had an upgrade added to your bill since this can make the final amount significantly more expensive. Also, no rental company worth their salt would ask you to pay for an upgrade if they can’t provide the car model you had originally agreed on.

Likewise, you might be asked if you need a satnav. It might seem helpful at first, but this is another costly expenditure. A free app on your phone will do the trick just as well. Similarly, if you were thinking of sharing some of the driving, then be aware that adding multiple drivers will cost more, while hiring child seats can cost you too, so best to bring your own if you have the space and don’t like the idea of paying extra.

Check the car’s condition before you leave

It’s important to give the car a thorough once over before you leave. Ensure that every scratch is noted on the contract, including any damage on the windscreen, wheel hubs, the bumper and edges of the car’s wing mirrors. Take photos before you set off so you can document its condition as well. In the boot, check that it contains a warning triangle, high-vis jacket and other items legally required in the country – you may be charged for their loss.

Since so many people before you will have used the car, be sure to check that the clutch hasn’t burned out or is on the way to burning out. To check this, put the car into fourth gear, depress the clutch, then ease off it while stepping on the accelerator. If it releases fully without stalling, then the clutch has burnt out. Ask for another vehicle if this is the case.

Last-minute tips

  • Read the contract carefully before you leave with your car. Check to see if items ticked as “accepted” or “declined” were fully agreed upon beforehand, and ask about any charges you don’t understand. It may be the case that you’ve signed up for optional insurances that you don’t need – make sure these are settled immediately.
  • Keep hold of your paperwork even if you didn’t experience any problems on the road. If extra charges appear on your bill then you’re in a place to dispute them if you have the paperwork to hand.
  • Check the fuel type as it is noted in the agreement. If you accidentally put the wrong fuel in the car, then that’s regarded as negligence that your CDW won’t cover.
  • Make sure the payment card is in the name of the driver on the rental voucher. If it doesn’t match then you’ll have to pay again.

We hope this handy guide has been helpful. For more information about Cruise1st UK’s fantastic cruise packages, head to our dedicated homepage here, or give our friendly customer care team a call on 0808 2746 777


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Claire has worked in the travel industry since leaving college in 1994. One of this blog's most regular contributors, Claire covers cruise news and industry trends.

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