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The hidden costs of car rental - and how to avoid them!

As the summer hots up and Brits flock abroad, holidaymakers are complaining of the hidden costs of renting a car.

Latest figures from Travel Supermarket show Brits forked out more than £475m on unexpected car hire costs last year.

Drivers are facing a number of catches including hidden mileage limits as low as 22 miles a day, the cost of a tank of fuel on returning the car, child seats, sat nav and currency charges.

Travel experts say the key is to plan ahead and be aware of hidden costs which could be coming your way.

Travel expert Simon Calder's key things to look out for:

Airport surcharge

Any reputable company will include the fee for picking up/dropping off at an airport in their quote. Some disreputable firms don't. Also be aware that any extras you buy at the airport rental desk are usually subject to this surcharge as well. All the more reason for declining offers.

Full or empty?

The traditional arrangement for the fuel tank is out full/back full - in other words, the tank is full when you take it out, and you just need to refuel before you give it back (or pay a small fortune for the firm to do it). Many internet deals though insist on out full/back empty. You pay an inflated amount for the tank of fuel, and are cheerfully told to bring it back empty. Every drop of fuel that you leave represents profit for the provider. If it's not an out full/back full policy, I would politely decline.

Excess demands

A standard deal requires you to accept an excess of say £500. You're insured for the big stuff, but for minor damage you have to pay the first £500 before the insurance kicks in. Rental firms sell an excess damage waiver that is incredibly expensive. If you decline to take it out, they may demand your credit card and put a block on it for the maximum excess - and then be slow returning the cash, as well as imposing bank charges. Plenty of insurance firms sell excess waiver insurance, typically covering the excess (plus tyres, windscreen, etc) for as little as £3 a day - a lot less than the rental companies price. But the rental firm may not accept it.

Additional drivers

A common scenario if you forget to ask for a quote with a second driver is that the firm will demand £10 or £20 a day - which quickly mounts up. The solution, though not ideal, is to pick the nominated driver.

Roadside Assistance Plus

They're having a laugh when they say you'll need this in case you break down. Oh no, you wont. If your car breaks down, it's their problem, not yours, and they need to sort it out. Decline the chance to pay for this benefit.

Child booster seats

Often the charge for a booster seat is more than it would cost to buy one new. Take your own, if it fits within your baggage allowance.

Location finder

GPS units are typically £15 a day - get a roaming data deal with your mobile provider and use your smart phone instead.

Damage limitation

Got a smartphone? Good. Set it to video and film all around the car while its still in the parking lot, so you have a record of any existing scratches or dents that may be blamed on you.

Clock-watching

Not a scam - just hard-nosed business. On the last occasion I rented a car in southern France I got slightly lost on the way to the airport, arrived two minutes after the deadline and ended up paying an extra £70.

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