Car rentals can be very expensive in England. It is even more so if you cannot drive a manual. Most cars here are manuals. They are cheaper to rent, as well as buy, because they are more readily available. Some car rental companies do not carry many automatics, if at all. So, if you can’t drive a manual, you should start learning now.
For those, like me, who cannot drive manuals and dread learning to, there are other considerations in renting that will impact their finances. First, and foremost, is the insurance. If you cannot prove that you have adequate insurance coverage (for their purposes), then you are required to purchase their insurance. In addition, if something should happen, there is a high deductible (called excess) applied. This deductible is added to your car rental until you return it claim-free. You can also choose to pay an extra fee to reduce this deductible (or excess). The terms were so confusing that we did not fully understand it at first. Besides the basic car insurance that you pay for, you also must pay another insurance for Tire & Windshield.
The issue regarding fuel over here is similar to the US. You either choose to pay for your gas upfront or refill it to the same level you took it out. If you don’t return it at the same level, they charge you a small fee for refueling it. The difference is that you don’t have to pay the maximum rate for fuel. They just charge you their current fuel charge, which can be cheaper than what you’d find locally. I know Hertz does something similar now.
When we’ve rented in the US, there never seems to be a major inspection of the car prior to you taking the car; but when it is returned, sometimes they look it over, other times you just park it up and leave. that attitude varies over here. Some places, you have someone going around the car quite thoroughly with you before they hand over the keys and they do the same when you return it. Others, they just hand you the keys and expect you to look it over yourself. It is your responsibility to report any damage to the car before you take it. Otherwise, you may be expected to pay for it.
Whether you are visiting or staying, you will need your passport as proof of identity. Some places (we know from our experience of Enterprise) will also require your flight details in order to confirm that you are only renting temporarily. If you are staying, some places (again, Enterprise) will want proof that you are residing here – they will want two bills for this. It made it difficult for us because we still didn’t have a place of residence and needed a car to rent. We couldn’t prove that we were staying because we didn’t have any bills and we couldn’t prove that we were visiting because we didn’t have airline tickets. They had no answer when we asked how we could rent a car so that we could get around and find a place to live. Luckily, we had found another company that was not going to put us through that rigmarole.
It’s best to use a credit card to reserve a car. Using a debit will mean that they will take your money out first and return it later if you did not damage the car. I find it more reassuring if they only take out money after the fact and you know how much they will take, rather than guessing whether they have returned your money. Or, if you have cash on hand, that is even better. Just remember that Discover is not accepted at most places in England.