In this post, we take you through our guide to booking a car hire with an excess. We explain what this means including what you are liable for as well as buying excess insurance to reduce this. You can also find our guide to booking a car hire with no excess on our blog.

When booking a car hire, the rental rate often includes the legally required car hire insurance. This generally comprises Collision Damage Waiver/Loss Damage Waiver, Theft Protection and Third-Party Liability.

Because this is included in the rate, you don’t need to buy additional insurance. It’s optional. But as we explained in our guide to car hire insurance, there may be an excess, which the renter is liable for. In addition to the excess, there are also exclusions to the legally required insurance. The exclusions typically include items such as tyres, windows and roof. So if there’s any damage to these, the renter is fully liable.

Here, we go into more detail on what you’re liable for when booking a car hire with an excess and how to reduce this.

Booking a car hire with an excess

The most common type of car hire deal offered comes with an excess. Basically, this means the onus is on the renter for any damage caused during the rental period up to a specified amount. As a result, car hire deals with an excess are far cheaper than car hire deals with no excess.

How much is the excess?

The excess amount varies and depends on the car and the supplier. As an example, a quick search of Alicante Airport car hire deals brings up offers where the excess amount ranges from 1000 EUR to 2500 EUR!

Whatever the excess amount, it should be made clear in the booking process. If you’re not sure where to find it, check under the Terms and Conditions or Important Information. When collecting the car, you will be required to leave a deposit covering the excess amount on their credit card. If the car is returned as per the agreement with no damage, the deposit will be released back on to your credit card. But if there has been damage, which the renter is liable for, the supplier will take this out of the deposit held on your credit card.

Leaving a deposit: it has to be the main driver’s credit card

One thing that all car hire suppliers are sticklers for is that the main driver’s credit card must be used for the deposit. No debit cards allowed and no-one else’s credit card can be used.

Before booking a car, make sure the main driver’s credit card will have enough to cover the deposit amount at the time of picking the car up. If it doesn’t, you will either have to leave without a car hire (some suppliers won’t rent a car out unless the driver has a valid credit card) or purchase the supplier’s in-house insurance. This reduces the excess to zero but may be a lot more expensive than other options for additional insurance. The supplier’s own cover also doesn’t always include the excluded items.

Reducing your liability

If you want to reduce the excess liability to zero, you can do by buying additional cover either directly from the supplier or from a car hire/insurance broker. And there are pros and cons to both, which we cover below.

First, a word of warning: don’t pay for cover twice!

If you decide to take out excess insurance from a broker, make sure you decline the supplier’s own cover. Staff at the rental desk can often be very insistent that you buy their insurance but just keep declining it. You don’t need to show proof of your cover either. You just need to make sure the driver’s credit card can cover the deposit! If you end up buying both covers, there is no guarantee that you can get a refund for either.

Remember to read through the agreement before signing it to make sure you haven’t paid for something you didn’t mean to. And in the event that you are stuck having to buy the supplier’s cover because the driver’s credit card doesn’t work, that is the best time to call your car hire or insurance broker to explain and see if it can be cancelled. But like I said, there’s no guarantee it can be. In general, they need to be cancelled before you collect the car hire.

Additional cover direct from the supplier

This basically comes in the form of a ‘Daily Buyout’, which reduces the excess to zero for a daily charge. This can vary depending on the type of car and names used by suppliers for it include: SuperCover, Super CDW or Super Relax Cover.

Pros: You won’t need to leave a deposit for the excess and it can be paid for using a Debit Card. However, some suppliers may still need to see the driver’s main credit card.

Cons: This cover is usually a lot more expensive than similar cover provided by a car hire or insurance broker. There may also still be exclusions to the cover. Again, make sure you check this before you book it.

Excess insurance from a car hire or insurance broker

This is a reimbursement type of insurance and is sometimes called ‘Excess Reimbursement Insurance’ (ERI). Excess insurance reduces your excess liability to zero. It also usually covers the typically excluded items. And it can be bought independently from the supplier (much to the supplier’s annoyance). Many car hire brokers offer it for the duration of the booking as part of their service. And some insurance brokers offer it either as a single trip cover or yearly cover.

Pros: It’s generally a lot cheaper than the supplier’s own cover. And as we said, it also usually covers typically excluded items.

Cons: You will still need to leave a deposit to cover the excess amount on the main driver’s credit card. If there is damage to the car during your rental period, the amount will be deducted from the deposit and you will need to make a claim for reimbursement through the insurance company.

Making a claim on excess insurance

If you do need to make a claim, the process is relatively straightforward. Details of how to make a claim will be in your insurance policy document so keep it safe. You will also need to provide all the details of the damage including receipts for any charges, which you can get from the supplier. As a general rule, you should inform your insurance company as soon as you know that you need to make a claim.

Other types of insurance: personal injury and luggage

There is another level of insurance that you might be offered. This is for personal injury (to the driver or passengers) and your luggage. However, this may already be covered by your travel insurance so check before getting it.