car hire advice needed

alexcal Image
08/01/2011 - 15:58

i will be travelling to my place near menfi in sicily several times a year landing at trapani or palermo, depending on mr it's very restrictive to buy a car in italy and i don't want to keep asking family to collect me each time, i have no choice but to hire.I have read some horror story posts here and other places where people get clobbered for big charges for damage and even lateness - i find this very scary...please can some community members give me advice from their experience and what to watch out for? I want to avoid pitfalls and certainly £500 pound excess charges. I am 50 years old, hold a full uk driving license and have never hired a car in uk or anywhere else.I have thought of public transport but it's very complicated especialy from trapani.thanks in advance.



Try looking at   For £49 you can get a years's insurance to cover all excess charges.  It looks particularly good value if you will be making several trips in one year.  I have been insured with them for several years but, fortunately, have never had to make a claim, so I can't comment on how well they perform when it comes to the crunch. I have hired many, many cars in Italy in recent years but always from Hertz, Avis or Europcar.  Never any problems.  The dreadful stories we have all heard seem to relate to less well known companies.  Remember that you are likely to receive an Italian make of car,  and personally,  I'm not very familiar with Italian car models.  So when I am given the keys to some model of Fiat, Lancia or Alfa that is supposed to be the equivalent of (eg) the Ford Focus that I ordered,  I never know whether it's going to be suitable until I've actually seen it.  So it can save a lot of time if you do a bit of homework before you go!

Hi For excess charges we use the same company that also insures our Sardinian house. As for car hire the passed 3 times we've changed from Europcar to Auto Europa(Sicily by car) why half the cost.We where worried we would'nt get the same service as we have with Europcar over the last 7 years but,so far so good.

I will certainly look at the excess insurance companies shown. Emanuele. your advice about the different car type never occurred to me - noted pas55. i find detail regarding your personal experience with autoeuropa.itvery valuable, i will definitely be taking a look at them. If more people post similar information, it would give better choice and some protection to community members from cowboy elements..... chrisnotton. I have heard that owning, running and maintaining a car is restrictive due to expense but i will certainly ask a relative about it next time i'm over. while i'm here, has anyone used the company advertised at top of this forum? i've gone through a quote and it certainly seems cheaper and also includes the following:

  • collision damage waiver (cdw)
  • third party liability protection (tp)
  • theft waiver (tw)
  • tax
  • airport fee
  • road tax
  • kilometers included per rental: 4,000
  • breakdown assistance

Again thanks in advance..

In reply to by alexcal

For curiosity I put our dates in Aug/Sept into the car hire company at the top of the page and found they would have charged me almost £100 more for 3 weeks than Auto Europe for their smallest, cheapest car (which is what we have). Actually I just though I'd better check on today's prices and the AE price had gone up by just over £20. I always have a look at travelsupermarket but we usually decide on AE as it's always among the cheapest and has free cancellation and unlimited mileage. We always have insurance4carhire too. It does mean you can go for the very cheapest cars, some of which have very high excess charges. I sometimes look at the ones on Ryanair website too but they always seem very expensive to me. We usually pay between £100 and £120 a week whatever the time of year.

I used AutoEuropa 6 times in one year from Rome Ciampino and got excellent service and cars until the sixth time when all the staff had changed, the actual car did not correspond to the information on their computer and I was charged 484 euros for a tiny scratch that could have been there when I picked it up as it was dark. Fortunately, I had insured with insurance4carhire and they paid out quickly without any quibbles. I tell all my friends and students who are coming out to take out a policy with them. I have not used AutoEuropa since, because I got the feeling that the whole setup had changed, rather than it simply being a case of new staff. I've used Avis once but generally use Hertz. I book online, well in advance and pay in sterling. This year I have twice been able to take advantage of rates of £8 per day (yes really) for bookings of two weeks or more. I also now take photographs when I pick up the car and drop it off and go back and tell them if there's damage they haven't noted. Forewarned is forearmed!

After no problems hiring cars for a few years, the last two times I did I was certainly diddled by Hertz and Autoeuropa for absolute lies on their part which I tried to fight but it came to nothing.   Firstly, Hertz. They gave me a car which was only half full of petrol and said I should fill likewise upon my return. The car was also dirty inside and out.  I returned it a week later, three quarters full and remarked there was more petrol in it than when I collected it.  About a month later about £48 was taken by Hertz from my credit card. When enquiring about it they said I left the car empty.  I denied this and the only way I could have proved it was by producing a receipt from the garage near the airport.  Of course, over a month later I did not have this (if I actually got one). They would not take my word for it and said nothing was on their sheet except the car was empty of petrol. This is a blatant lie on their part.   Autoeuropa.  They charged me over £50 saying I had picked up the car hire late, after their offices closed at 11pm so charged me another days hire because they had to have someone wait for me.  I said I picked it up about 8.30/8.45 and at 11pm was sat in an ice cream parlour with friends who had travelled with me, some 120ks south of Ciampino.  They said that couldn't be true. Even Easyjet were helpful and produced an email confirming I was on the flight arriving at 8.15.  So what was I meant to be doing until 11pm when I supposedly picked up the car?  They would not believe me and still charged me. I tried fighting it to no avail.   I am not a liar and was extremely upset that they took money from my account a good month after my return to the UK.  I felt well and truly conned. I don't like the way they keep my credit card details open after my period of hire.  I run a business and when a transaction is complete I destroy the customers' cards details.   Now we bring a car from the UK at the end of March and leave it in Italy for just under six months. We get a train from Rome to the nearest station to our home (Cassino) and a friend picks us up for the 20 minute drive home.  This is a lot cheaper in the long run, even taking into account the journey from the UK to Italy/return in our car, and we feel pleased we are not giving these dishonest companies our money.   We did however, prior to these problems, rent cars from Europecar when booking with Easyjet, and in spite of the prices being a little higher we never had a single problem.    Just make sure you get the forms they fill out signed by them for the condition of car and petrol, both on arrival and return.  I wonder if these scams are just in Italy or worldwide? Maralyn  

We always use Avis as we save Airmiles which we use to pay with, and take out a policy with insurance4carhire.  Haven't had to make a claim yet (touch wood) so was reassured with Pacentr08's experience with them.  I find if I book by phone they are a bit more flexible than online which is sometimes helpful. 

It's worth checking the cost of having more than one authorised driver when you hire a car in Italy. (It's nonsense of course, since it is the car which is insured, by law, for anybody over 23 to drive!) Anyway, I'm told it's about €7 per day per extra driver usually, but recently some friends hired from a company which they described as a cheaper offshoot of Hertz, I'm pretty sure it trades under the name Advantage, and one of the reasons for their choice was it didn't have an extra charge for an extra driver. 

Yes they all try it on from time to time, particularly with the petrol. I have found complaining to the agent where used, eg holiday autos works pretty well. Charges for scrapes, scratches etc are getting ludicrous - you'll be lucky to get away with less than 500 euros.

We use for annual excess insurance - £39.99 - as recommended by Martin Lewis the Money Expert here in the UK.  We generally use Europacar hire as flying with easy jet it's easy and  rates are comparable with others. We always go over the car with a fine tooth comb as cars are usually picked up from places with poor lighting or it's dark - so we move it into the sun/under a light and we make sure every tiny mark is noted (I'm sure the guys recognise me now!!) - taking photos is a great idea - we pick our car up in France and whislt my french is quite good a photo is even better!  Anything out of the ordinary eg a half filled tank I would want in writing too - better safe than sorry We've also refused cars - several times for being too dirty/too scratched and one time as it really was the ugliest car I've ever seen - my daughter and her friend who were 16 at the time I think would have walked the 30 miles rather than have got in (and I think I would have too!!  

I always use Auto Europe (not sure if it's the same as Auto europa?)  They always seem to have the best deals.  The actual hire company varies according to the best deals at the time so it could be Hertz, Avis, Advantage etc.  Recently I hired a car through them that included unlimited excess.  (It turned out to be with Hertz)  I managed to scrape the car all down one side and was charged £1200 for the damage!!  There was no getting away from the fact I did it etc so it was taken off my credit card.  Once I returned home I contacted Auto europe about the unlimited excess and although it took some time they paid up without a quibble.  I didn't have to badger them at all so I must say I was pleased with them.  Since then however, I have always taken out the extra insurance which is pricey but it's good to know you won't have to pay a thing if there's any damage.  The last two visits to Itlay we've had cars from Advantage - yes they're cheap and cheerful but not the best!  For pootling around the hills of Northern Tuscany however and squeezing through very narrow streets they do the job.  Jan

the pitfalls have certainly been pointed out and i'm more scared than ever... seems like auto europe are the best bet though in the last post from JanJ that they sub contract to other companies which seems no different from the company that advertise at the top page of this forum. car hire excess insurance also is a must. having looked further into terms of various companies, i find it difficult to understand how someone should inspect the underside of the car and tyres  etc. for damage. seems like in most cases we have to rely on trustworthiness of the staff or company where car is collected. minefield is a word that springs to mind. in the case of damage to underside of the vehicle the excess could be  €3.500 which goes over the maximum excess of some but not all carhire insurance policies -  €5000 being the maximum for the year. although there would probaly be way round this; a good practice would be to have a record of all previous claims/damage history of the vehicle compulsorily made available to the customer, minimising multiple claims being made for the same damage and showing damage already on vehicle.

been to sicily twice since original question/post. first time in october last year, went by myself so asked my cousin to collect and drop me off from trapani - did not think it was worth hiring a car just for myself. second time, had the wife with me so hired a car from autoeurope. this time as it was mid february had to go via palermo as not flights to trapani. when we arrived we had to get a shuttle bus just outside the main entrance to the car hire area situated a few minutes away. autoeuropa was the italian name, they took provisional 1000 euro form my credit card, we got a fiat 500 - not bad for £82 for the whole week. took my own satnav, worked a treat apart from taking us half motorway and small lanes the rest, didn't make the same mistake on return journey. the service overaul from auto europe was in my opinion quite good, a nice touch was that they gave you all the needed telephone numbers and also the address of a petrol station to refill on return near palermo. the only point of note was that the 1000 euro deposit was always at the back of my mind but put forward when on 3 occasions whilst driving through very dark country lanes and shortly after a bend finding dogs standing in the road staring at you. evasive action had to be taken on two occasions and hard braking on the other, i shudder to think the about the damage and the cost had i made contact with them. i hope anyone thinking of hiring a car in italy in the future will find this post usefull...

I advise all my clients to take a photo fo the car dashboard when you return it to the airport with the tank as full, time etc all illuminated.  Take photos ofthe car and where you park it.  Then if you ever get a threatening email, send the photos and everything stops there.  Neveer take 'return the car empty' option', don't use satnav in Sicily unless on motorways and A roads.  Dont drive in Palermo and Catania if you can avoid it.  Drive on the right, right on the right.    Dont tailgate unless you have Sicilian reflexes.