Over the years, I’ve had various frustrating episodes involving car hire insurance charges. However, a real low point was on a trip to Florida a few years ago.

We’d booked a deal involving a flight, accommodation, and car hire. As committed “independent” travellers, my wife and I usually book all these things separately. However, this deal was particularly good, and we didn’t really imagine that much could go wrong.

Having been stung for car hire insurance before, we were prepared for a couple of unexpected bolt on charges. But our experience at the car hire desk in Orlando took things to a whole new level. As we stood, tired and jetlagged under the spotlights, the representative explained our various insurance options – all costing a significant number of dollars per day on top of what we’d already paid.

The really shocking thing was how financially liable we would still be in the event of an accident if we chose anything other than the most expensive insurance package. The background thought that a superficial accident could end up costing us thousands of dollars was never going to make for a very relaxing holiday. So, like many people we reluctantly and angrily handed over our credit card – for insurance charges in the region of $500 on top of what we’d already paid for car hire.

Car Hire Insurance

This wasn’t the first time this had happened to us, but it was the most extreme incident. The fact that a pile of cash that had been destined for Florida’s outlet malls had disappeared before we’d even left the airport made us determined not to land ourselves in that position again.

The irony is, it’s actually really easy to protect yourself from the car hire excess racket, by buying a third-party car hire excess waiver policy from a company like ReduceMyExcess.co.uk. These policies can reduce the charges you need to pay to avoid a huge excess by 80% or more, and can be purchased for individual trips, or on an annual basis. If the worst does happen, you can claim from the excess waiver company.

As always, even if you have one of these policies it’s important to truly understand what you are and are not covered for. While there is no doubt that add-on policies are quite a profitable racket for the car hire firms, the fact remains that car insurance itself is quite a complex topic – so never be afraid to ask questions until you completely understand your liability.

That said, having your own excess protection policy is always going to work out cheaper that paying the “captive audience” car hire insurance price when you get to the desk. There’s something wonderfully satisfying about turning down all the costly added extras because you can confidently say that you already have a policy that protects you from a huge bill in the event of an accident. Next time my wife and I are fortunate enough to visit Florida, we’ll definitely make sure we hang onto those 500 bucks for the shopping malls!

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