A number of consumer complaints arise from problems related to renting a car, most of which could have been avoided. What should you consider when renting a car?

Car rent in Estonia

You would like to rent a car during your stay in Estonia. How can you find a company to match your needs? What should you consider when renting a car?

When visiting Estonia, you should consider renting a car and discovering the sights on your own. Approximately one hundred companies, including internationally acknowledged companies such as Hertz, Avis, Sixt, Europcar, etc., provide car rental services in Estonia. Although renting a car has been made as easy and simple as possible for consumers, the consumer still needs to be wary before concluding the transaction. A number of consumer complaints arise from problems related to renting a car, most of which could have been avoided.

Before you rent a car:

  • Before you choose to decide in favour of a specific rental company, take the time to investigate the price lists and conditions of different providers of rental cars. You should always shop around.
  • Ask for information on car rental companies and prices from the hotel where you’re staying. It’s also worth the trouble to ask around on your own, by contacting the service desks of car rental companies.
  • You should remember that special offers are often available from car rental companies – weekend, advanced booking, etc. Such special offers may considerably reduce the final price.

Booking a rental car over the Internet
If you decide to book a rental car over the Internet, remember to pay attention to the following aspects:
Be prepared that the price, as given in the Internet booking, may increase upon the delivery of the car and conclusion of the rental agreement.

The price increase may be related to the fact that the initial price did not include insurance and/or some other extras. Local taxes, child seats, usage by another driver, the availability of a GPS-device, etc. may be extra charges.

Requirements of a driver
renting a car in Estonia, the person entering into the rental agreement must hold a driver’s licence of an appropriate category, which is valid in Estonia. As a general rule, rental companies do not accept a copy of a driver’s licence or a temporary driver’s licence.

Rental companies may require for you to have at least 2 years’ driving experience. Also, some companies may have established age limits for the minimum or maximum age of a driver. For example, a novice driver’s extra fee may be charged on persons under 25 years of age, and cars are not rented to individuals older than 80 years.

Additionally, some rental companies may ask the lessee to supply some other personal identification document besides a driver’s licence (a passport, ID-card).

What else may affect the rental charges apart from fuel costs?

  • a novice driver’s extra charge or usage by another driver;
  • if the vehicle is not returned to the rental office from where it was originally collected;
  • if the vehicle is returned outside regular opening hours;
  • a separate child seat or some other extras required for the vehicle;
  • crossing a national border;
  • if the vehicle is returned with an empty fuel tank, the rental company may charge you a price considerably higher that you would have had to pay in a regular filling station;
  • if the car has been issued with traffic receipts or parking tickets or has suffered from damages while being in your possession;
  • in some cases, the allowed mileage is restricted and you are asked to pay extra for exceeding the limit on mileage.

Be extra careful when entering into the contract!

When you rent a car in Estonia, the contract is, as a general rule, drawn up in the Estonian language; however, when you visit the offices of international companies you may ask for a contract in English. In Estonia, as in the other European Union Member States, there is no separate legal regulation applicable to car rental contracts, observed by all rental companies, as exists for package travel deals or purchases made over Internet. Therefore, please read the contract carefully and ask the clerk to assist you with any misunderstandings or additional questions.

Don’t sign a contract you don’t completely understand! Take some time to review the contract and ask additional questions on every provision which is unclear or which you don’t comprehend.

Don’t throw away your copy of the contract and don’t forget to ask for a receipt, for evidence of payment. As a general rule, rental companies will ask you to provide your credit card information, so they can credit the rental charges from your account. Therefore, be ready to face the fact that besides the rental charges, the security fee or security for your own liability may be booked up-front for situations in which something goes wrong. Please keep in mind that the amount, booked in addition, may only be released several days after you’ve returned the vehicle. Keep all the receipts and contracts that would provide evidence on the amount settled/agreed upon. Otherwise the company may charge you more than originally agreed.

As you read the contract, it’s very important to read the provisions on insurance or the insurance contract, attached to the rental contract, to ensure that you have the required coverage and to check its validity and amounts! The liability, taken by insurance companies, differs very much according to countries. Usually, car rental is only covered by the most general insurance, which may not cover expenditures incurred in emergency circumstances. Take time to specify what would happen if the insurance does not cover the expenses required to rectify the damages and which are the circumstances to invalidate the insurance. If the insurance coverage is weak or insufficient, ask for additional insurance opportunities. You should also specify whether your insurance includes passenger insurance.

Pay attention to the provisions of the contract, which regulate filling the fuel tank. Should you return the car with an empty fuel tank, you may be fined. If you return the car with full tank, do not forget to keep the receipt as evidence to prove that you’ve filled the tank, in case of misunderstandings. If you were asked to pay a deposit to cover the fuel costs upon renting the car and you return the car with full tank, please see that the deposit will be returned to you.

If you plan to use the rental car to leave the territory of the state where you rented the car, please check whether the contract includes the respective provisions and whether your insurance will be then valid. For example, some rental companies in Estonia may allow you to travel in the Baltic states, in another words, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania; but should you want to leave these countries, you’ll need a separate agreement. For some rental companies the area of use may include the Nordic countries, like Finland, Sweden, etc.

Do specify the issues, related to returning the car, when the offices of the rental company are open to allow the car to be returned in such a way that it will be inspected at your presence to establish the condition of the car.
Pay attention to the fact that usually only the persons indicated in rental contract may drive the car; otherwise your insurance will be invalid.

Upon collecting the rental car
Inspect the rental car thoroughly both inside and out upon receipt. You should notify the rental company of all the damages identified (even scratches on the vehicle’s body) not yet indicated in the rental contract, before you collect the car and ask for the damages to be recorded in writing. If possible, do take some pictures of the damages. Check the fuel level in the tank.

How to proceed in the case of an accident?

  • If you have an accident involving a rental car, proceed exactly as provided in the guidelines, specified in the rental contract.
  • Notify the rental company immediately of the emergency.
  • In the case of serious accidents, don’t take any action or consider the recommendations of third parties prior to the arrival of the police.
  • If damages have been caused to the vehicle, do not allow anybody to commence repairs before you have concluded an agreement with the rental company.
     

What should you consider when returning the vehicle?

Upon returning the vehicle, take some time to inspect it thoroughly both inside and out with the representative of the rental company and ask for an instrument of transfer to be drawn up to establish the condition of the vehicle. If some spaces are left uncompleted, scratch these out to avoid something being inserted in the vacant spaces later.

Try to avoid returning the vehicle outside the regular opening hours of the rental company. Should you return the vehicle outside the regular opening hours of the rental company, you cannot ask the representative of the company to inspect the car with you to record the vehicle’s condition (whether you have filled the tank, whether the vehicle has damages, or whether all the items are present (for example, the child seat), etc.). If this is the case, be ready to be billed for damages of the vehicle that you have not caused.

Should the vehicle have the damages, referred by the rental company, but you are sure these were not caused by you, these may have been made after you left the vehicle at the agreed spot and the representative of the company had not collected it. Unfortunately, you have no way of proving that you did not cause these damages. Therefore, it’s better to avoid such situations.

Filing a complaint

If you have claims against the car rental company and amounts have been discharged on your credit car without giving a clear cause, e.g. you are being accused of damaging the car or you are charged with fuel money although you returned the vehicle with a full tank, file a written complaint with the company immediately. In the complaint, please indicate clearly your claim and a suggested solution to the situation. Never attach the originals of the contract, receipts, etc., to the complaint.

Should the rental company refuse to settle your complaint or you do not agree with the suggested solution, and find that an Estonian trader has violated your rights, it’s worth contacting the European Consumer Centre of Estonia consumer at consumer dot ee.

 

Case-law of the Court of Justice