For many Londoners, the car has been ditched in favour of the bicycle or public transport. But if you want to travel along the A3 to marvel at Henry VIII’s Hampton Palace Court or head even further west to see the famous Crimson Room at Windsor Castle then hiring a car for a day or two might be tempting.
The London car hire business can be a confusing mix of comparison sites, established hire chains and smaller operations. Here is our guide to seven of the best options:
The Comparison Sites: Travel Supermarket and EasyCar
Comparison sites have proliferated with the increasing availability and sophistication of website technology and our love of an easy life. But it is fairly simple for a low quality car hire company to set up a booking screen that rivals the big players putting customers at risk. For a reputable option, try Travel Supermarket, the firm who brought us Money Supermarket, and EasyCar, the grounded sister company of Stelios’s EasyJet.
Based on a 2-day airport pick-up and drop off, Travel Supermarket located the cheapest offers although EasyCar do offer a low price guarantee if you can source a cheaper alternative that is like-for-like. The Travel Supermarket site incorporates a handy budget slider which actually displays the minimum and maximum rental values available. You can also filter results by car type (sports car, 4×4, estate, etc.) and specification (doors, transmission, fuel and air-conditioning).
Both sites have a panel of around a dozen car hire companies giving you a good chance that you will source the type of car you want at a price that suits your budget. It is worth remembering that many of the smaller car hire companies are not featured in the major comparison sites and shopping around can be worth your while if you have the time.
EasyCar includes the ‘EasyCar Club’ private hire facility which enables you to source a private car from any location. Rather than a generic hire model you can choose between options like ‘Shakir’s Honda Civic’ or ‘Helen’s Ford Transit.’
Popular Options: Enterprise and Hertz
Two of the most well-known and reasonably priced car hire companies in London are Enterprise and Hertz. Enterprise, easily recognisable with their green livery, run a number of depots throughout London and even offer a pick-up service if you are unable to make your way to them (or just want to take away one thing to worry about). A two-day economy hire was around the £30 mark, including third party insurance, damage waiver and VAT.
Another well-represented car hire company is Hertz. You will find their yellow signage throughout central London and as far away as Dartford and Finchley. A two-day economy hire was about £40 which matched anything available on EasyCar at the time, although prices and availability should be expected to vary. One nice touch on the Hertz website was the creation of car collections rather than the usual drab drop-down list of models or category types. So if you fancy cruising a Jaguar F-Type down to Bournemouth then you would select the Dream Collection rather than the Family Collection when searching. Hertz also offer a loyalty scheme so presumably regular hirers will be able to get some really special deals.
International Prestige: Sixt
With a presence in over a hundred countries, the orange and black of Sixt will be a familiar site to expats who like to recognise the brands they use in London. Sixt have a fascinating history that predates the First World War, and have come a long way from an initial three cars for hire in Munich, Germany in 1912! Sixt are not the cheapest car hire company in London – a two-day economy hire came up at over £30 a day – but that did include unlimited free miles. Customers can make savings by paying in advance but they will lose their right to free amendments and cancellation with that option.
Local Strength: Kendall Cars
If you prefer to honour the old way of doing things and hire from an established London car hire firm where the MD isn’t averse to rolling up his sleeves and washing a motor then try Kendall Cars. Kendall have been operating since 1969 and boast a fleet of over 1,300 cars. Kendall Cars operate from Kingston, Wandsworth and Wimbledon but offer a meet-and-greet service from the London airports. Their depots are conveniently placed near the London Underground stations. They also promote the fact that they offer consistent pricing with no hidden extras.
Budget Option: Atlas Choice
Another international firm, Atlas Choice were the hands down winners for an economy two-day hire with a Hyundai i10 costing just £22 for the full period which included collision waiver, 24 hour cover, third party insurance and VAT. That’s not to say that you can’t get a high-spec model with Atlas Choice, since their most expensive car was a whopping £600 plus for the same period.
The devil is in the detail
When hiring a car in London it is crucial to read the small print carefully as differences in what is included can outweigh the often negligible differences in hire price.
Fuel policy is a huge factor. Some companies include the price for fuel in the hire cost which can mean you lose out if you aren’t travelling far. In this case you might benefit from a policy whereby you start off with a full tank and have to deliver it back full.
The type of insurance included, as well as any damage excesses are worth considering carefully, as it may be worth paying a little extra in hire costs to reduce the financial risk of an accident. Some policies also include windscreen damage cover.
Other inclusions you might want to consider adding to your package are booster seats for children and SatNav systems. As you can imagine, the potential for quotes to quickly rack up is high.
Finally, with VAT at 20 per cent you should be wary of quotes that don’t include VAT.