An immobilisation fee is charged by car hire companies when a vehicle is damaged and needs to be taken off the road for repairs to be carried out. The basic insurance cover included for the rental does not incorporate the immobilisation of the car due to damage.
Why Have I Been Charged an Immobilisation Fee?
If your hire car is damaged during your rental period, whether in an accident, by vandalism, or a mechanical problem, and has to be taken to a garage for repair, they will try to recoup the money they have lost by not being able to rent out the vehicle. The immobilisation fee is charged on top of the cost of the repairs and is applicable whether or not the damage was your fault.
How is the Amount of the Immobilisation Fee Decided?
For serious damage, such as might be caused by a collision, the car will usually be taken directly to a repairer for the damage to be assessed. The repair estimate will also include a timescale for the repairs to be carried out. The Immobilisation fee is the cost per day of the company's lost revenue for the car.
Where there is minor damage, and you continue to drive the vehicle, the damage will be noted when you return it at the end of the hire. You will normally accompany a staff member while they inspect the vehicle, and sign a vehicle report to agree to any damage found.
If you are not present for the vehicle inspection, or non-apparent damage is found subsequently, you will be notified of the charges that will be imposed. In either event, the rental company should send you the following:
- An accident report if applicable, and the vehicle return report with details of the identified damage.
- Photographs of the damage.
- The estimate of the costs of repair, the administration fees, and the immobilisation fees.
You will generally have 14 days to contest the damages or the cost of the repairs. However, you will have to justify your rejection.
How Much is the Immobilisation Fee?
The immobilisation fee can vary depending on the rental company. Some will charge the seasonal daily rate for the car. This means that the fee will be much higher if the car is off the road during the peak seasons, such as Christmas or summer holidays than it would at quieter times. Other companies charge a fixed daily rate which may be an average for the year.
How Can I Avoid an Immobilisation Fee?
You can avoid the immobilisation fee by buying additional insurance for the car hire. You would need to check that the fee is covered under the policy. Alternatively, you can take out a hire car insurance policy with a third-party insurer.
You can buy insurance for a single rental or, if you hire regularly, an annual policy. This will cover you for any damage, excess fees, and any costs, including the immobilisation fee, related to an accident or incident during your car hire period.
When you collect your rental car, check the vehicle inside and out and take photographs of any damage. That will prevent you from being held to account for any pre-existing damage.
During the hire, drive safely and don't breach the terms of the rental agreement by, for example, taking the car off road or allowing an unauthorised person to drive. Such actions are not covered by insurance.