Car Hire Champion and creator of moneymaxim.co.uk. Mark is an expert in the Car Hire industry.
Following the eruption of Eyjafajallajokull in 2010 and the widespread disruption it caused to travel, we answer the question of how to protect your car rental plans against an active and, potentially, threatening volcano.
There are ways to ensure an eruption does not both disrupt your holiday and result in loss of money too.
Should you not be able to travel to your holiday destination due to a volcanic eruption do cancel reservations for accommodation and car hire as soon as you become aware of the situation. With car hire you may find your booking does not allow cancellation, in which case you are unlikely to be able to reclaim your deposit or prior payment. However it is always worth talking to your rental firm as in situations such as this sometimes special arrangements are put in place as companies look to gain the high moral ground.
In most 'free cancellation' cases, you can normally cancel up to 3 days prior to the time of pick up, meaning if the volcano erupted two days before you picked up your car, you may still have to pay. Even if there is not a risk of an eruption, unforeseen events may happen that mean you have to cancel you hire, and for this reason, I advise that every time you do book a car try to get a policy that includes free cancellation cover as this will ultimately reduce the chance of financial loss for you.
If you look to your travel insurance to protect you against loss should you need to cancel your car hire, check that it has volcanic ash cover. Many travel insurance policies do not have protection against ash, and require a add-on policy, there are some that do however. moneymaxim's page on volcanic ash cover will provide policies that will cover any disruption cause by an volcano. Please note, however, if you do buy a policy after an eruption has occurred, a lot of insurers will call it a known event and your cover could be seen as invalid. In summary, I would spend a little time checking your travel insurance to see whether it does include cover against volcanic ash, and if it is a worry for you consider purchasing a policy which does.
Following the eruption in 2010, many people found slight erosion to the paintwork on their cars, whilst others who tried to wash off the ash ended up scratching the paintwork. If a volcano does erupt whilst you are on your travels and you have a hire car, then you may find you face a rather hefty bill if the paintwork on your car is damaged, even if it is due to volcanic ash and couldn't be helped.
Generally, neither car hire excess insurance or standard Collision Damage Waiver policies cover against volcanic ash damage, for this reason, I suggest when hiring your car you look into the specific policies which are available locally. In high risk areas (sometimes called Sand and Ash cover). Do be aware that gravel cover, which covers chips thrown up from the road is a separate insurance, and, as long as you are on a public highway would duplicate cover from a [compare-car-hire-excess-insurance](car hire excess insurance policy).
I cannot stress enough to check the policy details of all your insurance and car hire arrangements, by doing this and being aware of the cover you have, you will know whether the purchase of additional insurance makes sense.
Any questions? Why not 'Ask Mark'?