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Excess...

No, not extra helpings of pud and an overindulgence in red wine.

This kind of excess is (potentially) more expensive and a cause of worry. Insurance excess. Probably not so much for your everyday car insurance, but what about when you go abroad? Hiring a car is often a convenient way to get around, but there's always that moment as you pick up your wheels when you realise that the tiniest bump or scrape could really cost you. Scanning the documents, the excess appears to be set at £750. And they look like the kind of people to make a song and dance about the tiniest bump or scrape. You consider the probabilities. You never crash, but on unfamiliar roads with different rules, devil-may-care drivers and all driving down the 'wrong' side of the road. You hesitate.

The receptionist offers you excess waiver for a small fee. Do you? Don't you? That 'small' fee could buy dinner for two at the swanky restaurant up the road from your apartment. Are you being paranoid? Scammed? Sensible? Or profligate? Your hand wavers over the box. It does seem an awful lot of money for 'peace of mind'. But then an excess of £750 seems pretty steep too, that could really cramp your holiday style.

But wait!

If this is a familiar dilemma, you could probably save money and still not have to worry about the excess. An annual excess policy could cover all the cars you hire, all year, for a very similar amount. For instance, a policy covering £750 excess (and covering the excess on worldwide car hire as well as your standard motor insurance) would cost less than £60 a year. That would cover hiring the van to shift that sofa, a couple of holiday hire cars a year, or the insurance excess if you decide to join a car club.

A car club? Well, yes. Joining a car club is like self-service car hire. You have access to car club vehicles 24/7. You book online and can access the car using your membership card and pin number. Car clubs are popular in cities like London where parking is a nightmare - and growing in cities and towns across the UK (have a look at this map to find out if there's a car club car near you). They also make a great way of avoiding buying a second car that gets used infrequently.

Car clubs generally bill you once a month for actual usage (from as little as half an hour up to day-long hires). The club takes care of all the maintenance and admin associated with running a car - including the insurance - which makes them a very convenient form of transport. As with most insurance, car club cars are covered but with a fairly hefty excess (for instance City Car Club and Zipcar excess is £750, whilst Co-wheels is £250 with more for younger drivers).

Avoiding the excess is pretty simple these days. Get over to www.directexcess.co.uk and save money now. Then get on and book your holiday, join a car club and stop worrying...

First published on Diary of a serial car lover, the blog of Direct Gap.

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