Car hire remains one of the weakest links in the travel chain. It should come as little surprise that more than one in four travellers (28%) in a new survey claimed to have spotted damage that wasn’t recorded on the sheet handed them at check out. Six per cent said that after they retuned their vehicles they had been wrongly accused of causing damage. These statistics serve as a sharp reminder to inspect the vehicle meticulously before driving it away – mentioning the tiniest mark or dent if it's not shown on the sheet and even looking at the wheels and tyres. It would be only a slight exaggeration to suggest using a magnifying glass. The survey reminded me of an experience at Calgary Airport when I was informed that the four wheel drive vehicle I had booked well in advance – at significant expense – was not available. I was visiting five different ski resorts quick succession and a conventional front wheel drive just wouldn’t have cut it. Cue controlled rant. I believe I told the employee at the desk they would get me one if they had top go out and steal it. He then said there was a 4x4 I could take – but it hadn’t been cleaned. With bad grace, I gave in. When I returned the vehicle they pointed to some tiny pockmarks on the windscreen – for which I might be charged. The damage hadn’t been there when I drove the vehicle away, they claimed. But the windscreen had been so dirty I could hardly have checked, Foolish, maybe, but I had just flown in from London, was tired, and had a long drive to my hotel. I refused to sign anything – and nothing came of it but was left fuming. More recently I found on checking my credit card that a rental firm in Sicily and docked the full excess of £750 for a couple of tiny scratches you would have rubbed out with T-Cut on your own car. Call me an old cynic but I don’t believe they would have bothered to send the car to a body shop, waiting instead for some other unfortunate customer to return it with more minor damage – and upping their rake off to £1500. The survey I mentioned above was commissioned from YouGov by icarinsurance.com, which covers drivers against the often heavy excess fees charged by rental firms. Since the Sicilian trip I’ve used Insurance4carehire, though I’ve not yet needed to make a claim.