guide to car hire terms and jargon

Car Hire Glossary: fuel policy and car rental insurance terms, explained

If you’ve never hired a car before – or you haven’t rented one for a while – you might not be familiar with the car hire terms that are included in most policies and rental agreements.

As a trusted car hire company in the Reading and Newbury area, we go out of our way to ensure that your customers understand their rental agreements. 

In this helpful guide, we’ll explain some of the most commonly used car hire jargon so that you can relax, knowing exactly what you’ve signed up for. 

The importance of understanding car hire terms

It is absolutely vital that you understand the wording contained within your car hire rental agreement. These rental car terms – which might seem like jargon – form part of a legally binding contract between the hiring company and you.

In addition to the legal aspect, you need to understand the policies of your chosen car rental company because:  

  1. You want to avoid the possibility of unexpected charges

If you don’t fully understand certain phrases in your rental agreement, there is the potential risk that you could agree to terms that result in hidden charges. 

Example: if you don’t understand the wording around the hire company’s fuel policy, you may end up being charged extra for your fuel consumption.

  1. You should choose a car hire option that suits your needs

It is important that you select the right rental solution for your requirements. 

Example: if you are planning on travelling a substantial distance during your hire period, you need to go for a hire company where you won’t get extortionate charges for exceeding their average daily mileage cap. 

Common car hire terms explained 

The following terms are usually included in policy documents as well as rental agreements. The car hire rental agreement lays out the conditions of your rental, including the car, details of the fuel policy, additional named drivers and any extra equipment that you’re hiring such as sat-navs or child seats. There will also be details of when and where you need to drop the vehicle off at the end of your hire period.

We’ve put together a car hire glossary, featuring the most commonly used terms from the world of vehicle rental:

Additional Driver: 

If you decide that someone other than the named ‘main driver’ (see below) should have the option of driving, they need to be added as an ‘additional driver’ prior to your hire commencing. It is likely that your party will be required to pay extra, per day, for any additional driver/s, however, there is also a convenience to having flexibility about who drives.

Collision Damage Waiver (CDW): 

CDW is an optional insurance extra that limits the amount you must pay, in the event that the hire car is damaged during your rental. The most you will be required to pay is the specified excess. CDW only relates to damaged bodywork – it does not extend to tyres, windows, overhead height damage or the interior of the vehicle. CDW does not apply, if you are proven to have acted negligently.  

Excess / Insurance Excess: 

The ‘excess’ refers to the amount you will be required to pay in the event of damage or theft. CDW limits what you’ll pay for accidental bodywork damage.

Full to Full Fuel Policy

‘Full to full’ means that you must return the hire car with a full tank of fuel, as it was when you collected it. This is because fuel prices fluctuate, so it can be tricky to charge fuel back or issue a refund. A full fuel tank keeps things simple.  We do not do this – return with what fuel was in the vehicle.

Main Driver:

The ‘main driver’ is the person whose name the hire car is booked in. Only the main driver has the authority to make changes to the confirmed booking. Even if you have an additional driver, the main driver must be the one to leave the deposit and give their credit card details. 

Mileage cap: 

A ‘mileage cap’ specifies the maximum number of miles you can drive the vehicle throughout your hire period. Sometimes this is broken down into a daily average. Please note: if you exceed the total mileage limit, it is likely that you will be charged extra.


An upgrade refers to having the option of renting a larger or more deluxe vehicle than the one you initially reserved. This may incur additional fees.

Hopefully we have clarified some of the most common rental car terms and jargon. If you do hear or see anything that you’re unsure of, please do ask. Your car hire professional should be able to clarify any wording that is hard to understand. 

We make car hire simple

Here at Caversham Vehicle Hire, we go out of our way to avoid causing any confusion for our customers. Our prices are always competitive and transparent, with no hidden fees. However, we are obligated to use official language for our car hire rental agreement – read our terms and conditions.

For car and van hire in Reading, Newbury and the surrounding areas, please contact us today on:

READING: 0118 947 6500 

NEWBURY: 01635 44519