Lean towards big companies for a better deal

After reading horror stories of rip-offs, I would like your advice. We will be a party of six hiring a car from, and returning it to, Pisa, Italy. We have been advised to hire a diesel car due to petrol prices. Which company do you recommend and what precautions should we take to make sure that we are not penalised months later on one of our credit cards?

- A. Jones, Brooklyn, NSW.

I prefer to hire vehicles from the big multinational operators for that very reason. They live and die by their reputation. Also, you can make your booking through their Australian offices and if anything does go wrong, they can be held to account.

Diesel is a good choice and you will save on running costs. A party of six travelling together in one vehicle might be a squeeze. Even with modest amounts of luggage, a people-mover might not be big enough. Splitting your group between two smaller vehicles may be more comfortable and give you flexibility if some want to do different things.

According to Compare Car Rentals UK (compare.carrentals.co.uk), you could hire two four-door compacts such as VW Golfs for about the same price as a people mover. Book well in advance to secure the best deal.