5 Must-Know Car Rental Tips

May 27, 2011
The economic downturn may have unintended consequences. Not being able to afford that new, more reliable vehicle means it’s more economical to rent the appropriate car, truck or SUV for a weekend getaway, road trip, or for a vehicle with extra room for moving or a home renovation job.

Whatever your reason, there are simple steps you can take to make sure that your car rental experience is easy on you, and as easy on your pocket book as possible.

Shop online

Do your homework on price. And remember that once you have checked the normal travel websites try going directly to the car rental sites. You may find a weekend special rate or other discounts that either haven’t been posted yet, or simply aren’t available on travel web sites.

Here are more considerations to take into account:

  • Check to see which taxes, surcharges, and other fees you will be required to pay.
  • With the high price of gas, use FuelEconomy.gov when comparing which make and model to rent. In this case, smaller may be better.
  • This is a good time to ask if there are restrictions where you can take the car. Your “unlimited mileage” may not include crossing some state lines.
  • When you arrive to pick up your vehicle it doesn’t hurt to ask if an upgrade is available. You may be given one at no charge or for a minimal fee just because you asked.

Do your homework on the insurance issue

No one likes to pay a pricey premium for the optional Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) coverage. But even worse is having no insurance coverage at all. That’s why you need to do your homework before you pick up your rental car.

Check with your existing insurance company to see if your personal auto insurance covers rental cars. You should also verify what, if any coverage is available through your credit card company. When not sure about personal coverage, you may want to pay for the optional CDW. Its high cost is a bargain if you end up in an accident.

Do the walk-around inspection

When you pick up the rental car you’re given a sheet of paper where you can make note of existing damage, dents, and scrapes. Complete this before you drive away. It will help avoid later disputes. The rent-a-car employees are providing you with an option that allows you to protect yourself. Why not use it?

Don’t get a ticket

Civic violations can come back to haunt you in more ways than one. If you get a parking ticket or blow through a toll booth while renting a car, it can take two, three, and even four or five months before all the fees and charges are added to your bill. And the car rental company may add their own punitive fees on top of the civic penalty. This is a complication you don’t need.

If you do get a ticket never think, “Ah, what the heck, I’ll throw this parking ticket away and hope I never see it again.” Instead, be smart and pay it off immediately.

Check your bill

You’ll receive a receipt immediately after dropping off the rental car. It’s important to check it to make sure the numbers match your expectations. But don’t forget to watch for future bills that may hold surprises in the coming months.

More than one consumer has been surprised by a variety of additional fees and charges added to their bill well after they returned the vehicle. You can’t fight it if you don’t check your bill.

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