Not getting the right information about the possible pitfalls when renting a car could hurt you in two major ways: you end up paying more than budgeted and put a bitter end to an otherwise perfect trip.
Renting a car should be a pretty straightforward activity, yet so many people fall into traps through their own ignorance. Most of the time we guess, presuppose and fail to read the small print. Thus we never bother to ask the company’s representative simple questions because we think we know all the answers. Later on though, such an attitude turns out to be quite costly. Consider the following tips:
Should I rent a car at the airport?
In most cases, it is cheaper to rent a car at an off-airport location. It is not a secret that many states and municipalities impose higher taxes and user fees on airport rentals that would make you pay more. What you can do is use the airport shuttle, your hotel shuttle or some kind of public transportation to get to the city and find an office of your chosen rent-a-car company there. On your way back to the airport, however, you can use the airport as a drop-off location and get there with the rented car instead of a taxi. It will save you some money.
It is the most natural thing for a rental car representative to try to sell you insurance at any cost. To be on the safe side, check whether your car insurance covers rentals. If you possess Visa, MasterCard, American Express or Discover credit cards, you should be insured against all possible road accidents while driving a rental. So don’t pay twice, just check your coverage beforehand.
Most of the time it is fair to assume that small and big businesses would play it nice and square, and they do. But sometimes, when they misjudge you for a rookie, or see that you are one, they may try to rip you off. Thoroughly inspect the offered car before you sign the paperwork. Some customers even take pictures, so upon return, if the rental company tries to falsely accuse them of causing any visible damages, they can show the pictures as proof. Let’s hope it never comes to that, but it’s not an impossible scenario.
Usually, when you rent a car, you get it with the tank filled to the brim. Therefore, you are expected to return it the same way. Quite often though, still reliving the pleasant emotions from the trip or stressing out over something, we forget. If you forget, the rental company may charge you between $7.50 – $11 per gallon. Nowadays, you can take advantage of another option that some companies offer: prepaid gasoline. You pay for a full tank up front, and try to bring the car back with the tank as empty as possible. Prices of prepaid gasoline are even lower than pump prices. But here comes the tiny hiccup – if you return the car with a gallon or two in the tank, you could be charged for breach of the agreement to return it full and end up being overcharged again. Make a mental note on where the reasonable prices near the airport are, or compare prices on the Internet: GasBuddy.com or GasPriceWatch.com.
Potential Extra Charges
This is like a category for “miscellaneous mistakes”. You should be proactive and ask if there are any additional charges if: a) you cross the border of another state and it is not allowed per your contract with the rental company; b) you put some unregulated extra miles on the car, and that goes against a clause in the contract; c) you returned the rental at the wrong location than the one indicated initially.
Ultimately, don’t be late. Some companies may charge you an extra day even if you are late a couple of hours. It is not correct on their part, for they should prorate and charge you accordingly. Stay alert on that one.
The +1 Driver Rule
It is advisable that you let the rental company know in advance if you are not going to be the only driver of the rented car. This could save you a splitting headache in the long run. If you got into an accident and your co-pilot was driving without being listed in the lease, you will have a great problem with your insurance company. Some companies charge a little something for the +1 driver, others – do not. Make sure you ask in advance.