Airport Car Rentals: Trick or Treat?

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Hopping on a plane and hours later landing somewhere often doesn’t mean that you’ve reached your final destination. A lot of times, the airport is just a stepping stone, taking you further along the way. It is a common practice, however, for people to continue their journey using the airport car rental services readily available on every corner. Rental car companies operate hundreds of offices around the country including at small local as well as major international airports.
When we get off a plane, the first thought racing through our heads is how to quickly pick up our luggage and dash out as fast as possible.

tvol / Foter / CC BY

If your next step is to rent a car, perhaps you need to consider some small but essential details that would make your airport car rental experience easier. Remember, even if you are landing at major international hubs such as LAX or Denver Airport, you can’t assume that all rental car counters would be open 24 hours. Do your homework, do some planning beforehand, because that could save you money and time. That said, here are some other tips to guide you during your travels.

Are same-day reservations possible?

Atomic Taco / Foter / CC BY-SA

In case you decided on a whim to rent a car while still at the airport, you have an option to book it one hour before pickup. Terms and conditions may vary depending on the airport and the rental car company. Most likely, you would be asked to provide more details about your itinerary. The downside of such last-minute reservation may be that you won’t get the car you desire, for there may be limited availability.

What kind of car can I rent?

Most airport car rental companies offer a great variety of models and makes, but when you reach that counter, you’d better have an idea what you want. Think what would suit your needs best. Perhaps driving off Miami Airport in a BMW convertible is the coolest, if you’re planning to do some coast cruising. But if the family is with you and space is all you need, an SUV or a mini-van is your best choice. Keep in mind that you can request a non-smoking vehicle while at the airport, but the rental company usually doesn’t guarantee availability on the spot.

cai~cai~ / Foter / CC BY-NC

Collision Damage Coverage

As unpleasant as it sounds, the CDC is a necessary evil even though it is optional and it can be purchased additionally. Since you are driving somebody else’s car, extra precautions are a must. This coverage is meant to protect you against unexpected damages or theft, fire, hail or flood. If you purchase the plan, in case of an accident, you’d end up paying less for the total cost of car repairs or any additional charges that may occur. The CDC costs $11 a day, but if your billing address is in New York State, it’s $9.


No business loves cancellations, but customers often change their minds. If you decide to cancel your Collision Damage Insurance, you can do it literally up to the very last minute before pickup. If for whatever reason you want to cancel your reservation, the CDC will be cancelled along with it. Then, if you change your mind again and want to rent a car after all, go online and go through the entire process.

I’m not a U.S. resident

Ok, no problem. You can still take advantage of the airport car rental offered at an American airport. Most rental car companies would accept your international driver’s license as long as it’s valid. Also, all major credit cards will do, just make sure it’s your name imprinted there.

I want to drive my rental car outside the U.S.

This could be tricky. If your plans are to drive to Canada or Mexico, you need to check with the rental company you’ve selected. Some may have a problem with it. If they allow you to drive the car outside the States, additional charges may apply. Ask in advance, don’t just drive off the parking lot thinking you are all set and on to a great adventure. Honestly, the border police would be more than inclined to make it an interesting trip for you, but you wouldn’t want any border mishaps, trust me.

Can somebody else drive the rental car?

Even if you haven’t disclosed in your reservation that there would be another driver, you can do it at the airport rental counter. If you are the primary driver, add your co-pilot to the rental agreement. Keep in mind though that he or she needs to be present at the time of the pickup. Just a small formality, but a requirement nevertheless.

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