Renting a car should be a no brainer. Yet, how many times have you returned the rental at a different location, after getting carried away by the pleasant emotion of a fleeting vacation; or a stressful business trip; or just because it was most convenient?
Or forgot to fill up the tank upon return and had to pay a hefty price? Or got in an accident with the rental car and did not know what to do about it; or let your boyfriend/girlfriend drive without having listed them as a second driver, and when the fender-bender happened your insurance raised hell?
Well, nobody is insured against such misdeeds. The bottom line, though, is to familiarize yourself with the terms and conditions of the rental company. Most of the time companies keep rules pretty straightforward, but do not assume – contact them with any questions you may have.
Check out this compilation of frequently asked questions. Be aware that the list does not end here.
Will you check my driving record?
Well, yes. Most companies would contact the issuing Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), and if they are not impressed with your driving history, they may deny you rental. You better not have any convictions of reckless driving or DUI in the past 4 years; two or three accidents within the last 36 months, or leaving the scene of an accident, to name a few unacceptable activities. Above all, make sure your license has not expired.
Do I need to pay a deposit?
Most likely. The deposit will vary depending on the in-house rules, type of car or the type of payment.
Can somebody else drive the car I am renting?
In most cases, yes. The same license validity check applies, and sometimes there is an age requirement. You have to add the second driver when you go to pick up your car. He or she has to be present, and be ready to show the required credentials. In some states you may have to pay between $3 and $65 a day for your co-pilot; in others it’s free.
Will I be charged late-return fees?
Vehicles are rented on a daily 24-hour basis. Many companies allow you a grace period after the set return time, so you do not need to pay extra. Other companies will charge you a full day if you are late by one-and-a-half hours. Some will impose a flat fee for any delay and charge you daily. The best thing to do is check beforehand, but even better – try not to be late.
Can I change the return location?
You signed a rental agreement where you indicated the drop-off location. Most companies would have no problem with that, but you still need to notify them in advance.
What should I do in case of a car accident?
Companies certainly do not want to think of a such possibility on the road, but life happens.
Nevertheless, you need to be prepared and, before you sign, check what are the regulations, because they may differ depending on the size and location of the rent-a-car company. Act as you would in any other similar situation – call 911, fill out an accident report form and call the company for instructions what to do next. Do not panic, accidents happen even to the most experienced and careful drivers.
Do you permit pets in the car?
Certainly. Pets can travel in the rental just as they do in your own car. Most companies would not ask for a deposit of some kind, but in case of a damage or an accident that requires special cleaning of the interior, you would be expected to cover the expenses.
Can I smoke in the rental car?
Nowadays, many companies have a pretty stringent non-smoking policy. In some instances, customers will be asked to pay an additional fee if the car smells of smoke. Some of the company’s agents may inspect the car for evidence of smoking – lingering odor, ash smeared on the upholstery or the floor; cigarettes or cigar butts; burns, etc. If a violation of the non-smoking policy is detected, the customer may be charged up to $250, or more.