It Pays to Read the Fine Print on Your Rental Car Contract

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It seems like we are bombarded with so much paperwork these days that it’s become a habit to sign contracts without even reading what they say. And while that’s not a big deal in many situations, you should at least glance through a rental car contract so that you know the rules you are agreeing to adhere to. Now if there’s a huge line behind you at the counter, you can probably go ahead and sign the contract and read it in the rental car lot, since they are not going to let you rent without signing the contract anyway. So let’s take a look at a few lesser known items that are part of many contracts, and that could be expensive if you violate them, even unknowingly.

One common prohibition is driving off-road or on unpaved roads. While that might not be an option if you are renting a Toyota Corolla, just because you have an SUV doesn’t mean you can test out the four-while drive in the back country. And while it might be difficult for the rental car company to know if you take a car off-road, they will surely find out if the vehicle breaks down or is damaged while not on a paved road.

Another common one is additional drivers. Generally speaking, you need to inform the rental car company (and sometimes pay an additional fee) if there are going to be other drivers other than the person who signed the rental agreement. This even applies to spouses. Again, there’s a chance the rental company will never find out about an unauthorized driver, but if there’s an accident or other incident then they are going to know and could charge you extra or void any insurance coverage you have with the vehicle.

Finally, make sure you read the fine print to see if there are limitations to the unlimited mileage that you will probably get with your car. Sometimes there are exceptions and extra fees if you drive the car outside of the state or states listed in the contract. This can also apply to Canada. In this situation, the rental car companies can often find out by the GPS system on the car (regardless of whether you paid extra for the GPS navigation) or if you go through any automated toll booths. The extra fees for this can be steep, so ask questions and read the contract. These are just a few more ways to help you save money when you rent a car at

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