Renting a car is a common practice for vacation goers, offering a convenient way to explore different locations with ease. However, as with any transaction, there are potential pitfalls and traps to be aware of when renting a car. Having worked for a car rental company, I’ve picked up a lot of hacks that can help you save time, money, and generally make the process of renting a car much easier. In this article, I will share 21 rental car tips to help you avoid these common pitfalls.
1. Ditch the travel agent.
Many people believe that using a travel agent to book a rental car is the best way to go. However, travel agents often earn their money through commissions, meaning they make more money if you book an expensive rental car. Instead, it’s easy to book a car rental by yourself online.
2. Book early to save.
As with airfare and accommodation, the prices for rental cars usually increase the closer you get to your rental date. This is especially true during high demand times such as holidays. Booking in advance guarantees you the best possible rates and choice of vehicles.
3. Compare and find a deal.
Comparison websites are a great resource for finding rental car deals. By using one of these websites, you can compare all the major rental companies against one another on the same screen, finding the cheapest possible deal. Just make sure you use a comparison site that does not charge a booking or cancelation fee.
4. Avoid airport rental centers.
Did you know that rental cars at an airport cost more than the same vehicle at a city depot? This is because airports charge rental car companies a premium for rental desk space, which is then passed on to customers as a convenience fee. Compare the price of airport and downtown locations to save on rental costs.
5. Fill up before you drop off.
Before returning your rental car, make sure you fill up the tank. Failure to do so could result in a charge of up to double the regular pump price, in addition to an administration fee.
6. Consider the environment.
Choosing an economical car or hybrid can save you a significant amount of money in fuel costs. Selecting a smaller car will also make it easier to navigate many destinations.
7. Don’t pay in advance.
Book through a supplier or comparison site that does not require payment in advance. You can make multiple bookings and choose the best deal closer to your rental date.
8. Take photos of any damage.
Before leaving the rental depot, take photos of any damage to the car. This documentation will protect you from unexpected charges during return.
9. Look at your insurance options.
Insurance can vary by location, but most rental cars come with a basic level of coverage that includes an excess of several thousand dollars in the event of an accident. You will likely be offered additional coverage or a waiver, but don’t overlook coverage already provided through travel insurance or credit cards.
10. Try different rental lengths.
Suppliers frequently offer special rates for various lengths of rentals. Sometimes it might make sense to rent a car for four days instead of three, as the cost could be cheaper.
11. Keep your schedule in mind.
Suppliers charge in 24-hour blocks, so if you’re arriving in the afternoon, make your booking starting at that time. Additionally, suppliers usually have a grace period that includes an additional 29 or 59 minutes as a late return window. However, if you know you’ll be late returning the vehicle, call the rental company to avoid fees.
12. Bring your GPS and baby seats.
The cost to rent GPS units and baby seats from rental companies can be substantial. Instead, consider buying those items at your destination for a fraction of the cost, and sell or donate them once you’re finished with the rental.
13. Consider $1 relocation deals.
Suppliers will occasionally offer relocation deals where they need to move a vehicle from one location to another. Taking advantage of these deals can offer significant savings as they often cover fuel costs.
14. Use rewards points.
Most rental companies have agreements with airlines or other rewards programs to earn points or miles. Use these programs to maximize your rewards.
15. Check the fuel policy.
Different rental companies have different fuel policies, some offering full tank and return empty while others require a full tank return. Make sure you understand the policy before renting.
16. Avoid one-way rentals.
One-way rental fees can be expensive, so if possible, book a return rental to minimize additional costs.
17. Carefully read the rental agreement.
Before signing the rental agreement, be sure to read the terms and conditions carefully. Pay attention to any fees or additional requirements, such as an age requirement for drivers or additional fees for additional drivers.
18. Take advantage of discounts.
Discounts can be available for seniors, frequent travelers, military members, and more. Check with the rental companies for potential savings opportunities.
19. Join a loyalty program.
Many rental companies offer loyalty programs that provide discounts and other perks such as free upgrades or access to exclusive partner offers.
20. Return the car on time.
Returning the rental car late can result in additional fees or an additional day’s rental. Avoid the extra expenses by being on time.
21. Keep it clean.
Rental companies can charge a cleaning fee for returning excessively dirty cars. Avoid these fees by keeping the car clean during your rental period.
In conclusion, renting a car comes with several traps and pitfalls, but with these helpful tips, you can save time, money, and reduce stress. By following these insights, you’ll get the best deal on your rental car, enjoy optimal insurance coverage, and be confident that you’re able to handle any situation that arises. Happy traveling!