car rental tips
Car Rentals

Car Rental Tips

Car rental rates can be just as tough to understand as airfares. We can help you become informed so that renting a car stays a simple and pleasant experience. Keep informed about the ins and outs of renting a car, and save time and money the next time you travel.

Online Booking Tips

Before You Rent
Before you rent you need to ask yourself >>
How long will you be renting? If it's for less than a week, you'll probably do best with a major company, such as Alamo, Avis, Budget, Dollar, Enterprise, Hertz, National, or Thrifty. For rentals of a week or longer, you may get better rates from small local rental companies operating out of garages. Be wary of local companies if you plan to drive a lot; if you break down or have an accident, they usually lack the support services of the majors.

Total Car Rental Bill
The Basic Rate / Base Rental Car rate
The rate you see advertised in big print may not include
  • sales taxes
  • airport surcharges
  • additional driver fees
  • insurance
  • gasoline bills
  • drop-off charges
  • vehicle license fees
  • miscellaneous surcharges
Some of this you may end up paying if you don't watch out for the fine print. Also, the advertised rate may be valid only in off season, when many cars are idle there, but not where you want to rent.


Choosing the right Rental Car
If you're a frequent traveler, you know that the major rental car companies have special programs that qualify repeat customers for discounts, greater choice of vehicles and faster service. For those who travel only occasionally, however, it's a good idea to compare rates based on the type of car you want (mid size, full size, van, SUV and the like) and the location and dates of your trip. Although the major agencies have largely homogeneous rental car fleets, if you want a specific model check on its availability before you make a reservation. And if you're seeking an exotic car or anything more luxurious than a Lincoln Town Car you'll need to call around well in advance.

You can get some of the best rates by renting online.

Service is another consideration >> If you previously had a good experience with a car rental agency because of their efficient service or willingness to get you into a specific vehicle, use them again. Smaller, independently owned companies might be appealing because of their ultra low rates or the availability of hard to find, exotic vehicles. You should, however, research these companies thoroughly before making a reservation. Find out what kind of roadside assistance the company offers; if the rental vehicle breaks down, you don't want to be in the position of having to pay for towing out your own pocket. In addition, make sure that you plan around the agency's operating hours. Consideration of all of these factors can help make a large difference in your overall rental car experience.

Taxes and Airport Surcharges
Airport Taxes and Surcharges vary from state to state, airport to airport and are additional expenses that can increase your overall car rental bill substantially. "Off airport" car rentals may mean lower surcharges for you.


Car Rental Coverages and Insurance
Rental car companies have a menu of insurance policies that they would like to sell you. While in theory, each policy could be of some benefit under the right circumstances, you should review each plan (and all of its provisions, limitations and exclusions) before making a purchase. You'll need to request this information over the phone or at the rental office, as the major companies only provide a summary on their Web sites.

Check to see if your personal or business car insurance covers you in a rental car. This will save you worry and money. Some upper level credit cards (like american express personal green card ) have rental car coverage, too. Your personal or corporate auto insurance may cover Collision Damage Waiver (CDW), Loss Damage Waiver (LDW) or Physical Damage Waiver (PDW). It may also cover Personal Accident Insurance (PAI), Personal Effects Coverage (PEC) and Additional Liability Insurance (ALI). It's very important to consult your credit card, policy and/or your insurance agent to verify coverage. This is especially important if you're going to rent a expensive car or suv that exceeds the value of your insured vehicle.

Weekly Rates Vs. Daily Rates
It is always good policy to stick with the dates and time period you have reserved. If you're not sure when you will be returning a car because you may have to stay longer, it may be much better to reserve in advance for a longer time and return it early than pay the "premium daily rates" for returning a car a few days late. Typically, you're not penalized for returning it early, however this is not true across the board. Some companies may recalculate your rental rate based on current daily rates, which may be much higher than when you reserved.


Gas Option Plans
Rental companies generally offer you the option of either paying for a tank of gas in advance (at a self serve rate) and bringing the vehicle back empty or refueling it yourself. The reduced price rental agencies offer is usually within pennies per gallon of the market rate, and unless you coast in with a completely empty gas tank upon return, you wind up paying for gas you don't use. Be sure to return the car with the tank full, though, because the refueling fees are exorbitant; however, if you think you won't have enough time to fill the car before returning it, then the pre paid gas option could be useful.

Child Safety Seats
Most car companies offer child safety seats. Since there may be limited availability of these you should reserve these well in advance. Be aware that at some locations, the rental car company may not guarantee that a child seat will be waiting for you upon arrival.

Check the state laws for where you are traveling as car seat laws differ from state to state

Hertz "Buckle Up Baby" can take the worry out of installing an unfamiliar car seat! They have teamed with the National Safety Council and have trained car seat installers on hand.


Drop Off Charges
An extra fee is usually charged if a car is returned to a different location than where it was picked up. This fee varies by location. In some instances there is no charge, at others it can be very high (sometimes 100 times your rental) if you drop the car off a long distance from where you picked it up at.

Additional Drivers
In most cases, you will need to list additional drivers on your contract at the time of car rental pick up. Some companies will allow your spouse to drive at no additional cost, but check first. If someone else drives the car without the rental car agency's permission your contract maybe voided for protection and even claims against your personal insurance coverage.

Rental Car Return
Since car rental rates run on a 24 hour clock, you will incur extra charges even if you're only an hour late in returning a vehicle. The hourly rental rate is usually one third of the daily rate, so if you're three to four hours late, you've tacked on another day's charges to the total car rental bill.

Be wary of returning the car early. It could be expensive because your rate structure may change. Also be sure the check in attendant inspects the car's body in your presence and that you agree about any damage. Examine your rental agreement carefully for all charges and make sure they credit any deposit to your account while you wait and get a copy of the final bill for your records.

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