Top 10 Tips for Renting a Car for your Next Travel

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Top Ten Tips for Car Renting Podcast

If you are traveling, renting a car can be a great option. However, the process can feel quite intimidating. Follow these ten tips to ensure that you get the absolute best deal and to make sure you are getting the car that is right for you and your trip.

1. Determine What You Need

Think about the size of car you will need. Think about how many people will be traveling in the car and how much luggage you will have. Ask yourself whether you need an automatic transmission or if you prefer a manual.

2. Compare

Compare for Renting a Car

Make sure you shop around to get the best deal. Check out which car rental places are located in the area you are traveling to and get a quote from each one. Websites like AutoSlash will give you quotes for several different rental car companies with just one click.

The US has three major car rental companies; Enterprise, Avis, and Hertz.  These rental car companies all have other smaller holdings. Enterprise owns Alamo and National. Hertz owns Thrifty and Dollar. And, Avis owns Budget, Zipcar, and Payless.

3. Book Early

It is a good idea to book your rental car as soon as you know your travel plans. Always, keep checking the rates as often times they come down as the date comes closer.

4. Don’t Prepay

Because rates tend to drop as the pickup date comes, don’t prepay.  While the prepaid fares look cheaper at the moment, they may not be as good of a deal as you can get.

5. Fill Up the Tank

Fill Up the Car Tank

While it feels much more convenient to return the car on empty and have the rental car company fill it up, it can be a pricey service.  If you bring back the car with less than a half of tank the rental car company will most likely tack on any fees that will make the tank of gas about 3 to 4 times more expensive than it would have been at the local gas station.

Some rental car companies offer a prepaid gas service.  This means that they will fill the tank at a lower rate.  However, to really make this a worthwhile option you would have to return the car completely empty.  Always plan ahead and leave yourself ample time to hit the gas station before returning your rental car.  This will always be the less expensive option.

6. Don’t Eliminate Airport Rentals

It is a very common misconception that renting a car at the airport is much more expensive than renting a car off-site.  While there is some truth to offsite rentals being slightly less expensive, there is a competition between the major car rental companies at the airport that brings prices down to nearly the same rate.

However, as we mentioned earlier, always price around.  Sometimes, a cab or uber ride to an offsite rental location does make more sense financially.

7. Make Sure You Have Plenty of Insurance

Plenty of Car Insurance

When renting your car, the rental agency will often time offer you insurance that will cover the rental car in case something happens.  Sometimes, this is the best option.  However, sometimes it isn’t.  Often times it is necessary to purchase additional insurance that will be more comprehensive.  Don’t just blindly sign the car rental paperwork.  Make sure you do the necessary research to ensure you are getting the coverage you need.  It is a good starting point to figure out exactly what your personal auto insurance covers and then check into your credit card insurance, your travel insurance, and go from there.

On a recent vacation to New Zealand, we rented a car.  The car rental price did include basic insurance.  However, upon further investigation, we knew we needed a more comprehensive policy.  We checked with the rental car agency and they wanted to charge us $2000 additional dollars!  Instead, we purchased travel insurance for $50 that would cover anything the basic insurance wouldn’t.

Our good friends were in Iceland on vacation when the paint job on their rental car was ruined by volcanic ash.  Unfortunately, their rental car insurance policy did not cover damage done by ash.  Our friends would have gladly paid extra for more insurance if they knew this was a hazard.  Ash coverage has become more commonplace in Iceland, but this is too late for our friends.

It is an excellent idea to look into specific hazards or common insurance issues of the location you are traveling.

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8. Inspect the Rental Car

Before you drive off the rental car lot, walk around your car and perform a thorough inspection.  Take photographs and videos of any damage.  Make sure you have the rental car document the damage before you leave.  Often times, rental car companies allow you to fill out a form reporting any damage.  Then, the employee will sign off on this damage.  Make sure to take a photo of this document.

Being able to prove that damage was done on a rental vehicle before you picked it up and can turn into a “he said, she said,” battle.  This is why it is necessary to take some extra time to protect yourself from a big bill later.

9. Beware of Add-ons and Extra Fees

Rental cars companies are notorious for charging fees for a myriad of reasons.  Some of the most common ones are:

A fee for additional drivers-Some rental car companies charges quite a bit for this service while others charge nothing at all.  Make sure to find out what your rental car policy is before you book.  It is always a good idea to have two people on the agreement in case of emergency.

Sometimes, membership programs through Costco, AAA, AARP, and USAA allow free additional drivers in the United States.

Navigation-often times rental car companies charge a daily fee for a GPS system.  Skip this fee and use google maps or Waze instead.

Tolls-It is much more convenient to have to use a toll transponder if you are traveling in an area that collects tolls.  However, often times rental car companies will charge a convenience fee that makes the tolls much more expensive.

To avoid using the toll transponder, make sure you have cash on hand and use the cash-only lane.  Or, if you feel that you will be in the area frequently, purchase your own toll transponder prior to your trip.

Also, make sure to research how tolls work internationally and plan accordingly.  Some countries require you to have a special motor sticker on your windshield to used certain roadways.  Ask your rental car company for more information.

Some countries’ toll process can be quite confusing.  For example, in Portugal, all tolls are paid digitally by purchasing credits online and attaching the credits to your license plate number.

Benefits

Always see what type of benefits your Costco, AAA, AARP, and USAA memberships will give you.  Often times these memberships will give you a lower rate, a free child’s car seat, a free GPS, or free satellite radio.

10. Drive Safely!

Drive Safely

It may seem obvious, but remember to drive as carefully as possible.  If you are traveling internationally, research their road laws and signs.  Always remember to fasten your seatbelt and to follow the speed limit.  Don’t drive while drowsy and be aware of any adverse conditions.  Have a fun trip!