7 Tips for Renting Vehicles

In 2012, it was estimated 1.857 million cars were rented from 18,293 locations.  When renting a vehicle it is important that you fully understand the fees, insurance coverage and liability, as well as the terms and conditions.  The following tips are designed to help you save time and money.

  1. Do your homework.By booking online, you can compare pricing, pickup locations and rental terms on your own time. Rather than read the terms and conditions at the rental counter with others impatiently waiting behind you, take a few moments at your office or home and you will find your concentration will be more keen.  To ensure that you are getting the best deal, review promotions for senior citizens and join free car rental agency clubs.  Rental agreements are long and contain numerous provisions; therefore, print a copy of the online terms and conditions and take them to a reputable attorney for a review.  The nominal fee charged for the review could save you thousands if you become involved in a dispute with the rental agency.
  2. Beware of additional fees. Return your car timely. If you need more time with the car, call ahead and request an extension of time.  Often, the rental agency can provide you discounted fees compared to those you pay when the car arrives late and without prior approval.  Seek to reserve the smallest car possible.  In additional to fuel savings, if the agency does not have your compact car when you arrive, they are obligated to give you a free upgrade.  Always confirm your fuel tank is full before you depart.  When possible, bring the car back full of gas as agency refueling charges exceed local gas station prices.  Return the car to the pickup location.  Additional costs apply for leaving the car at an airport, hotel, or other location for retrieval by the agency.  Finally, confirm all fees for damages, the cost of supplemental insurance, and taxes.  These costs can sometimes total more than the actual rental.
  3. Check your own insurance before you purchase additional coverage through the rental company. Your existing auto insurance policy may insure your rental car. If your own vehicle is not covered by collision insurance, consider purchasing the damage waiver as it will protect you from paying for damage to the rental car.  You may decline personal accident coverage if you have adequate health insurance.
  4. Paying with a credit card may offer additional protection.Some credit card companies offer additional coverage when you use the card to rent a vehicle; however, this coverage is secondary rental insurance. This means it will pay for the costs of some damages not already covered by your existing insurance.  Make certain you rent the car in the same name that appears on your credit card.  Although there are some exceptions, in general, you must refuse insurance offered by the rental agency in order to receive the insurance benefits offered by your credit card.
  5. Always thoroughly examine the vehicle for damage and disclose negative experiences. You should examine the exterior of the vehicle along with the interior for stains, rips, burns or any other damage. Make certain to check the glove box, under the seats and inside the trunk as well for trash, damage, and left behind items from previous consumers. Make sure to review and sign any applicable damage form before you drive away and then share it upon return of the vehicle as it is highly likely the return agent will lack this valuable information.  Upon returning the vehicle, always wait for an attendant and review the car’s condition before leaving.  Let the rental agency know if something did not work properly or if you had a negative rental experience. Often, the agency representative will provide a discounted rate based upon your negative experience.
  6. Rent from agencies near your arrival zone. The commute to and from the rental counter can be the most exhausting portion of your trip. Commuter buses and long walks are never a welcome sight.  Confirm where your car will be located upon arrival.  Perhaps a shorter commute is worth the premium price.
  7. Beware of age restrictions overseas. Although no American rental agency has restrictions on the age of its drivers, many companies overseas mandate the maximum age for car rental at 70 or 75. At rental car counters in some European, African and South Pacific countries, you may be left stranded because you are “too old” to drive a rental car.