Car rental companies have played a major role in increasing the ease of travel whether it be for business or pleasure. The ability to rent a vehicle of nearly any style, model and size at a reasonable rate has been a blessing for travelers world-wide. The process of actually renting a car, however, can be as troublesome as purchasing one.
Here are some tips and advice to help you avoid car rental “contract shock”. First, you need to know that car rental agencies have four basic, but very different ways of charging for their vehicles: daily rates with mileage billed as an extra; daily rates with a limited number of free miles per day; daily rates with unlimited mileage; and a varying rate that has free mileage over an extended period of time.
Another important consideration when renting a car is the length of time that you will need the vehicle. If it is less than a week, you will probably find better rates with a nation-wide company like Avis, Alamo, Budget, Dollar, Enterprise, Thrifty or Hertz. If, however, you need a rental car for more than a week you may get lower rates from local companies, specifically vehicle dealers.
Thirdly, be aware that the basic rate you see advertised in bold print in magazine and television ads are usually just the tip of the iceberg when in comes to the true cost of renting a car. Extra fees, usually in the form of taxes, can add to the total bill quite rapidly. Sales taxes, airport taxes, concession fees, vehicle leasing fees and drop-off fees usually do not show up when you are given a base rental rate.
Also be alert to the fact that another major cost of renting a car is the insurance which the company will attempt to try to sell you. The term “insurance,” by the way, is not quite accurate since rental car agencies are not licensed to sell insurance. What they are really selling you are waivers, so that you are not on the hook for any damage caused by an accident. Your personal car insurance may cover any damages, but they might not! Call your auto insurer before you rent and ask about insurance coverage on rental vehicles.
There are also a variety of options concerning fueling plans. You can prepay for a full tank of gas at the time of rental (but you may not use the full tank). The most expensive option is to return the car with an empty tank because you will be charged about $5 a gallon in addition to a re-filling fee. Your most economical choice–pay only for the gas you actually use. Make sure the tank is full when you take possession of the car and then leave yourself enough time to refill the tank with reasonably-priced gas near the airport or the return location when you have ended your journey.
Always comparison shop, even on the Web. Ask about special discounts for membership in national organizations like AAA or AARP. Special rates may apply for frequent flier card members or certain credit card holders.
Finally, be careful to plan pick-up and return times so you will not be charged for an extra day. Best wishes for safe travel!